He said he tells them he doesn't know. All he can tell them is his story. How he lost a lung to cancer. How he had to carry around oxygen. How he turned to making jewelry using stones and how those stones excited him.
Tsosie's jewelry will be on display at Feat of Clay Gallery in Aztec starting Feb. 22. The show will also feature photographs by Louise Long, who is paired with Tsosie, and will run through March 16. A reception will be held on Feb. 22 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Feat of Clay is a co-op made up of about a dozen members. Co-op member Sandy Martin said the gallery has a design team that organizes the show. The team tries to pair artists whose artwork will complement the others, but with different mediums.
Martin said the co-op also tries to pair members with non-members for the show. Tsosie recently joined the co-op and Martin said the members were impressed with his art and offered him a chance to be part of the show.
Tsosie said after he lost his lung he was unable to work. He wanted something to do so he started messing around with wire.
No one taught Tsosie how to make jewelry, he said. He learned how to cut, shape and polish the stones on his own. Tsosie said he tries to keep the integrity of the stone.
Tsosie said he has always been intrigued by an ancient Navajo prayer that goes "Protect me with the many hard minerals of the earth." He said it includes all stones, not only the stones the Navajo people generally wear, such as turquoise.
Finding stones for the jewelry can be an adventure and a challenge, Tsosie said. He said he can't use stones someone else has cut, polished or shaped.
"When you find it, you know you've found it," Tsosie said.
However, Tsosie said the best stones he has ever worked with seemed to find him.
He said he once showed a friend a small stone he was planning on shaping into a pendant. While looking at the stone, the friend dropped it and it shattered into three pieces. He turned the stone into a three-piece set and he said it was one of the best three-piece sets he's ever made.
In addition to making jewelry, Tsosie said he does relief carvings and paintings. He said he once thought woodworking would be his first choice of art.
"Wood is beautiful, just like stones are beautiful," Tsosie said.
Tsosie said art led him to a community of artists.
"We're not strangers amongst ourselves," Tsosie said.