Ruben Najera Zuni Fetish Carver

At 38, Ruben Najera, the youngest nephew of the Laate clan of carvers, has developed a delicate style and innovative designs different from any other carver. His medium is exclusively deer antler.  His major carving interest is birds.  Recently he created a series of true-to-life sandhill cranes for a New Mexico wildlife refuge.

Ruben Najera was taught by and trained by his older brother Estaban, starting when he was only 15 years old.  Ruben loves to carve non-traditional images. He loves art and that is what fetish carving means to him. His output is evolving to include scenes rather than just single images. He wants to tell a story through his carvings. He has promised that even if he pursues a career in some technical field, such as forensics, fetish carving will always be a part of his life.  It is in his blood (along with antler dust)

To help stimulate his fertile imagination as a carver, Ruben uses books and magazines for fine detail or reference books for even finer detail in order to understand the subtle anatomy of his subjects. His carving ‘ordnance’ consists of only a few (three at present) Dremel drill bits – one is very sharp to allow for ‘lining’ and reaching remote places and creating ultra fine detail. Notice the difference in his smooth and soft carving and uncle Pernell Laate’s stiffer styling.

As do other members of the clan, Ruben prefers no inlay. He crafts the all-important eyes with Dremel bits  As to materials, it has always been antler and fossil ivory.

Ruben sells to a few traders and a few shops, but avoids the unscrupulous ones in Gallup. He is highly-principled as to whom he will sell to or trade with – they must be fair to him and respectful. Unfortunately there are quite a few traders and buyers who are not.

He prefers to carve owls, eagles and bats, although he has recently begun to carve deer, moose and elk images which were Pernell’s forte. All of his pieces are buffed by motor and rouge or a special wax to bring out a full ‘shine’. He currently lives in the family home with his Mother, Veronica.

To read more about the concept of ‘Fetishes in Groups’ click HERE