Lifetime collection for sale at Native American Gallery
A woven Navajo blanket from 1880 is Jonathan Reyman’s most cherished piece at his Native American Gallery at 1044 N. Grand Avenue in Springfield. The man who sold it to him thought it was a rug, apparently because of its size – approximately 52 by 88 inches. Made of all wool and waterproof, it is warm enough to withstand harsh winters for whoever wore it. “It probably took a woman a year to make,” Reyman remarks, noting she first sheared the sheep, then dyed the wool.
“The pattern is an old Crystal design, which simply means that it is a design favored by Navajo weavers then living in the vicinity of the Crystal Trading Post at Washington Pass, now Narbona Pass, in northwest New Mexico,” Reyman says.
The bars of a marimba that Reyman bought in Equador almost 50 years ago are made of chonta, the native term for a hard wood. Guayacan is the softer wood used in the other parts. He brought it back on the plane along with two canoe paddles.
Hopi Katsina figures, also known as kachina dolls, are figures carved, typically from cottonwood root, by Hopi people to instruct young girls and new brides about katsinas or katsinam, the immortal beings that bring rain, control other aspects of the natural world and society, and act as messengers between humans and the spirit world.
Reyman’s Katsina doll, carved from one piece of wood by Native American artist Milton Howard, is a left-handed eagle-catcher. Bald eagle feathers, considered sacred by Native Americans, are used for spiritual and ceremonial purposes and are protected. The eagle-catcher had to be skilled to obtain the eagle feathers without harming the eagle.
Reyman, Ph.D., was a curator in anthropology at the Illinois State Museum before it closed in 2015 for nine months. Many of the items in his gallery are from his own collection, gathered over 50 years during his trips to the Southwest United States, where he made friends with Pueblos and Navajos, often living in their houses, “seeing things people normally can’t see,” he recalls.
In addition to sales, he does consulting and appraisals. His nephew is developing a website for his business.
Reyman likes is educating people about things – the stories behind them, how they were made and used. Many people don’t know what they have, he says.
He is particular about turquoise, explaining that it is a generic term encompassing many types, from fox turquoise that is very green, to a greenish-blue that contains more copper, to Cerrillas that is robin-egg blue. He handles only natural turquoise, shunning stabilized and plasticized turquoise.
Some of Reyman’s favorite jewelry was designed by Charles Loloma, a world-renowned artist and jeweler of Hopi ancestry. Loloma “thought true beauty was on the inside, which is why he made rings with the turquoise, coral, lapis lazuli and other materials inlaid inside the rings, invisible to the viewer when on one’s finger,” Reyman says.
A shell necklace from the Kewa Pueblo in New Mexico is made when a shell is drilled and sanded until it becomes a bead, or a Heishe. The context makes the difference. Heishes, once used as money, are now made into jewelry.
A Pueblo jar from the early 1900s is one of Reyman’s more interesting pieces. The story behind it makes it interesting and valuable. “It is a storage jar, because of its flat base and heavy weight, and not a water jar, which is much lighter in weight and has a concave base so it can sit on the woman’s head. One can also see the coils on the inside where they were laid one on the other to build up the jar,” he explains.
Amulets, probably Cheyenne, in the form of all sorts of creatures, held umbilical cords. People hung onto them for their lifetimes to keep them safe. Also making up the collection are sterling silver pieces, Zuni necklaces, ceremonial clothing, basketry, moccasins, Comanche beadwork, and copper works by Harold Alfred.