Indigenous jewelry artists are adapting: sellers navigate online sales amid COVID-19 pandemic



Rebecca Jones (she / they) and Cody Fetty (they / them) are Indigenous jewelry artists who have been browsing the sale of their art online through Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones (moongrrl666 on Instagram) is Totsohnii, born for Ashiihi. Her maternal grandfather is Ma’ii Deeshgiizhnii and her paternal grandfather is Tabaahi. She is from Tsehotso.

Cody Fetty jewelry offered online as Glitteringworldgal on Instagram.

Cody Fetty (glitteringworldgal on Instagram) is Kinyaa’aanii, born for Bilagaana. Their maternal grandfather is Tl’izi lani and their paternal grandfather is Naakai dine’e. They are from Big Mountain.

Jones and Fetty said they had more positive than negative impacts on running their business on Instagram.

A positive impact when in the summer of 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement took place, they decided to do virtual mutual aid work.

“A lot of the funds and crowdfunding have been directed to black-led organizations and black trans organizations,” Fetty said. “My jewelry account got a lot of attention this way.

“Just like making parts to auction, then anything made from the auction would go directly to these organizations,” they said.

Selling online has its drawbacks and one of them is the lack of in-person events to sell.

Jones said that with selling online, they don’t meet people and have to charge for shipping and handling. It involves more work than selling in person.

“Taking pictures, then posting online, then selling online, I feel like it’s asking a lot of you because you’re staring at your screen for a few hours or more,” Jones said.

However, as of last summer, Jones has returned to doing face-to-face sales in the Albuquerque area.

“After being vaccinated and just following COVID precautions here in Albuquerque, I was able to do more events in person, which was nice because I miss talking to people, seeing people, and people can see the jewelry in person, “they said.

Fetty, on the other hand, hasn’t sold much in person and prefers to sell online.

“I like to make my jewelry more accessible to people, especially downstairs, they can’t come and love Flagstaff just for a craft bazaar because they have to think about gasoline, mileage. and just planning the whole day around it, ”they said.

However, one of the negative impacts that Fetty has suffered with selling online is that many people living downstairs do not have reliable internet access.

“People who still live on their rez, who want to buy jewelry online, either their message is still pending or it just isn’t being sent because they don’t have clear internet access,” Fetty said.

Despite the downsides of virtual jewelry sales, Jones and Fetty’s businesses have taken advantage of this as they do very well in terms of revenue.

Another positive impact the pandemic has had on their businesses is that they feel they have been given more time to create.

“With COVID, I was able to exercise my creativity a lot more,” Jones said. “I was on time off from my usual job so I was working fewer hours and with that I was able to focus a little more on being more creative with my jewelry, with my music.”

Fetty said they felt they were able to produce more jewelry due to the pandemic, which has been good for financial stability.

Jewelry making plays a big role in Jones and Fetty’s lives, but it shows in different ways.

Jones said it’s important because she can network, share her ideologies and political views, and connect with other Indigenous people around the world through her jewelry.

“I love to send the medicine jewelry to other relatives around the world, to other indigenous people,” Jones said. “I feel like it’s super important and with the pandemic.

“There have been a lot of Diné or people in the Southwest who use our meds here and live in Portland and New York and they are really grateful to have a gem that contains like cedar, which makes me feel happy, “she said.

Fetty uses jewelry making to connect with her grandmother and mother. They said their mother and grandmother had been making jewelry since they were children.
Their grandmother worked in a bead shop in Flagstaff before she retired and made jewelry full time.

“I remember her telling me as I got older that I could make jewelry as something to fall back on,” Fetty said. “My grandma really had a lot of confidence in me that I could do this, so I think the reason it’s (jewelry making) important to me is this generational connection.”

Jones said the best way to support Indigenous artists right now is to shop at local flea markets, craft fairs, and pay the prices the artists are asking. Fetty expressed the same thoughts and said that the ultimate conclusion is to buy indigenous products when it comes to supporting indigenous businesses.

“In my experience doing sales here in Albuquerque versus selling downstairs, sometimes I see a lot of native artists selling short,” Jones said. “They do some really great craftsmanship, but then they sell it at a price that they’ve been selling it for about 20 years and I think our prices should be competitive with each other because there is inflation. all over.”

She thinks all the “flea market aunts” should work together and be price competitive to the point where people should expect to pay a certain amount for jewelry.

“As far as customers are concerned, we should also be paying these prices because we support native people, we support native entrepreneurs, native families, and so I really think buying local helps,” she said. .

Fetty agrees and said they often see other indigenous jewelry makers expressing their gratitude when they get large numbers of Instagram followers and sell their art.

“And they (the jewelers) tell them (the customers) that this inventory just paid off my light bill, this inventory just put food on the table,” Fetty said.

“It’s really not just being treated as a commodity,” they said, “it’s really like a give-and-take situation from a community perspective – you support your community and you help them financially, in particular. in Aboriginal households. “

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