Orville Tsinnie was a person who took great pride in doing well whatever he did. This Navajo artist did not start silversmithing until he was 27 years of age. Orville Tsinnie was content as the Assistant Director of Personnel for the Navajo Nation, and took time for a visit to see his sister Roselyn. Roselyn was married to Horace Emerson, a Hopi silversmith. While visiting, Orville Tsinnie made a pin with inlaid stones. This was the beginning of his career as a silversmith!
Orville soon left the inlay work and Hopi style. He then concentrated on a purely Navajo traditional style. Orville Tsinnie described his work as "...pure Navajo, simple 1900's style, bold, clean, solid". He concentrated on detail and was a perfectionist when it came to his jewelry. Orville Tsinnie's work shows designs that were executed with precision. Soldering was clean with excellent finishing and polishing. Especially his great attention to detail was what set his work apart. Large bold lines with many different stamped designs characterized his stylish work.
Orville Tsinnie jewelry has amazing silverwork borders, but his use of stones is also what makes his work memorable. At first he concentrated on turquoise. Orville then branched out and began to use lapis, sugilite, jaspers, obsidian and dinosaur bones. Fossilized dinosaur bone was one of Orville Tsinnie's most prized materials. It shows forth a wonderful pattern of colors when polished.
Tsinnie was a steady presence in the world of Native American jewelry for many years. His wife Darlene thought he was crazy when he began his jewelry work, but became a strong supporter and helped him with his gallery in Shiprock. She and his children and grandchildren called Shiprock home. Orville Tsinnie even used images of Shiprock as part of his hallmark. The hallmark had two representations of Shiprock, with "Orville Tsinnie" and "New Mexico" in print or script.
Orville Tsinnie passed away in 2017. His list of awards was long. Perhaps the most impressive was when Orville Tsinnie received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Arts and Crafts Association(IACA). This award only goes to the best Native American artists. Orville Tsinnie's beautiful works, which are traditional but also contemporary, earned him a lasting place in Native American art. He will be long remembered for the great pride he took in his art, as well as in the other areas of his life!