As a child Cody Yazzie spent a lot of time outdoors and, always, his father (world-renowned sculptor Larry Yazzie) would be out there hard at work on a sculpture. It would be years before the young Yazzie understood what hard work this familiar sight represented. With art always an interest in his life Cody Yazzie studied painting and drawing in high school then, at fifteen decided he wanted to try sculpting for himself. “So one day,” Yazzie recalls, “while watching [my father] work in his studio, he took some time out of his day to talk, and to teach me. He gave me a small piece of limestone and told me to make something out of it.”
Father and son discussed a design and came up with a simple bear fetish. “I have always loved Bear fetishes and been drawn to the Bear as a protector,” Cody Yazzie notes. “So [my father] taught me how to use the tools and how to carve. After carving my first piece I realized how much work goes into the simplest of designs and how labor intensive sculpting is. I learned that you have to have respect for the stone and the sacred designs that we use in our pieces. I gained a large respect for my father and that is when I really started to appreciate his work.”
After completing this original bear fetish, Yazzie sold it at the Santa Fe Indian Market. From that encouraging start Yazzie’s career developed. “I carved more bears and began looking into different design work,” he explains. “I started wrapping the bears with beads, then added shells, then eventually added feathers. I was determined to make every bear fetish different and one of a kind.
“I would carve each bear out of different stones and would decorate them with a variety of materials. So finally after ten years of carving bears I have refined my design and style and strive to make one-of-a-kind bear fetishes. I seek and find the best materials to use while making the bears.” Yazzie’s stones range from translucent orange Alabaster, to translucent Honeycomb Calcite to Travertine as well as exotic stones such as Italian Marble, French Marble, and Argentina Onyx. He uses different materials to wrap around the centers of his bears, including all natural Turquoise, Spiny Oyster shell, Coral, and Azurite beads and completes his added embellishments with authentic Parrot feathers.
After years of carving Cody Yazzie has expanded his designs to include many forms of sculpture including Buffalo Fetishes, Bird Fetishes, Contemporary Eagles, Contemporary Mobius pieces, and Modern Traditional figures. “I love incorporating simplistic lines to give my pieces a certain flow and formation but I also love to use different textures and details to tell a story,” Yazzie notes.
Cody Yazzie has won a number of different awards throughout his artistic career. He took home his first 2nd place ribbon at the age of 16 at the 2006 Santa Fe Indian Market, in the junior division; more recently, Cody Yazzie took home a 1st place ribbon at the 2014 Santa Fe Indian Market in the Mixed Media category.