Husband and wife Daniel Jim and Janice Black Elk-Jim make for a creative duo when it comes to Native artistry. From stone sculpting and metal smith to intricate beading, there’s nothing that they can’t create together utilizing each other’s talents. We chat to Daniel and Janice about their artistry and how they’re amazing partnership shows in their craftsmanship.

NATIVE MAX: What are your tribal affiliations?

Daniel: Dine’
Janice: Lakota, Rosebud (Sicangu)

NM: Please explain a brief history of how you started your art work.

D: At an early age I started with traditional leather work then onto painting, stone sculpting and eventually metal smith in silver, brass and copper.
J: Actually throughout elementary and into high school, I was heavily into art. My high school art teacher encouraged me to go into ledger drawings. At first I thought, “What is she talking about?” To this day I’m still kicking myself for not taking her advice. I started at age 9 doing stringing, looming but felt frustrated. I had wanted to design with pearls.

Photo: Courtesy

NM: How did you and your husband develop a partnership to create your art?

D: The affiliation of two tribal cultures inspired our designs, techniques and ideas.
J: When we first met, I showed Daniel the galleries that represented my work. Visiting many galleries was very influential. I would explain, “This is my next goal for a necklace” At times I do not have time to produce the sterling silver patterns, and he saw my frustration. One day he told me, “I can do that for you” and showed me an entirely different level.

NM: You once stated that your art was a twist to traditional beading, what is that twist?

J: I wanted to take the basic stitch way beyond basic and challenge myself to produce a new fresh look, which I refer to as advanced weave stitch.

NM: You mentioned before you made it through a bout of lupus and kidney failure. Did this help encourage you to create more artwork?

J: While I was in the hospital I received strict instructions to hold myself within my prayers, and stay there. At first it was a challenge physically. The Holy ones showed me colors; I paid strict attention to their guiding my life.

NM: Who is one person that has always supported you in your artistic endeavors? As a husband and wife team, do you both support one another’s talents? Do you think this is important for every artist?

D: When I started sculpting, my father would critique my work and it was all positive.
J: There are two men that have equal rating, they have passed on – late até (father in Lakota) Wallace Black Elk and late Mike Little Elk. Today it’d be Daniel Jim.

NM: As people who express themselves creatively, do you think that artists’ change and grow constantly?

D: We are in constant motion with past, present and future. Past ideas or designs become present for the future.
J: Definitely yes, as we are humans, a creation of Almighty Creator.

[This story was originally published in Native Max Magazine‘s Anniversary Issue.]

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