July 2021
In the Western Tradition
The Jewelry of Marty Orosz

If you take the time to look, you’ll see a red thread running through a person’s life, a kind of theme or direction that leads from one step to another on into adulthood. For Marty Orosz, silversmith, that red thread was horses.

Marty greets customers at the Thunderheart Jewelry booth.

Since she was a young girl Marty doodled, and her notebooks were always full of horses. Growing up in rural Virginia, while her family never went as far as to have horses on their property, Marty had riding lessons and was immediately hooked. She wanted to be a vet, but still had art bursting out of her constantly, so she took a lot of both art and science classes in school. When she realized that going into graphic design could actually make her art pay a living, she’d found her path. She’s had a successful career as a designer, living most of her adult life in California, but her jewelry work has really taken off since her kids grew up and she moved to the Prescott area.

In the late 1980s Marty's parents began to travel throughout the Southwest and invited Marty and her husband Steve to join them in Santa Fe to visit the Indian Market. The Native American jewelers there are pretty impressive, and after meeting Michael Kabotie, Marty and her stepfather decided to take a two-week intensive workshop from him to learn traditional Hopi jewelry-making techniques. Michael was totally supportive as a teacher. “The foundation that Michael gave me was that there was nothing I couldn’t do.” In the first class she took with him, she made a three-dimensional cuff bracelet with Hopi-style overlay and a bezel-set stone. (A bezel is a metal strip that surrounds and holds the stone, which is soldered onto a base plate.) This is not something a beginner would or should normally take on right off the bat. Marty was immediately hooked, and with Michael's support bought her own tools and began making jewelry.

As her graphic-design work became more digitized she began craving more hands-on work, and picked up the pace of her jewelry work, which nicely balanced out her day job. She continues to love doing the Hopi-overlay style. This technique uses cut sterling silver pieces soldered onto a base sheet that's often textured. After soldering she dips the piece into liver of sulphur, which tarnishes the silver, then polishes it, creating a contrast between the shiny upper design and the darkened base below, a kind of positive/negative effect. Many of her animal pieces are made this way, and her earrings and necklaces with horses, javelinas, horned toads and antelope don’t last long in her display before someone takes them home.

Recently Marty has taken up using embossed leather in her jewelry. This is tooled or stamped leather like that you see on cowboy boots or belts. It’s a predominantly Western style. At one point Marty had the idea to use pieces of leather set like stones in a bezel. Her skills are such that this worked really well, especially when she combines the leather with set stones.

The way she cuts the leather is by drawing a pattern on the back of a belt, cutting out the pieces and then smoothing the edges with a grinder. The effect is unique and very appealing, especially to those who love Western-flavored art. Marty was also given some Native American potsherds (legally and ethically gathered by the landowner), which she uses in her jewelry.

Marty Orosz and her horse Thunderheart

Marty’s work can be found at the Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery, as well as at the Prescott Rodeo every July, the Fourth Avenue Street Fair in Tucson, and at the Sedona Arts Festival. She also teaches jewelry classes in her studio. While she doesn’t have horses any more, her business is named after her beloved Thunderheart, a 17-hand draft-cross sweetheart she rescued as a two-year-old.

For more information on Marty and her work, visit thunderheartjewelry.com or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Abby Brill is Associate Editor of 5enses.

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