Leo Poblano (1905-1959) is considered one of the most renowned Zuni stoneworkers of the 20th century for his innovative and skillful designs. At a time when most Zuni jewelers worked with traditional themes and materials, Leo experimented and is thought to be one of the first Zuni inlay artists to use decorative elements in his carvings. After serving in the military in World War 2, Leo returned to Zuni Pueblo where he continued to make stone mosaic jewelry as well as work for the BIA as a wildland’s firefighter. Because of his friendship with Zuni trader C.G. Wallace, Leo was able to work with the finest turquoise and other high quality stones for his pieces. Wallace would also assign Leo’s stone pieces to Navajo silversmiths for mounting on silver boxes, finger rings, pendants, and other adornments.
Leo’s first wife, Daisy Hooee Nampeyo, studied at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and taught Leo many lapidary relief techniques which helped enhance his stone inlay pieces. Leo’s second wife, Ida Vacit, who was also an inlay artist, finished many of the pieces that Leo left behind after his abrupt death due to a tragic firefighting accident in 1959.
Leo’s pieces, known for their attention to detail, impeccable technique, and innovative style are part of many notable collections including the Heard Museum and the Wheelwright Museum. He is succeeded by his daughter, Veronica Poblano, who is also an award winning Zuni artist.