Matagi Sorensen, of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, is a relatively new Native American jewelry artist swiftly carving out a reputation for creating exquisitely sophisticated handcrafted work that cultivates an empyrean presence. He is defining his aesthetic with pieces that are as equally elegant as they are captivating, breaking away from conventional obsessions to embezzle extrinsic, fluid forms and finishing them with delicately appropriated textures and colors.
Born in Cottonwood, Arizona in 1980, Matagi was gifted an interesting childhood. Traveling around the Southwest with his parents and siblings, he did not attend public school and instead contributed to the family’s income by making small craft items for his father to sell. These days filled with projects that included ‘painting hundreds acorns to look like barrel cacti’ formed Matagi at a young age to become a disciplined artist able to adapt quickly to creative scenarios. When he was 15, his mother decided it was best to move the family back to the reservation, and Matagi began working for summer youth program on the reservation.
While he remained interested in art consistently through this time, he began working for his tribe at the age of 18 traveling and delivering talks about socioeconomic situations within his community, and contemplated becoming a social worker. When he enrolled in Yavapai Community College, Matagi was 24 years of age and interested in learning everything. He began to absorb various skills such as drawing, printmaking and pottery, eventually leading him to take to a jewelry making class. Matagi fell in love with the tenacity required for constructing quality jewelry, and the historical processes and treasures created before him. His admiration for this art form expanded along with his knowledge, and he became infatuated with possibilities that haunted him. Deciding he wanted to become a professional jeweler, Matagi enrolled in Northern Arizona University and graduated with a bachelor in fine arts with an emphasize in metalsmithing in 2011.
Inspired by interesting contours and shapes, his creative force is galvanized by works from Frank Lloyd Wright, Allan Houser, and classic cars from the 1930’s and 40’s. As an artist, he appreciates criticism from his contemporaries for “they see the details of how things come to life, they know.” He is influenced by many of these contemporaries such as Don Supple (who taught him inlay techniques and gold work), Maria Samora, and Pat Pruitt, as creators whose work energizes him. As an artist, Matagi holds a profound reverence for his tools, stating, “There was a point when my tools started to become my inspiration, because of what they can do and what you have to go through to learn how to make them work. A couple of years ago I became comfortable with my tools and I began to trust myself with them”. He works fervently in long arduous spurts, always creating with an ambitious curiosity, but never a plan. “All my jewelry is unique to me, I don’t plan. I take a saw and learn what a saw can do, weaving the blade through both sides, perfecting my technique through repetition.”
Wanting his dream of becoming a well-known and respected jewelry artist to grow, Matagi moved to Tuscon Arizona after graduation and invested every penny he had saved into equipment and ‘a studio the size of a closet’. Since graduating he has worked tirelessly to produce work that eventually hailed him as ‘the new artist to collect’ by Native American Arts magazine in 2017. Desiring to learn more, Matagi will be attending Arizona State University beginning fall of 2018, enrolled to complete his masters of fine arts. His first class is learning small scale bronze casting and he is excited to acquire new information on foundry practices. It will be an intriguing joy to continue witnessing this extensively creative artist grow and experiment with the knowledge he gains. Encouraged by understanding his boundaries so he can effective explore beyond them, Matagi Sorensen is on route to becoming a great contributor to the art of jewelry making, it’s processes, and it’s indefatigable magic.