Maldonado’s Miniature Jewels
Maldonado carves Kachina dolls. The result of Maldonado’s
efforts are Kachina dolls that are stunning in detail,
beautifully colored, faithfully rendered...and only two
inches tall. The proportion, muscle tone, even the fingers
and toes, arms and legs, are carved to perfection from a
single small piece of cottonwood root. The only separate
additions to the Maldonado Kachina dolls are pop eyes, ears,
snouts, headdresses, clothes and the unbelievably tiny and
perfectly formed accessories held in the doll’s hands.
Each of Maldonado’s
Kachina dolls are identified by the keys found in the book Hopi
Kachina Dolls by Harold S. Colton, the most definitive
Kachina reference that I have found.
Born in New Mexico of a
Hopi Mother and a Spanish father, the Hopi culture and
traditions were very prominent in the Maldonado home. Gil’s
mother, Little Star, taught him about the Hopi culture from
the time he was born. He has participated in the Hopi
ceremonies for many years.
As a very small boy,
Maldonado drew anything that interested him on the spur of the
moment. Though he grew up to be a carpenter, he continued
to draw in pencil, charcoal and paints.
Gil never concentrated
in one field nor had any formal training.
In seeking ways to expand
his creative expressions, Gil took a piece of two inch
cottonwood root and carved a miniature Kachina Doll. He found
miniature carving was so challenging that he laid down his
carpenter’s apron to spend all
of his time perfecting the
two inch miniature Kachina dolls that resemble human dancers
in Kachina masks.
He has truly accomplished
that. To achieve the classic Maldonado detailing, Gil uses
tiny sable hair brushes…sometimes with only two or three
sable hairs to delicately paint the tiny designs. His pet
cockateel contributes his shed fluffy feathers for some
adornment while other feathers usually are taken from the very
ends of larger feathers, trimmed to size and painted to
resemble the life size feather.
Maldonado feels very
deeply about keeping the original concept and colors of the
dolls as his mother taught him. He tries to duplicate the
transparency of earth body paint by using an earthen base
paint after he meticulously sands and seals each tiny figure.
The mask of a Maldonado doll is precisely dictated by
generations of Hopi legend.
I first discovered
Maldonado while wandering around McGee’s Indian Den in
Scottsdale over ten years ago, and found his beautiful
miniature works on display recently at Tlaquepaque in Sedona.
Maldonado’s Kachina dolls may be tiny. A Maldonado
collection doesn’t take very much space. But somehow, when I
look at those little Maldonado jewels clustered in a miniature
Hopi plaza, it seems like they spring to life. These tiny
creations seem to be able to link a person to a very special
place and culture that we outsiders, sadly, know very little
about. Some of the finest things often come in very small