John Gordon Leak
- Clive Austin
(Born Circa 1900 Deceased 1970)
Born in Zuni, Pueblo New Mexico, John Gordon Leak was a tremendously talented artist renowned for his mosaic jewelry creations of knifewing, dragonfly and arrow imagery. All his work was done entirely by hand, with every tiny stone hand cut and placed in a unique pattern.
There is some confusion over his surname – it is thought that ‘Leak’ is an abbreviation of ‘Leakity’. There is no history of anyone on Zuni tribal rolls named John Leak. John Leakity, however, is well known and it is believed that they are the same person.
Little is known about John Leakity’s personal life. He trained hard to become an Olympic athlete in the field of distance running and ran in the 1928 Olympics with two of his friends. He also enjoyed participating in Zuni social dance groups.
His Zuni name was ‘Small Corn’. He had three sons who also produced a little Native American jewelry. His grandchildren are artists too. Grandchild Curtis Leakity is actively involved in inlay jewelry work.
John Gordon Leak is regarded as one of the finer original Zuni inlay and stone carving artists. He is best known for his extremely high quality silver work in which mosaic figures are inlaid on a jet black background. Other North American jewelry makers used this technique, however few compare in quality to John Gordon Leak’s work.
John Leakity produced bracelets, earrings, link belts, pendants, pins and rings. JGL inlay designs were some times set into other Navajo silversmiths work (often noted artisan themselves).
The silver work varies. Some designs are very detailed and others are simple teardrops. Some, but not all of John Leakity works are hallmarked, nevertheless the skill of this inlay artist is very evident.
John Gordon Leak originally worked as a smith for Zuni jewelry trader Charles Garrett Wallace. C.G. Wallace lived and worked amongst the Indians at Zuni. He encouraged and helped the Zuni people to develop their arts and crafts, and to make a trade from them. He was instrumental in promoting Zuni lapadist (mosaic inlay) artists to the rest of the world.
C.G. Wallace built a unique and valuable collection of Zuni Indian works and became very wealthy as a result. John Gordon Leak’s jewelry was a high feature of Sotheby’s 1975 auction of the C.G. Wallace collection – these being very rare, highly sought after and collectable.
The following John Gordon Leak items are for sale at Silver Plume Gallery: