From his workshop in Albuquerque, N.M., metalworker Shane Hendren creates beautiful jewelry and buckles inspired by his Native heritage and the cowboys he grew up with—from Nevada buckaroos to Arizona brush poppers to New Mexico punchers, each with their own unique style shaped by the country they worked and rode.
Hendren’s path to jewelry making was one of serendipity. Though his parents are both artists—his father is a poet and his mother is a quilt maker—Hendren planned to follow in the footsteps of his ranching family and attend an ag school. A bit of wisdom from his mother changed his course.
“You’re going to live a lot longer than you think,” she told him. “So you should do something you love and something you’re passionate about. You already know how to ranch.”
Hendren had always been fascinated by museums, so he applied to a museum curator program at an art school in Santa Fe. He was at the National Junior Angus Show in Kentucky when his mother called him with some news: “Your cousin is getting married, two of your horses were struck by lightning, and, oh, you got into college.”
With his sights set on becoming a museum curator, Hendren became a jewelry maker purely by accident.
“I had to take an elective course, and I saw there was a course called Metalsmithing 101,” he explains. “I grew up on ranches pre-Home Depot—whatever we needed, we built, and I’m no stranger to welding gates—so I thought this class would be an easy A.”
The class turned out to be much more than that.
“I had no idea the power of metal,” Hendren says. “I had no clue that it was so fluid and had so much possibility.”
Through jewelry making, Hendren found an outlet to express his fascination with the buckaroo sentiment of wearing your wealth—a concept he became familiar with as a young child while working with the Great Basin cowboys on his family’s Nevada ranch.
“I was infatuated with their gear,” he says. “They had immaculate saddles, were sharp dressers, and the silver! It made such an impression on me as a kid. They would spend a month’s, sometimes a year’s wages on equipment—it reflected their pride in their job.
“Jewelry making tied everything together for me: my interest in art, my background as a Native person, and my love of buckaroo life. This craft is so fascinating because it’s art—and commentary—that people wear, and it makes me feel good that people feel good wearing it.”
Today, Hendren uses only the highest quality turquoise mined from the states his family ranched on to create award-winning jewelry that has achieved international acclaim. His designs are based on the unique personality of each stone—turquoise so rare that it is sold by the carat.
Though he’s a metalworker by trade, his number one job is being a dad.
“My kids are my pride and joy,” he says. “Everything I do, I do for them. I’m so inspired by them. And I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my wife, Rayne. My family is my motivation and inspiration. It’s a blessing that I get to wake up and do what I love, surrounded by people I love.”