Leo Poblano (1905-1959) Biography

Leo Poblano is widely recognized as one of the most skillful and imaginative Zuni stoneworkers of the 20th century.  Little is known of Poblano’s early life or exactly when he started working for C.G. Wallace.  He enlisted in the military during World War II. Upon his return, he worked for the BIA as a wildlands firefighter, but also continued making the stone mosaic jewelry for which is famous. It is said that his wife, Daisy Hooee Nampeyo, who studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris taught him the relief carving he used to enhance the stone inlay.  His last wife, Ida Vacit, also worked the stones with him creating inlays that Wallace would then have Navajo silversmiths mount on jewelry and boxes.  Poblano died while fighting a wildfire in the Angeles National Forest in California when a load of fire suppressant chemicals was accidentally dropped on him and four other Zuni firefighters. He jewelry is in the collections of the Heard Museum, Wheelwright Museum and many others.