His mother opted for homeschooling in eighth grade, and thenCrazyHorse attended an arts-oriented high school in Santa Fe, a40-minute drive each way from his home. He always hoped to attend aliberal arts college and had his sights set on Oberlin. He appliedto Stanford, though it wasn t really on his radar. He was preparing for a spring weekend visit to Oberlin when theStanford acceptance letter arrived and changed everything. Hissenior class had nine students, another of whom was also acceptedto Stanford.
After receiving a Gates Millenium Scholarship,CrazyHorse began fantasizing about Northern California. The typical Stanford student is overcommitted, and CrazyHorse wasno different. He ran for student Senate as a freshman, he didresearch in Hawaii. His junior year, he made plans to study abroadin Berlin while simultaneously serving as one of five junior classpresidents.
His fifth year he served as a resident assistant in alarge dorm. But every summer, he made sure to return home for thereservation s annual Feast Day, a celebration of SaintBonaventure. He continued to observe his father s silversmithtechniques. After his sophomore year of college, he landed anarts-related grant from Stanford, enabling him to update some ofthe tools used back home. Mixing old and new Collegiate Silver is stenciled in block letters on the front of aglass door.
Inside is a small room with concrete floors and whitewalls. Tables with heavy machinery line one wall; a row of recentlycarved belt buckles glint in the sun, waiting to be shined. Thisafternoon in early May, the garage door is rolled up, and theopening chords of Sweet Home Alabama, a staple of CrazyHorse sfavorite Pandora radio station, greet passersby. In the midst of the clutter is CrazyHorse, hunched over a circularpiece of metal, which he is attempting to clamp shut. He swivels onhis stool to the soldering station, where he heats the newly formedcircle to white-hot, and then promptly drops it into an acid bathon the back shelf.
My dad would tell me that I m letting this get too hot, hesays with a grin, before turning back around to find morematerials. In March, after his attempts with the lending shop in Berkeleyfailed, CrazyHorse s friend Mike offered to help go through a dry run at the shop. He brought along his girlfriend, also aStanford graduate, whom he had told about CrazyHorse s financialfrustrations. She suggested he contact her father, an employee atMicrosoft with an eye for investment opportunities. After his friends left, CrazyHorse barely waited for the door toclose before opening his MacBook, frantically typing an urgent— but not too desperate — email to the potentialfinancier.
Discussions lasted for more than a week. The finalquestion was how CrazyHorse s product compared to other collegiatejewelers. I said, in a side by side comparison, you won t be able to tell.I have full faith in my product, and it s not just a product.It s art. Shortly after, CrazyHorse received a check for $10,000 loan, withan equity transfer clause and minimal interest charged. He quit hisjob at TJ Maxx on a Saturday afternoon.
The next day I walked up into my shop, and lit up a cigar. Why?Because it s my shop, he says, laughing. It was veryliberating. This is what a jewelry startup in the Silicon Valley looks like.From CrazyHorse s corner, he has a view of all of the shop smachinery. He currently works alone, interrupted only by the hourlypassing of the Caltrain, whose tracks are the only thing thatseparates the garage from the 101 freeway.
The occasional streamingof sporting events on an iPad and playlists from Pandora providebackground noise while he works. CrazyHorse shows off the tools the investment funding has afforded:metal stands for casting molds, a soldering gun, and his favorite:a small pen that emits electric current at one end for melting wax. This would have made things at home so much easier, he says. It s like a lightsaber! Today, CrazyHorse is creating silicon molds of his more popularpieces, including the iconic Stanford S and tree earrings. Herushes over to his magic table, where an old plastic vitamincontainer sits with a brush sticking out.
The room is filled withwhat seems to be discarded trash, but every piece is put to use. I totally get my dad now, CrazyHorse explains. When you haveyour own shop, you want to make tools out of anything. He pours the silicone gel into his constructed container, preparingto mix it with other chemicals.
He looks up the proper combinationsin a small black binder, which contains notes from a class he tookwhile at Stanford: ME 298 Silversmithing and Design. And then, a funny thing happens. As CrazyHorse constructs theperfect stand on which the small tree mold for earrings will sit,he drops the electric pen. He rushes over to an old tree stump,placed squarely in the middle of the room. From it hang differenttools, mostly large hammers.
WHACK. CrazyHorse quickly but carefully brings down a small hammeron the end of the stand. I can t believe I didn t think of this before, he yells overthe music. He brings the new piece of metal, now significantly shorter, overto the soldering station.
The fire burns brightly as he heats upthe edge of the metal, and carefully attaches it to the base of thetree. He drops the whole piece into the acid bath for cooling, andturns to construct the mold s casing. By the end of the week, he s made more than one dozen pairs ofearrings, ready to be displayed at the Stanford Powwow, an annualfestival hosted on campus that brings many tribes together. Hehopes to increase the scale of his operation so that the jewelrycan be sold online through his fledgling website, in addition tothe Powwow and Indian Market. CrazyHorse says he s embraced the entrepreneurial mindset of theValley.
He refuses to cave into developing another iPhoneapplication, but says his friends have taught him the start-upapproach to financing, and some of the more superficial aspects ofproduction. His biggest concern currently is with packaging. I want to belike Apple. They re so sleek … so what color is my box goingto be? Do I put velvet on the inside? Does it come in a bag? Hequickly overwhelms himself. A return home CrazyHorse found housing in the garage of a friend s house off the101 freeway, though lately he s pulled so many all nighters at theshop, he s never there.
He also hired an intern throughStanford s Mechanical Engineering department in hopes ofexpediting production before the university s graduationceremonies. In early June, CrazyHorse traveled to New Mexico to revisit hishigh school, and take custom orders: he s been charged withdesigning class rings for this year s eight graduates. But he alsotook the time to surprise his parents, showing up to dinnerunannounced. He said that though it had only been five months, hismother noticed a growth in his maturity. I m learning a lot, I have so many good stories already, hesays.
But they were more interested in what work was like at TJMaxx, actually.
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