Jeff Morris was born in the deep South, in Memphis, Tennessee’s Mississippi delta in the very early 1950’s a few years after the end of WWII. At an early age he became interested in guitar and entertained family and friends at social gatherings. In the early 70’s, at the age of 20, he moved to NYC to study photography and music. After finishing his training in New York he was accepted to study photography, music and art at UC Berkley. At that time he left NYC, headed for California. At a gas station in Carlsbad N.M., the station attendant suggested he visit Taos, as it was a haven for the counter culture “Hippies” of that era. While driving to Taos in December, it began to snow and became a full-fledged blizzard, and he was forced off the road near Lama Mountain and slept in his truck. The next morning he met the well known artist Bill Gersh, who took him in and showed him how to live in the wilds of New Mexico. After about a year or so at the Magic Tortuous commune, he became friends with a group of well-known silversmiths at the Brown house. He lived and worked with master silversmiths Seth, Kenlock, and Lorelei Brown, Jennifer Sihvonen, and Michael, Patrick and Sherry Ohlinger, His biggest influence was Pat and Sherry Ohlinger, Jenny Sihvonen, and the great Russell Green, who mentored them. This was the early-mid 70’s and Taos was sort of heaven on earth at that time.
After some years at the Brown House, the group rented the Mable Dodge Lujan House from Dennis Hopper and promptly evicted the squatters. They restored the famous landmark to its original glory and began the most prolific period in silver work, and became known as the “Taos Smiths”. Daniel (Peppi) Rochon was also involved, as ideas and techniques flourished within the group.
Jeff learned how to make stamps and still makes every stamp he uses, but most are from that time. Jeff also became a master, and it was he and Peppi that conceived the idea of, and made the famous “Bicentennial Concho Belt”. The state of New Mexico was set to purchase that piece for $75,000 for New Mexico’s permanent collection of artwork, but unfortunately the piece was stolen, never to be seen again (a very long story).
Every piece made by Jeff is 100% hand made, in the stamped, heavy Navajo style. He forges a lot of the metal he uses, known as “hammered ingot” which is a very labor intensive technique. Over the years Jeff has made pieces for several celebrity clients and continues to do so, some of the more famous include – Richard Prior, Madonna, Sheryl Crow, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, Candice Bergan, Bruce Springsteen, Waylon Jennings, Willy Nelson, Lacy J. Dalton, George Harrison, Vincent Price, Buck Cherry, James Coburn, Lori Anne Allison, John Watkins and others.
One of his very large concho belts resides in the Smithsonian Institute, but is thought to he very old, go figure! Credit is not given to the maker, since it is unsigned. Jeff has been making his living from silversmithing for more than 40 years. He lived in the Taos area for most of his life and now resides in Little Rock, Arkansas with his sister Jennifer, still playing guitar and hammering on silver. He now loves showing his beautiful work exclusively at Mesa’s Edge, in Taos, along with some of his silversmith friends of long ago.