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Paula says - "The Man-in-a-Maze design is one of my favorites."
What is Overlay?
Native American overlay pieces are made of two layers of sterling silver. The bottom layer is a solid piece while the top layer has a cutout design. The cutout layer is placed over the bottom layer and the two pieces are "sweated" together, heated so that they become one solid piece of sterling silver. The bottom layer, or background, that shows through the cut out portion of the top layer is often darkened for contrast.
Hopi silversmiths typically texture the background layer with hash marks while Navajo artists often leave the background smooth. Hopi artists tend to use geometric designs and symbols similar to those used in their pottery and baskets. Navajo silversmiths tend to create scenes depicting everyday life using people, animals, buildings and landscapes to tell a story - this style is called "overlay storyteller jewelry". Read more about overlay here.
What is the "Man in the Maze"?
The figure known as the "Man in the Maze," depicts a man entering or exiting a labyrinth. It is a theme seen on baskets from as far back as the nineteenth century and occasionally in Hopi silver art. Such depictions of labyrinths are also found in ancient petroglyphs (Native American rock art).
The symbol can represent a person's journey through life. The maze contains many twists and turns, meant to represent choices made in life. The center is round and dark, so the journey can be from darkness to light or vice versa depending on which way you are headed!
Some interpret the center as a representation of a person's dreams and goals. When you reach the center, you have reached your goals and the sun god there blesses you and helps you pass into the next world.
Another interpretation of this symbol is that the man represents the human seed and the maze is the womb. As the man enters the maze, he creates new life which represents reincarnation or eternal life.