Working from the premise that certain primitive art forms deserve preservation, Ernie Lister lives to create traditional Navajo treasures using techniques passed down through traditional native masters. Since the 1970's, his inspiration and skillful techniques were supplied through his contacts with many Navajo and Zuni jewelry masters.
While living in the Four Corners, Ernie met Navajo medicine man and retired jeweler, John Burnside, who became a significant influence upon his life. Amidst many lessons and songs related to the Navajo universe, John ultimately would invest his time and knowledge in honing Ernie's skills, by revealing how the first silversmiths created jewelry from the Navajo's historic past. Eventually, the central focus of John Burnside's instruction would be to make sure that a true lineage would continue for the quickly disappearing style of hammering ingot silver.
In time, Ernie met Zuni silversmith and inlayer, Frank Vacit and fetish carver, Sarah Leekya; with whom he spent time observing the intricacies of Zuni jewelry mastery. Amidst all the katsina dances and ceremonial culture, the very heart of the Zuni world would eventually become one of the defining factors of Ernie's inspiration and beliefs that the spiritual influence that was imbued into early collectibles must be represented into today's market.
Without a traditional Native American lineage, Ernie found that Southwest jewelry would be nothing more than a souvenir without the heart and soul of Native culture. Therefore, after nearly 45 years, his belief remains unchanged that true Native knowledge must be passed from generation to generation from one elder to a new generation. For that reason, Ernie continues to create his own inspired pieces while having a few of his own students carry on the lineage and inspiration, which includes his son, Jon-Michael and brother-in-law, Perry Shorty.