A Buyer's Guide to Navajo Weaving

By Schaaf, Gregory | Southwest Art, August 2000 | Go to article overview

A Buyer's Guide to Navajo Weaving


Schaaf, Gregory, Southwest Art


WEAVING IN THE SOUTHWEST IS A 2,000-YEAR-OLD TRADITION. HUNDREDS OF thousands of Pueblo people were clothed in textiles woven first from a variety of natural plant fibers. Today Pueblo textiles are rare, made mostly for ceremonial dress. In contrast, Navajo weavers are prolific, providing rugs for collectors around the world.

In the past 75 years Indian Market has featured some of the finest Native American textiles being made today. This attention has helped many craftspeople emerge from virtual anonymity to become recognized artists. For many generations, weavers were mostly anonymous to collectors-a pre-1950 textile with the weaver's name attached is considered a rare find. Typically, Indian weavings have been sold by traders, who valued textiles by the quality of the weave, the type of yarn, the size, and the attractiveness of the design. The artist's name, however, is now becoming an important variable in a weaving's value, though some traders still try to hide the names of "their" best weavers.

Twelve Regional Styles of Navajo Textiles

GANADO rug designs were influenced by a series of paintings of early tes that hung for years on the walls of Hubbell's Trading Post. Spider Woman's Cross, single and double diamonds, bows, and other designs appear on a deep "Ganado Red" background.

TWO GREY HILLS rugs are often woven from natural, handspun, and carded wool in patterns of terraced and serrated diamond centers, quarter-diamond corner elements, and full or half borders.

CRYSTAL rugs were originally similar to Two Gray Hills with the addition of red aniline dye. Trader J.B. Moore promoted a mail-order business with a catalog of standard designs. Beginning in the mid-1940s, crystal weavers switched to vegetal-dyed yarns, and their style changed into banded designs and wavy fines without borders.

KLAGETOH rugs are similar to Ganado with a carded gray or brown background and strong reds. Klagetoh weavers are noted for their large floor rugs and attractive diamond designs.

TEEC NOC POS rugs are known for complex designs with sA" diagonal compositions and zag or swallow-tail borders. Their style was influenced by Persian carpets and other Middle Eastern rugs.

WIDE RUINS rugs consist mostly of earth tones in banded designs without borders. In the 1930s, local traders and the Museum of Northern Arizona encouraged the weavers to use vegetal dyes and hand-- spun yarn.

CHINLE rugs are similar to Wide Ruins with larger, bolder design elements. They are often woven in soft, pastel earth tones.

PINE SPRINGS rugs are similar to Wide Ruins with darker natural colors. The rugs are becoming increasingly bold in their designs.

BURNTWATER rugs display complex and colorful designs. In the 1970s, this style was influenced by a Two Grey Hills weaver who incorporated her mother's complex designs. Colorful dyed yam was added, thus making the rugs distinctive.

BURNHAM rugs are often the quality oF tapestry, woven in natural and carded handspun churro wool, with some use of cochineal, indigo, and vegetal dyes. Early rugs share design compositions with Two Grey Hills, but more contemporary examples add southwestern symbols such as bears and Kokopelli. Many young artists work in great detail, creating pictorial tapestries.

COAL MINE MESA/NEW LANDS rugs are known for their raised-outline designs, created with a back stitch used in some Hopi weavings. The rugs generally are woven in soft, pastel colors, often with Tees Nos Pos designs.

BLUE CANYON rugs are a contemporary development featuring asymmetrical compositions and multiple regional styles. The raised-outline technique is often incorporated in Own unusual textiles. -GS

A Closer Look: Weavers from Toadlena/Two Grey Hills, NM

Serena Jumbo and her family are just the sort of people collectors can meet at Indian Market. She is ecstatic about her work-and inspired by the popularity of it at past markets. …

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