I was trying to remember how I met Laverne Barber. She is
the daughter of Anna Mae Barber who was the oldest sister of the five Burnham
area weavers. When their mother died, Anna Mae basically raised Marie. Alice,
Helen and Sandy. They are all world class Navajo weavers.
Back in the 1970's, I
was a working in my father's rug room when Helen brought a weaving in. Not long
after, the other family members started to bring their pieces into the
showroom. They were very different from the weavings that you normally saw,
combining elements from all of the weaving areas, using all hand spun wool and
breaking most of the rules about Navajo design.
I loved them and we hit it off
really well. I started visiting the Burnham area and got to know the whole
family, including Anna Mae's two weaving children, Laverne and Betsy. These two
young women taught me much about weaving and were always a joy to work with.
Laverne has always been one of my favorite people. Back in the 80's, through a
program with the Navajo Tribe, she was given all of the lumber and most of the
materials to build a home. She, her kids and her cousins built it themselves.
It was before there was electricity or potable water available at Burnham, but
they piped and wired the home to be ready.
You may have heard the saying that
when, on Groundhog Day, which is always sunny on the reservation, if the
Groundhog sees his shadow, there are six more weeks of basketball. Well,
Laverne loves basketball, but with no electricity, it was hard to watch the
games on the small set she had. Her cousins wired her pickup to charge an extra
battery and she could pull the truck up to the side of the house and hook up
the television using some cables she ran out a window and she never missed a
Michael Jordon playoff game!
The curator from The Fenimore Art Museum in
Cooperstown, New York once called and asked if we could have a weaver make an
American Flag rug. Laverne worked with a woman in Durango, Beverly Anderson,
who dyed some of her yarn with indigo and cochineal (the original vegetal blue
and red dyes used in the old wearing blankets) and created a stunning flag. She
like working with these colors and their partnership continued for years.
took a period of time off from weaving to work for the Chapter House, but a few
years ago, we had someone order a special piece that was something that sounded
like Laverne would like to do. Antonia called her and she made the weaving and
has been back at the loom on a regular basis since then.
This last month,
Laverne brought in a really sweet little piece that is woven with handspun
wool using all vegetal dyes and natural wool colors. You do not find many
contemporary weavings with cochineal and indigo dye today. This weaving
combines elements of Chief's blankets and traditional Navajo geometric designs.