Alice Begay was the first of the five sisters from the Burnham weaving area to take the leap from traditional patterns to creating a unique style that has found acceptance by collectors, museums, and other weavers.

After boarding school, she began to experiment by combining weaving designs from other areas, along with pictorial elements, to create one-of-a-kind designs. As the weavers do today, some 40 years later, these pieces by the Begay family are woven with hand-spun wool.


It wasn’t long before the other four sisters began to follow her lead and then it spread to aunts and cousins, many living far from Burnham. Today, there are many imitators!

Alice was at top of her weaving form when a family tragedy hit her hard and for several years she stayed away from the loom. In the last two years, she has come back to the weaving and has not lost a step. Everyone in her family, and all of us at the gallery, are delighted to have her and her smiling face back with us! She is an inspiration.

This Storm Pattern adaptation may be the best of this style that she has done. She has created the pattern, high in the sky above the Chuska Mountains which are due east of her home at Burnham.


It is bordered on both ends with a Navajo Ceremonial Sash pattern and a serrated geometric line that evolved from the early Spanish Saltillo weavings. Next, and surrounding the central pattern, is a border you might find on a Teec Nos Pos weaving.

The top of the central pattern is a traditional Storm pattern with the two blocks representing two of the Sacred Mountains of the Dine’.  These peaks are connected to the center of the heavens by lighting. That central pattern is a weaving reminiscent of the rugs that were woven by the oldest of the sisters, Anna Mae, before her passing several years ago. An Eagle flies between the clouds and the two Sacred Peaks.


The bottom part of the Storm pattern is absorbed by the Chuska Mountains and clouds with rain falling from them are cross the horizon. These clouds produce the rain that flows into the stream that meanders past the traditional hogan with horses, sheep, and birds portraying the only living things.

Below that the central part of the weaving is finished with a Teec Nos Pos pattern.

This is an example of the art of contemporary weaving, by one of the Navajo Nation’s finest weavers, at its best.

See all Alice Begay Weavings in the Gallery

See all Burnham Weavings in the Gallery

Experts always refer to the early blanket-making period of the 1800s as the “Classic Period” of Navajo weaving. That may very well be, but there are weavers today, like Alice Begay and her family, that are making pieces of art that rival any of the old blankets. Of course, the times, conditions, and materials are not the same, but in the history of Navajo weaving, great contemporary artists aren’t in second place to anyone.