Florence Riggs is widely recognized as one of the premier weavers of Navajo pictorial scenes. She comes from a great weaving family. Louise Nez is her mother and Linda Nez is her sister. Both are exceptional weavers.
One time I was with my mother over at the Jacob Lake Lodge near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had been visiting the Rich family which has one of the nicest collections of Navajo rugs for sale in Arizona and my mom asked John Rich about Louise Nez.
He had bought rugs from her before but had not seen her for a while. He said she lived somewhere between Marble Canyon and Tuba City. That’s a big hunk of territory.
On the drive home, we came to the fork in the road where we either headed to Page and back to Durango, or we went south towards Flagstaff and Tuba City. I was turning towards Page when my mom said, “Let’s go this way and see if we can find Louise Nez.”
Being a rational person, I replied, “Mom, there is no way we are going to be able to find her.”
But my mom is a persistent person and we ended up driving south. I didn’t really mind as it is a pretty drive and takes you past the Gap and some other interesting places and it would only take a couple of extra hours to get back to Durango. What’s a few extra hours with your mom, right?
About five miles down the road, there were some roadside stands where Navajo people were selling jewelry and a few rugs. I don’t usually encourage people to stop at these places as often the jewelry you buy never was touched by a Navajo Silversmith and few good weavers would sell their rugs on the side of the road.
Mom said, “Let’s stop and see if they know Louise.”
Well, thinking that this was a big haystack, and we were looking for a needle, I agreed. She walked over to the booth and asked the woman if she knew Louise Nez. The woman gave her with a strange look and said, “I’m Louise Nez.” Bingo. Never doubt your mom.
That was our introduction to the family and over the years we have purchased some wonderful rugs from all of them. Florence was the last of the women we worked with, probably because she lives in Tuba City and had other connections to sell her rugs. We did have one of her pictorials on consignment and a couple of years ago my sister, Antonia, took the rug to her booth at the Santa Fe Market. They hit is off well and it wasn’t long before we started working with Florence. I am sorry it took so long as she is a wonderful artist.
This woman can literally weave anything, and always well. Her sandpaintings, pictorials with people and desert scenes with animals are always popular.
When I was at the Santa Fe Market a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if she had gotten a booth. Lots of artists didn’t this year. We had worked together on a project with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in which she sent samples of her yarn and the dyes she used to be used in a study on contemporary weaving. I wanted to see if she had heard from them and Sunday morning, bingo, the phone rang, and it was Florence calling from her booth.
She left her booth and came over to Sorrel Sky where I was showing rugs and brought a beautiful Tree of Life weaving.
“Jackson,” she asked, “I have to leave because my husband has to work real early tomorrow. I didn’t sell my rug. Would you take it and sell it for me?”
Unfortunately, the market was not as well attended as in past years and many artists had down years. But it was great to see everyone out in their booths and moving towards normal. Hopefully, next year, the 100-year anniversary of the Indian Market and the Gallup Ceremonial will be great!