I decided several years ago that it wasn't accurate to refer to every weaving made on a Navajo loom as a "rug." Of course, many weavings are made to be rugs, and most pieces made in the early and middle 20th century were intended for that use. But clearly, many modern Navajo weavings will never be on the floor. At some point, I decided it was rude to refer to these beautiful textiles as "rugs."
So, I started calling them textiles or weavings. I didn't think about it much. Last week, it occurred to me that it might be fine when you are talking to people other than Navajo weavers, but I cannot remember a single time that a weaver called or walked into the gallery with a weaving to sell that they didn't refer to their work as a rug.
When the phone rings, no weaver says, "I have a textile (or a weaving). Are you buying?" It doesn't matter if it is a tapestry, a pictorial, a sand painting, or a weaving meant for the floor. A Navajo weaver always says, "I have a rug…."
The more I thought about it, the more I decided that the word "rug" to most Navajo people doesn't have anything to do with the piece's use. It's a descriptive term for what they make. So really, it is not disrespectful to refer to a weaving as a "rug." in fact, it's a descriptive term for a great art form.
I just thought I'd share that with you!
The exception is the old blankets that were designed to be worn. Those were definitely blankets. I have no idea how a weaver in the 1870s would have described them, but the idea of a rug would have been pretty alien to her. Imagine that a woman wove a beautiful blanket to adorn someone's body and keep them warm. Putting it on the floor to walk on would have been strange.
Most Navajo people at the time lived in hogans with dirt floors generally covered with animal skins. They would not have considered putting down a blanket that had taken six months to weave to walk on.
So, this was the dilemma that the trading post owners faced when weavers quit making blankets and began to wear white men's clothing and use Pendleton blankets. Traders knew that the Navajo people had a great skill in weaving and saw the opportunity to turn that skill into weaving wool floor rugs. To do that, the trader had to convince the weavers to spin their yarn tighter and pack the loom tighter.
Different traders, such as Don Lorenzo Hubbell at Ganado, began to put weavings on the floors of their homes to demonstrate to the weavers how they could be used. It was the efforts of these traders who saved Navajo weaving. There was no more need for wearing blankets. Pendleton blankets and modern clothing were replacing the traditional dress of the Navajo.
So, the idea is to respect Navajo weavers' descriptions of their work. We won't change the website's search descriptions because many people use search engines to find "Navajo Weavings," which is important!
I just thought I'd let you know!