Over the years, we have sold many beautiful pieces that, years later, find their way back to the Gallery. Whenever that happens, it is always accompanied by memories of the artist.

It must be because I am getting older, but recently this has become a common experience. It is always a good experience to connect with a piece of art that reminds you of the artist and your experiences with them.


I decided to feature more of these “old friends” making their second (or third or fourth) trip through the Gallery in the blog.

Today that piece is a Navajo weaving by the matriarch of the Burnham weaving family. Anna Mae Barber was the second oldest daughter of the Begay-Barber family. She wove traditional Navajo pattern weavings, but always with something a little special in them. She always tried to add a detail, a border, or an image that was just a little different.

I knew Anna Mae for over 40 years and treasured the trips to Burnham when I’d stop at her home, usually with a case of Pepsi (in later years, I switched it up to Diet Pepsi, but I don’t think she liked that as well!). In the early years, one of her daughters would translate. Later, one of her sons took on the task. Her children were devoted to her.


Her husband died young, and she supported her family by weaving rugs. It was not easy. But I never met anyone who loved to weave as much as she did.

She kept a loom at the foot of her bed and always had a weaving on it. At her funeral a few years ago, the minister talked about that loom and how weaving had paralleled her life.

“At her loom, Anna Mae slowly put the threads between the warps and beat them down. Over and over, she would put small threads into the weaving and then beat them down.

“Weaving is exactly like life. It will, over and over, beat you down. But if you know where you are going, keep your mind on what you want, and keep working the threads of life in the direction you are going, the beating will make you stronger, just like the rug, and you will end up with a masterpiece. It’s where you are going that is important, not where you are.”


When I met Anna Mae, she didn’t have electricity in her home. She didn’t have running water. Over the years, as the tribe brought services to her, her life changed.  By American middle-class standards, life wasn’t that great, but from a life of not having enough food and struggling every day, it became pretty good. When she had a four-way bypass because of a heart attack, Medicaid delivered healthy meals to her home on a dirt road 40 miles from Farmington.

She loved her sheep and walked with them daily.  She took them to the only spring in the area.

One time, not long after her heart surgery, I drove out to see how she was doing. Her son, Roger, told me she was walking the sheep to the spring.

“Great,” I said, “I’ll walk and meet her. Which way is it?

Roger said, “I don’t think you want to do that. It’s about two miles.”


She was a tough woman; when she decided to do something, she did it, and she was taking those sheep to the spring!

We seldom see any of her weavings, most people that have them keep them. The one we have now is an example of what happened to her weaving when the younger sisters began to work with pictorial elements and deviated from traditional designs.

The weaving pictures a group of men and women standing in line, carrying gifts and blessings to a wedding ceremony. A concho belt is on one side of the border; on the other is a Navajo sash. Look at the double borders and how she put the earth, with eagle feathers as blessings, under the feet of the people. It is a small, simple, and unique weaving.


The weaving uses Churro wool from Dr. Lyle McNeal’s Navajo Sheep Project at Utah State University. Dr. McNeal traveled the reservation looking for Churro “looking” sheep and brought a ram from Spain. He began a project to re-introduce the Churro to Navajo flocks. This wool is from sheep that are direct descendants of the Churro sheep that Coronado brought to the New World. Anna Mae wove this piece in the mid-1990s.

Over the years, we purchased a lot of rugs from Anna Mae. I thought you would enjoy seeing a selection of them.