Being a judge at the Gallup Ceremonial is a special honor. And not being discriminatory, I think that the weaving category is the most exciting.
If you have been to the Santa Fe Indian Market, one of the things you will notice is that there are not many booths that feature Navajo weaving. That isn’t to say that some of the best weavers don’t show there. They do, but the number is limited.The reason is that it takes so long to weave a Navajo rug, that when the weaver finishes it, they generally need to sell it. It is difficult for most weavers, or families of weavers, to save up enough weavings to fill a booth on the square at Santa Fe and then you add in the cost of the booth and the cost of spending a couple of nights in Santa Fe and a lot of the money you plan to make from selling the weaving is eaten up.
Gallup is different. Weavers are certainly welcome and encouraged to enter their weavings, but generally, most of the weavings are entered by traders or dealers. When a trader buys a weaving that they think is ribbon quality, they will stick it aside and bring it to the Ceremonial to enter in competition. The trader must provide the weaver’s census number and when a piece wins a ribbon, the weaver gets a duplicate of the ribbon and a check!
I remember a beautiful Two Grey Hills that we had one time by Lucy Simpson. We entered it at the Ceremonial, and it won a first place. She had no idea we had entered the piece. The next time she called about bringing a weaving up to Durango, we took everything off the main wall in the Gallery and put up the weaving. When she walked in that day, she looked up and saw her weaving with a blue ribbon hanging from the corner. She started to cry and when we gave her the check, she started to laugh. It was special. Lucy didn’t speak English and she certainly was not someone who would have put up with the rigors of a booth at the Indian Market, but she was really proud of the fact that her weaving was judged as one of the best.
We just received a weaving from a collector that won a blue ribbon in 2008. It is a beautiful “revival” weaving, one whose pattern is based the old wearing blankets. It was beautifully woven by Laverne Van Winkle, measures 26” x 32” and has a very tight weft count of 64 threads per inch. I absolutely love this piece and it is a great reminder of how much the Gallup Ceremonial has done to encourage quality weaving.