We recently picked up a collection of weavings from the 1980s that were done by some very talented women. Most of them had tags on them so it was easy to identify the weavers. They came from a famous Indian Trading family in Gallup (by agreement I can share that name with the purchaser of the weavings but am not allowed to put it in print).
There is one vegetal dye weaving in the group that was obviously done by a talented weaver. It is unique as the design is a traditional Teec Nos Pos, an area where you seldom see vegetal dye colors.
I was on the phone with one of my favorite collectors telling him about the weaving and the frustration that I was having identifying the maker. Most of the time, without some sort of paperwork, you can never be sure who wove a rug, but you always like to try.
This man and his wife have a terrific collection and they are students of the art. I had sent him a photo of the piece and he was commenting on the Teec Nos Pos pattern and asked if I thought it was a weaver from that area. Initially, I thought it had to be, but he said something about the border that made me realize that, unlike most Teec’s the border did not go all the way around the pattern. There was a strip at either end and while that is certainly not unheard of, it is not common.
I started looking at the end of the rug and in one corner, not where the stripe was, but in the body of the weaving in a slightly different color yarn, was the date, ”1989,” woven into the fabric.
I was still on the phone with the client who was at his computer and asked, “can you see the date in one corner of the body of the weaving on your monitor?”
He said, “I can see something, but it doesn’t look like a date.”
It occurred to me that if she put a date in one corner, she might have put her initials in another corner. Sure enough, on the opposite corner were the initials, “HTP.”
Now this will tell you how you are sometimes brain dead. I told the collector I would call him back, but I wanted to see if I could find out who “HTP” was.
I took the rug up to my office where my reference library is and as I walked into the room, I spotted a photograph another collector had sent me of the Hubbell Trading Post rug room. Well, that explained the “HTP!”
So I looked at the other end of the rug and there, in a faint color, was “MLB” and I knew whose rug it was.
Mary Lee Begay was a demonstration weaver at the Hubbell Trading Post for years along with people like Sadie Curtis and Fay Yazzie. She was an exceptional weaver, born in 1941, who had the ability to weave any style or type of rug.
Her work is included in several books and is in the Gloria Ross Collection which was put together by Ann Hedland, a leading expert in Navajo weaving. Many of you have seen Mary’s work in the book by Steve Getzwiller and Ray Manley.
I don’t know how many Teec Nos Pos Style pieces this woman wove, but this is a darn good one! It also had a Blue Ribbon attached to it from the O’Odham Tash Festival from 1990. The funny thing about the ribbon is that it has the judges signatures, but not the weaver’s name. One of the judges was Getzwiller.
So it all makes sense and was a lot of fun figuring out. It was probably finished in the fall of 1989, entered in the O’Odham Tash competition by the Hubbell Trading Post and somehow purchased by the Gallup trader.
It is a beautiful vegetal dye Teec Nos Pos weaving and if you want a good one, this might be it! It measures 34 inches by 59 inches and is valued at $6000.00.
Jackson Clark II