Sometimes, when you’ve been around awhile, you forget everyone has their perspective on time.
One day a couple of years ago, a young man came to the gallery with two lovely Navajo rugs he had inherited from his grandfather. He was curious to learn more about them, and someone told him to ask me.
They were nice weavings, and I started by telling him the areas they came from and then said, “They aren’t too old.”
He asked me when they were made, and I replied, “They were probably woven in the 1960s.”
He looked at me and said, “Dude, I was born in 1987!”
So, old is relative to where you are, and this young man made me realize those regional weavings from the 1930s to the 1970s have some age on them! And most of them have weathered the years better than I have!
We received two lovely pieces that fit into that category that a woman in Montana collected. The first is a traditional Storm pattern by Bessie B. Yazzie, awarded the second-place ribbon at the Arizona State Fair in 1963. It is unusual to find a weaving from that time period with documentation identifying the weaver.
It is a beautiful piece in “like new” condition made with hand-spun wool. Traditional Storm pattern elements are present in this weaving. Each corner of the rug depicts one of the Four Sacred Mountains. Lightning radiates from the center toward the Four Sacred Mountains. Thunder decorates the sides. Rain falls towards the ends of the weaving, and water bugs appear in the desert after a shower.
The Four Sacred Mountains are Mt. LaPlata (between Durango and Cortez near Mesa Verde National Park), Mt. Blanca (near Alamosa, Colorado), Mt. Taylor (south of Zuni and Grants, NM), and Mt. Humphreys (in the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, AZ).
It is a straightforward interpretation of the original Storm Patterns that J.B. Moore from the Crystal Trading Post featured in his catalogs in 1903 and 1911.
The other piece is a Two Grey Hills style from the 1930s. Even I think that is old! It is not the typical Two Grey Hills pattern you usually see and is unique in that the weaver created something entirely different from most other women weaving in the area.
Unfortunately, we don’t have her name, which is sad, but she was someone whose vision let her create out of the box. It is a simple pattern with a black and white border and zig-zag patterns running down each side of the rug. But in the middle, she has a white rectangle with connected elements running the length of the rug.
At first, they appear to be a design she created, but when you look at them, they are representations of Navajo weaving combs. Each pair is connected by a line attached to the handles.
When you watch a Navajo woman at the loom, you will hear a steady and rhythmic thump, thump, thump as she pounds the warp down on the weft after every thread she inserts. It is one of the most peaceful and meditative sounds I have experienced.
Most weavers indeed have special
feelings for their combs!