Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rug Of The Week - Storm by Zena Lane

by John Aldrich

This week's rug is a beautiful storm pattern rug woven from handspun yarn. This traditional method of weaving is rapidly being replaced by commercial yarn which is so much more convenient. Rugs like this are typically woven by our older weavers who still cling to their traditional ways. In this case our weaver is younger, but the daughter of one of our Big Mountain Elders, Rena Lane, who usually weaves in this manner. It's good to see a younger weaver following the old ways.

This rug is what I would call "substantial" - both in size and weight. Handspun yarn is usually coarser in texture, and the rugs made from it are typically heavier. But this is also quite a large rug at 37" x 57". Given its size and sturdiness this would make an excellent floor rug.

The catalog listing is 7163, and the rug price is $850.

To see more rugs, new and old, visit the Rug Catalog.

See this 2010 post for more information about the rug catalog.

Notes: Every effort has been made to photograph and present the rugs with as accurate rendition of color as possible. It's not possible, however, to be certain that your computer won't show some variance. Where two prices are listed in the catalog, the higher represents what the weaver hopes to receive and the lower, the minimum she will accept. As has always been the case at ANE all the proceeds of every rug sale go entirely to the weaver. Prices are set by the weaver, and since there is no "middleman" they are typically very reasonable.

And to see more of what's happening at ANE visit us on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Weaving A Revolution

by John Aldrich

This is the title of a recently opened exhibition at the Utah Museum Of Natural History. Although basket weaving isn't as inherently identified with Navajo culture as rug weaving, the former art has always been an important part of artistic expression on the reservation. The skill is primarily manifested in the northern reaches of the reservation where proximity to the Piute people is thought to have played a role in the acquisition of this skill.

Until recently the principal product of basket makers was the traditional Navajo ceremonial basket.

This simple appearing design contains the keys to the Navajo universe. It is used for a variety of ceremonial events both in healing and at key points in the stages of life. But there was a churning cauldron of creative energy waiting to be unleashed through this avenue of expression. The catalyst for this explosion was the Twin Rocks Trading Post in Bluff, Utah which was established in 1989. Steve and Barry Simpson wanted to continue a family tradition of supporting Native American artisans and hopefully make a living as well. Being on the northern edge of the reservation, they had ample exposure to weavers presenting baskets for them to purchase and offer for sale to visitors to their establishment.

They struck on the brilliant idea of expanding the design horizons of the local weavers in a most unique and contemporary manner. A local Navajo, Damian Jim, who possessed both design and computer skills, began creating contemporary ideas for basket weavers to incorporate into their pieces. The result was an explosion of creative output with the focal point being a nearby basketmaker, Mary Holiday Black. Along with her family they began producing pieces of art of stunning beauty, and this movement spread across the northern part of the reservation as well.

In the course of purveying these baskets to their customers, the Simpson brothers couldn't resist retaining a few pieces for their personal collection.Thus, over the next twenty years or so their collection grew to impressive proportions. Several years ago this treasure of about 150 baskets was acquired by the Utah Museum of Natural history which has just put it on display in a breathtaking exhibition worthy of the artistic level of the pieces.

Compare this basket with the ceremonial basket shown above:

The creative juices unleashed by this scheme of the Simpsons was more than ample reward for their faith in the artistic talents of Holiday and Black families as well as other basket weavers across the northern reservation.

This is one of my favorite pieces in the collection:

If you've ever had the experience of sleeping out under the stars in southern Utah, you should be able to relate to this scene readily. Imagine the basket is the dome of the sky with majestic sandstone landforms reaching up into it. It's a spiritual feeling that is evoked in a remarkable way by this basket.

Now lets take a quick tour of the exhibit at the museum:

Upon entering, this understated wall sets the tone for the show - beautiful art presented in a simple and engaging manner.

There are numerous display cases, large and small, containing the collection. Here are two of them:

 A special display pays homage to the trading post tradition in Navajo history. Although Twin Rocks is a modern business, it does fulfill one of the major historical rolls of trading posts. It provides an outlet for local Navajo artisans so that their wares can reach a wider audience.

Dispersed among the displays are a number of video kiosks such as this one where Mary Holiday Black is describing her art.

A large display is devoted to explaining the role that the Simpsons and Damian Jim played in creating this renaissance of Navajo basket making.

Steve Simpson is shown on the screen in the center where a video chronicles the history of this revival.

A special treat for visitors to the museum yesterday was Anderson Black, a son of Mary's, who was demonstrating his art to a throng of fascinated people.

And finally, here is another of the more unique and creative baskets in the exhibit.

If you are within traveling distance of the museum I would strongly encourage a visit. Pictures can only begin to convey the impact of seeing this astonishing display in person. The exhibit will become a traveling display after April 28th, so don't delay your visit too long.

And if you're within traveling distance of Bluff, I'm sure Steve and Barry would love to have you stop by. The basket makers of the area continue to create wonderful pieces of art and a good selection is always on display at the trading post.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter Stories Event Is Coming

by John Aldrich

On January 27th at 5:00 p.m. ANE will again sponsor one of our yearly highlights - the Winter Stories event. Come and share in in evening meant to provide the urban equivalent of a favorite Navajo winter pastime. During the cold winter months, the Dine' people gather in their hogans to share stories and play games. In the process, important Navajo traditions and teachings are passed along from the Elders to the younger generations, and everyone has fun as well.

The warehouse will become a large hogan for the occasion, and a variety of local Native American talent will share their stories, songs and teachings.

There will also be food (another Navajo tradition) so your appetite will be satisfied in every way.  If you would like to bring something to add to the food selection, please call the warehouse at 801-474-0535 to let us know what you will be bringing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rug Of The Week - Blessingway by Nellie Curley

by John Aldrich

Nellie Curley is a fine weaver from Kaibito, AZ. This is a town about 50 miles southeast of Page. Nellie's husband often has work in Salt Lake, and she tags along. But having little else to do here in the big city, she spends her time weaving in her motel room. As a result, we are graced with her rugs several times a year.

Nellie's rugs are large as well as complex which naturally results in a higher price than most rugs in our catalog. But Nellie has quite a reputation for her rugs and often sells them through high-end trading posts and outlets. The rugs of hers that we sell often are priced around 50% of what you would pay at one of these locations.

This rug measures 56" x 35" and is priced at $2000. The catalog listing is 7599.

The rug depicts a scene from the Blessingway ceremony in the center along with a group of Yei figures. The overall design is reminiscent of the Blue Canyon style of weaving. To the right are corn plants and feathers, while to the left emerges an intriguing partial glimpse of a storm pattern design.

For a rug of this complexity and from this weaver, the price is a bargain.

Here is a photo of Nellie holding a different rug.

What better way to lift your spirit out of its winter doldrums than to acquire this exquisite weaving?