“I’d like to see Navajo weaving [considered] an art, not just a craft. I grew up watching my grandparents work so hard and get nothing. I feel like weaving has already given me what I’ve needed—money and recognition—and I’d like to see it continue to make a living for other people, too.” —Barbara Ornelas
Weaving in the Past & Present
Variety marks Navajo weaving through time, between communities, and among individuals. Weavers use many designs, materials, dyes, and techniques. They make artistic choices based on their own creativity and culture, and decide how to add outside influences into their lives and work.
Comparing 19th century blankets and 20th century rugs, outward differences in designs and function are visible. Across the generations, Navajo weavers have embraced change, remaining flexible to new ideas and materials. Change itself is a strong Navajo value.
Continuing cultural practices are harder to see, but they provide a common thread between these galleries. Early Navajo values—toward the animals and land, kin and community, thought and hard work, harmony and balance—continue to infuse Navajos’ lives today. Women have been the primary weavers, however a few men have always woven. Individuality—respect for each person’s decisions—is a prevailing Navajo attitude.
In this section, the artistic work of thirty weavers from the Navajo Nation demonstrates their modern vitality and connections to the past. These rugs and tapestries from the renowned Santa Fe Collection and the Teller-Ornelas Family Collection were woven in Arizona and New Mexico between 1967 and 2004. To highlight the dynamic range of weaving, the textiles are grouped by regional and thematic rug styles.