NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Moccasin Maker)
When I first enrolled, I took whatever class that interested me. This included the fine arts and a sampling of the Navajo cultural arts classes that they had then. Every experience was really good until I took the moccasin class….that was it for me. 💙💙💙 I LOVED it 💙💙💙. I always remember Mr. Harry Walters telling us that our art picks us. Mr. Walters was my first moccasin making instructor and he intrigued me with his knowledge of Navajo culture. He told stories, sang songs, a trip to Dinétah and as a result made me proud to be Diné. Just this past fall, I enrolled in the Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program for the year 2018-2019 with the emphasis of moccasin making. It wasn't a spur of the moment decision - I have wanted to be in the Navajo Cultural Arts Program for the last three years but for various reasons, I was unable to be in the program until this past year.
Ni’hoosdzíinbiyiin, Shash biyiin. He explains in Navajo and English. Everything that I was being taught here at the college through culture, history, language, and art classes was now coming together. Inclusion is all important and now EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE. All the pieces are put together and I have an understanding of the Navajo universe.
Weaving and the loom. Aheehee, Mr. Lyle Harvey. Baskets and the materials, Aheehee Mr. Thomas Yellowhair. Moccasins and the appropriate use of materials. Aheehee, Mr. Harry Walters. I have a true understanding of the stories that each instructor brought to the classroom.
Now come the cliché “Full Circle” makes sense and now that is what I believe.
To me, Full Circle means as a Navajo woman that I can integrate my western education and my Navajo cultural education with my identity. I plan to bring this knowledge with me to the elementary classroom and to everyday life. They all have a place in and outside of the classroom. My year with Navajo Cultural Arts Program brought this realization to my attention.
Full Circle. Our Diné moccasins are sacred footwear…the top is Father Sky, the sole is Mother Earth and the sinew is lightening. The lightening is what holds the sky and the earth together.
Full Circle. My obligation as a moccasin maker is to pass on the knowledge that was gifted to me through our program and Mr. Harry Walters.
Full Circle. I feel complete. Life is good.
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Basket Maker, Moccasin Maker)
My husband, Mike and I signed up for a two-day silversmith workshop in St. Michaels on October 25thand 26th. Our instructors for these days were Chris Tom, Charles Johnson and Lester Craig. Day 1 we worked on stamping straight lines for a bracelet and then on Day 2 we worked on cutting and soldering.
I took the workshop because I wanted to learn how to make buttons for my moccasins. I want to finish a pair of moccasins that is made all by yours truly. That was my goal when I showed up. On that first day, the men asked about our goals or why we were taking the workshop and then they decided what types of projects we would be working on. I was given smaller stamps to work with, to practice repetition in my stamping and to also do some drawing with basic stamps. My husband and I had so much fun these two days. We learned so much from these gentlemen that it inspired us to really take this art seriously and purchase the supplies to get started.
Some of the tips I remember from these two days were: if you make a mistake with your stamping, just go with it and make the mistake apart of your final piece. After each hit you make with your hammer, regroup and hit the stamp again. Don’t forget to breathe. And you will smash your thumb so just let it happen, there’s no avoiding it. If you are very serious about silversmithing, practice and practice and work at it every day.
I feel that all these tips apply to all the Navajo cultural arts and to life general. Mistakes help you to learn about you strengthens and weaknesses and to learn from them. It makes your life interesting but, only if you learn from them. We will all get hurt so don’t be afraid to live your life. When you make mistakes or get hurt you must regroup and take a breath. And if you love to do something you should enjoy it, by doing it every day.
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Weaver)
Personally, I took it as a true test to see how confident I was in setting up a loom. The very first part of the process was to start with the warping. What would be an adequate size for a community loom? Enough that it could get finished within a week? I was taking into consideration to many things….on the day of setting up the loom, I packed what I thought we needed. Surprise! Of course, the zip ties I brought weren’t long enough, so now to look for wire. The words of our weaving instructor came to mind, “Make sure you have everything on hand, you don’t want to say ‘I don’t have it’ and put off weaving”. Should have packed the wire! Eventually, it was set up and ready to be created. I sat to the loom first; we were taught that the first couple of wefts are the foundation of your creation. You think positive thoughts about the weaving, the process it takes to complete and the journey upon completion. My thoughts were that whomever took the time to add a few or even more wefts would find themselves in complete peace and contentment. There is so much going on in the world and in our own lives today that sometime we forget to think about the present, “the here and now”.
If you have had the chance to sit down to the community loom to weave or even just to admire it, I hope that you had a moment of tranquility. I encourage you to make a visit to the museum exhibit, have a seat and add a few lines. You will not walk away disappointed.