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 (Silversmith)
Ya’ateeh, My name is Irvina Chee. Women Empowerment nishli’, Passion Ba’ shischiin, Resilient Dashicheii’, Empathy dashinali’. Shi Ne’hema dee’naasha’. Those are my “clans” that helped me identify my brand for a Workshop we did with Mr. VanDeever as a part of the Navajo Cultural Arts Program (NCAP). My emphasis in the NCAP program is Silversmithing.
One semester down in the program and I have learned so much more that just how to silversmith. The program is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had in a college setting. Unique and special in all its teachings not just in the emphasis you choose. Day one in the NCAP program started out with a butchering demonstration that all of our bellies appreciated! It was not only a great way to get to know my fellow cohort members, but it also showed us how the NCAP staff works together, how they collaborate with other organizations, and how the cultural arts doesn't just start in the classroom in this program.
Within the silversmith cohort, I have met some very special people! Within the silversmith cohort, I have found a tool to further beautify my heart, mind and surroundings. And within the cohort, I learned what peace of mind can produce. In your hands, solid and ready to adorn. Our first semester, our instructor Anthony Goldtooth had us perfecting our stamp work and finding our own individual styles. He shared stories of his own path to becoming an artisan himself and how he is following in his father’s footsteps, Tony Goldtooth, whom is a Master Silversmith. Those were by far, my favorite stories. Every class was a different teaching on technique and metal manipulation. Personally, I find the art very therapeutic and adaptive to me and a hammer. The beauty left behind, after some buffing and polishing of course, is holisticly satisfying. I absolutely fell in love with it.
I look forward to next semester and to learning new techniques on how to work with metals and stones. I am very excited to soak up everything that the program has to offer in the near future, as some artisans have decided to do all the programs (which you can do too!). I hear there is a Shoe Game we will be attending to learn how Navajo business systems starts with this game. There is also mentioning of field trips to Trading Posts, Museums, and Galleries too. I find it so amazing that no place else on Ni’himá can you get these teachings than at Diné College. I also must say It also does not hurt to have Tsaile provide the appropriate backdrop for such an experience. The campus and the land are beautiful year round.
Thank you very much for the knowledge and opportunity to live my dream. Again my name is Irvina Chee, I am from Marble Canyon Az. Ta”neeszahnii nishli’, Kinlichii’nii’ bashishchiin, Kinyaa’aanii dashicheii, Ashiihi dashnali’. Ahe’hee!
Brandon R. Dinae
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Basket Maker, Moccasin Maker, Silversmith)
Yá'át'ééh t'áá ánółtso. Doone'é nishłínígíí éí Bit'ahnii dóó Hooghan Łání bá shíshchíín. Tł'ógí Táchíi'nii dashicheii dóó Kinłichíi'nii dashinálí. 'Akot'éego diné nishłį́ dóó Tsé Digóní keehasht'į́. Béésh łigai atsidí dóó kéłchí ayiilaa dóó ts'aa' ayiilaa baa da’ííníshta'. Brandon Dinae yinishyé.
(Hello everyone. I am from the Many-Folded-Arms-People clan born for the Many-Hogan-Peopleclan. My maternal grandfather is from the Browned-Banged-Weaver-People clan and my paternal grandfather is from the Red-House-Peopleclan. I am Navajo and I live in Mitten Rock, NM. I am studing Silversmithing, Moccasin Making, and Basketry as part of this year's Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Cohort. My name is Brandon Dinae)
I’ve wanted to learn to make baskets for years and the NCAP has given me the chance to learn from individuals who have been making baskets for years. In the Fall, in addition to our basket making class with Thomas Yellowhair as our instructor, we have also learned about baskets and basket making in our NIS129 Navajo Cultural Arts Materials and Resource class. As a cohort, we were instructed on harvesting K'į́į́' (sumac) for our Tóshjeeh (water jug) project. This meant jumping in a van and actually going on a hunt. We got to meet NCAP alumni, Waycee Harvey, who is also a basket maker. He accompanied our cohort on the trip to teach us how to find sumac and split it.
I learned a lot of things that day... especially about pollen. Little did I know that K'į́į́' has a very potent reaction on some of its hunters. The pollen for the sumac can induce allergic-like symptoms and, it turns out, I was not immune. For me, this was strange because I’m not allergic to anything - at least not anything that I know of. During gathering, my nose insisted on dripping and I didn’t know why I was sneezing profusely. After we gathered what we needed, Waycee showed us how to spit the sumac. While getting used to the taste of the sumac branches our workshop leader informed the class that our reaction to the plant was caused from pollen of the K'į́į́' Bi'áád (female sumac). Thanks, Teach 😂! Now I know what sumac pollen feels like.
The trip was a success and I had picked enough K'į́į́' for the weaving portion of my project. Once we got home, I worked on splitting and gathering jeeh (piñon sap). In class, I learned from Thomas Yellowhair how to sew the jug, attach handles, and cover the piece with jeeh, making it water proof.
I am extremely excited for spring and learning to weave the ts'aa (ceremonial basket).
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Weaver)
I am a weaver in this year Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program. My cohort member is Tamerra Martin and our instructor is Ilene Naegle. We weave together at the Window Rock Diné College Branch on Wednesday afternoons. It has been great working with these ladies - but through the NCAP, I was able to learn a little more about the cultural arts - specifically silversmithing. Therefore, I would say that my favorite NCAP activity during the Fall 2018 semester (besides going to weave at the Heard Museum) was working with silver and natural stones in our NIS129 Materials and Resource Class.
Most of the people that I know who do silverwork, work in their homes whenever they can. Their homes usually have electricity where the buffering is done with electricity. At one time every thing was done by manual labor. Up to now, it seemed like silversmithing was a costly hobby with a costly initial investment. It takes time, money, and labor to produce quality art pieces. That's why I was excited when one of our workshops was on silver bead making.
In the workshop, Dr. Christine Ami presented on types of metal (copper, brass, silver, gold), different gauges, and variations of the natural stones. She even mentioned how coins were originally used by Navajos for silversmithing. Dr. Ami had some high quality handmade- jewelry pieces that her husband had made. She gave us tips about buying materials and selling the art pieces. I don't think such advice is clearly given to new artists so freely.
At the end of the Dr. Ami's presentation, the former 2017/2018 Miss Navajo, Crystal Littleben did a hands on workshop. Miss Littleben was very helpful and attentive. She worked with us on cutting, stamping, soldering, and buffing of the silver beads. We started with copper and then moved into silver once we got an understanding of the process. I know everyone had a memorable day at this workshop because it was fun and interacting. At the end of the day, we produced an art piece. Thank you both, Dr. Ami and Miss Littleben, for your time, skill, knowledge, patience and everything else too 😄. Now, these two ladies not only know the art work but both are very smart, supportive when working with people.
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Moccasin Maker, Basket Maker)
Shi’ Cherilyn Yazzie yinshi’. Hona’gha’ahnii nishli, To’tsohnii ba’ shishchiin, To’di’ch’iinii dashicheii, ‘A’shiihi’ dashina’li. Dilkon, AZ dee’ naasha’. I am part of the 2018/19 Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate cohort. My traditional emphasis areas are moccasin making and basketry. One of my favorite activities during the Fall 2018 semester was the opportunity to travel with our moccasin class to visit our instructor, Harry Walter's hogan studio in Cove.
Cove is so beautiful.
I’ve never been to Cove before. Driving up to this community in the fall is visually striking - red sand stone rocks sprinkled with seasonal golden leaves. And just like the rest of our reservation it has such a rich history.
On this November day, my fellow moccasin makers joined Mr. Walters for a workshop session in his hogan studio. I wanted to work on my moccasin patterns. I took three-foot tracings from my sister and two of my nephews. I admit... I had not really paid attention to the tracings until it was time to start making the soles. Only then, after working for two hours, did I realized that all three tracings were the same size! 🤦🏽♀️
At that point, we stopped to have lunch. I guess I needed the break! ☺️ That's when I learned something new about Mr. Walters... #Mrwaltersfunfact1: He knows how to make one mean stew. It was delicious and we all had two bowls. I know what you’re thinking.. "She’s so bidi" 😂!! When we were done with lunch Mr. Walters has a special treat. #Mrwaltersfunfact2: He is an A+ entertainer! He played his guitar and sang two songs for us.
After our private concert, we took a trip to the family camp site where Mr. Walter’s told us a story about how a group of Navajos had evaded capture from the Spanish invaders. As we toured throughout his backyard, I came to find out that Harry Walters is like a walking google search. #Mrwaltersfunfact3: He knows so much about Navajo culture and history and is so willing to share those with his students. Every time Mr. Walters tells a story, my mind always wonders and I imagine his words are written in a book. It doesn't matter if it is in the classroom or at his home.
This past Fall semester, I felt so lucky each week to go to class and I am excited to pick up this Spring semester with Moccasin Making II. I’m surrounded by awesome cohort members and the instructors have been so knowledgeable, sharing a lot with us. I’m always just thankful to be apart of this experience. I learn something new each time I come to class.
This Spring semester, I am looking forward to practicing moccasin patterns. As of today, I have down the patterns for the size 8.5 and 6.5 shoe size. I am also counting on learning more #Mrwaltersfunfacts If you know some, be sure to add them below in the comments :)
Emerging Artisan, 2017-18 Cohort
One of my favorite experiences has been going to the Phoenix Heard Museum Indian Market. On the weekend of March 2, 3, & 4, I traveled with my peers to Phoenix. Although I have traveled to Phoenix a lot and even occasionally visited the museum, I had never really attended the Indian Market until this year. Around 1986 or 1987, when the market was in its infancy, I came to one of the first events that eventually became the Indian Market today. Back then, the event was very small and Native Americans did not have to pay admission to attend. So when we were told we were attending this year’s event, I was anxiously anticipating the event.
To say that the Market had grown is an understatement! Never having seen the enormity of the event that is held nowadays was overwhelming. Sheryl, the NCAP Assistant, had a whole agenda for us. The first evening we attending the Best of Show reception where we got to mingle with people. I got to reunite with an old friend from San Felipe Pueblo who is a potter. We had not seen each other since 1998 so we were able to catch each other up. The best of show exhibit was amazing! I particularly liked the photography and will make plans on entering the show in that category in the future.
Saturday I went to all the booths and made some good connections with certain artists such as Joe Cajero, Jr of Jemez Pueblo, Eric Fender of San Ildefonso Pueblo, and Sally Black, world famous Navajo basket maker. One of the best things I saw was a young teenager splitting feathers to make arrow fletching! His skill was mesmerizing! Another contact who is important to mention is Sarah Greenfield, who I found out is one of the board members of the museum. She was my Jr. High School Counselor. I’d like to talk with her about helping me get a moccasin making demonstration set up at the museum - so keep an eye open for that. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I liked that our NCAP family was able to spend this time together and have a great time. I definitely have some ideas about how I will get into this venue!
If you have time during the Navajo Cultural Arts Week, swing by Monday evening to the RC Gorman Room on the second floor of the NHC from 5-8pm. I'll be hosting a Sumac Splitting Workshop there! AND stop by the NHC Museum to vote for your favorite pieces. The winner will receive the "Community Choice Award."
A Posting by Zefren Anderson, Emerging Artisan
Hello! I’m Zefren Anderson from the 2017-2018 Navajo Cultural Arts Program (NCAP) cohort at Diné College. I’m a weaver and this year I am emphasizing not only in my own craft of weaving but also in sliversmithing.
As part of our Materials and Resource class, Mark Deschinny of Church Rock came to Tsaile to teach us how to make weaving tools. With the prowess and mobility of an olden days Honaghaahnii trader, Mr. Deschinny is a weaving toolmaker to the People of the southwest
(more at www.geocities.ws/deschinny/Looms_and_Supplies). Although we were off to a late start, I maintained an open mind – wondering if Mr. Deshchinny’s teachings would coincide with, be contrary to or be entirely new to my own.
All teachings are valid to the clans that hold them, and it’s an interesting exchange of ideas when clans share teachings. I have been taught within the family traditions of the Hashtlishniis - if it works use it, if broke, fix it and if it can’t be used, repurpose and reuse. Many of our family tools are remnants of bigger whole tools. For example, old split battens finding new life as needles, sticks and finishing tools. I’ve found that many clans don’t do this, so I’ve not had much success making tools for weavers when they asked how they were made. The same goes for the many stories of the oral traditions of each clan along with the anthropological knowledge of the tool use, design and origin. In my own research of recreating pre 1868 Navajo Weavings, I’ve come to find the stories and museums were the best places to learn how to create the tools. They are different from the tools we use today, but they are they are both part of a long story of living and surviving.
Mr. Deschinny arrived with tools and goals. Two big totes full of various woods, examples pieces, and a few power tools created a complete woodshop for our cohort. The goals were simple:
We shared personal introductions and he let us in on the story of how he came to support his family from tool making. He also shared that his family’s history included the creation of a comprehensive dye chart for education. His family takes great care in tool making, using local sustainable wood, natural finishes, and a philosophy to avoid abuse of our natural resources like wood. Use of fire and darkening of the grain is prohibited. After some safety training, we set off to create our projects.
Bee’adzoo’í can be made from gamble oak or in our case juniper. In the olden days, a whole branch is carved and sanded until it resembles a five fingered Bee’adzoo’í. But now we can use a saw to create multiple combs from one branch. Most modern Bee’adzoo’í are prized for evenness, aesthetic beauty and even the heaviness that creates tight hard weavings prized by collectors all over the world. I created my comb in the manner of my Shinaliadzaanbima. The comb manipulates the weft texture first then, it sets lightly into the warps. It is cut out exactly in the manner of one’s hand with their fingers outstretched set ¾” into the wood. The tips expose warp and keep weft tight. The area near the joints of the comb will stretch the weft and hide warp and a rounded pick at the opposite end of the comb.
Why do we care so much about the weft? …. In the old story of the 1st weaving a problem arose on the weft spacing and warp due to tension irregularities created by changes in humidity. It allowed weaving resume outside a regular source of water and the weaver could adapt technique to the environment.
Bee’K’initl’ish can be made from any hardwood. For our workshop we used Red oak. Steaming or wet earth bending can create the characteristic bend of a stable batten, Mr. Deshchinny uses weight as the wood cures. Tips are usually sanded up as the weavers prefer this shape. A state of mind and manual finesse coupled with a belt sander will produce great results for Bee’K’initl’ish. During this step, the NCAP Cohort members sanded and shaped their combs. Not surprising…their created tools showed the particular personalities of their creators.
The finally sanding took the longest as we went from tool to tool, queuing on the saw and sanders while sharing stories and teachings. The Bee’K’initl’ish was created after all the tools required to warp up a weaving, is was found using for quick weaving in solid colors, passing long bundles of string between the wraps but when the humidity went down the batten would leave uneven spaces in the weaving as the air dried. Another tool needed to be made
Bee’adizi can be made from anything culturally appropriate -clay, metal, wood or even concrete. In class, pieces were cut from a spilt juniper branch so everyone had enough time to complete one. Bee’adizi has changed over the last few years, as even more weavers are less dependent on Navajo Churro and Wool and more on brown sheep Company wool. Now weavers have one spindle where in the past there were several each suited to a particular task or fiber, even in the oral stories there are 5 spindles working yucca, cedar, cotton and wool. I wanted a general-purpose abalone spindle for a pre 1840s Biiheeh project. It needed to be light, fast, short and balanced manually. Using the curve of the spilt branch as a guide I shaped the whorl while Mr. Deshchinny leveled and drilled the hole.
By the end of class I had a perfect spindle for my future projects and I’m grateful for this whole day experience. I’m sure most of the NCAP cohort members also enjoyed themselves and got more from workshop than what they expected.
I’m looking forward to the next workshop -- Traditional Dye and spinning.
A posting by Carlon Ami, NCAP Intern
I'm not sure anyone believes me when I tell them that I learned to drive a tractor before learning to drive a vehicle. Either way, this is fact. Also important to this fact is that I learned very early in my tractor use that things break. Now that equipment is not cheap, and you have to learn how to either hide what you break (like my uncles do) or get it fixed. Thankfully, my older brother is a pretty awesome welder.
I don't say this just because he's my brother or because he has saved my butt more times than I can remember but because he taught me a critical lesson once. I was stressed because I somehow bent the support beam of the blade that keeps it perpendicular to the surface of the ground. There was no way that thing could be fixed, I almost just bought a new one. He had me bring it to him, he checked it out, then got to work.
Over the course of a couple hours we laughed, sweated, cursed, and learned. His advice: "Just take it apart and put it back together." Since welding is very closely related to soldering I apply that same concept to jewelry fabrication. How do I make this fit? Is this going to be strong enough? Can I do this? The answer: of course you can.
Don't let convention limit you. If you can reasonably imagine it, you might be able to build it. If it doesn't work out, you can always melt it down later for casting material.