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 :)
Sheryl Lynn Benally
Program Assistant, Navajo Cultural Arts Program
So ... Christine walked into my office at the end of March and said "Guess what, Sheryl? You have seen me do it, it's time for you to do it! You are going to organize and run the Summer Workshop Series this year. Here is the summer scope - A Collaborative Weekend Summer Workshop Series with the Office of Miss Navajo Nation. Miss Navajo 2017-18 Crystal Littleben will be in attendance and we would help to promote holistic well-being through the cultural arts." I knew it was going to take some coordination but I was more than thrilled and excited to start right away.
First things first. I worked with Crystal and Christine to make sure we addressed their ideas. Crystal wanted five (5) workshops in each agency on the Navajo Nation; Eastern Agency (Crownpoint), Fort Defiance Agency (Window Rock), Chinle Agency (Tsaile), Western Agency (Tuba City) and Shiprock Agency (Shiprock). And Christine wanted to tie this series into the Diné College’s 50th Anniversary. - No problem - Diné College has branches in all agencies and so we worked out the locations with the site directors - Thank you, site directors, for opening up on the weekends!
Deciding upon workshop topics and searching for the workshop leaders were the most challenging. We needed to find dedicated artisans who were:
(1) from a variety of emphasis areas;
(2) willing to show and teach community members;
(3) located within specific agencies; and
(4) available the same days Crystal was able to attend.
Talk about moving parts! Slowly but surely it was all coming together. When we released the final flyer for the Workshop Series with the help of Coyote Pass Designs, we immediately got phone calls, emails, facebook messages, visitors to our office (and even houses!) to sign up. We literally had a waitlist up to twenty-two participants for the sash belt-making workshop and 19 for the skirt making. Although the phone calls, voicemails and emails were intense in quantity, it was exciting to know that our community was interested in our cultural arts programming.
Once we filled the workshops - it was prep time. I was off to find materials. I remember when I received the list for the Pow-wow Chest Plate making workshop I thought: “What is this?” “How will this look?” "What if I get the wrong beads." The NCAP had never done this type of workshop before. Thank goodness the workshop leader met me at City Electric and gave me the “101” on materials, how they are used, and what options exist. It was nice to have workshop leaders take the time out of their busy schedules and help with preparation like that.
Can I take a moment to gush about these workshop leaders? They are all so talented and passionate individuals on the cultural values they all shared. Hearing the cultural stories on each workshop emphasis, seeing the amount of material they need to get one project done, the hard labor that goes into it, the time it takes was a revelation and for that, they really do deserve recognition for the beautiful work they create. So, thank you, Troy, Wilfred, Jonah, Keonnie - oh yeah - and Crystal, who led the silversmithing workshop.
And of course this wouldn't have been possible without our community members. Our 26 workshop participants represented all 5 of our agencies and ranged in age from 18 - 65. Some had experience with some cultural arts and for others it was their first time. Many participants shared that their grandparents or parents had the cultural arts knowledge but they wanted to learn and carry on those traditions. I was inspired by how passionate they all were and every participant did an incredible job finishing their projects. They left each workshop happy and excited to show what they created. Calling each other by clan relations like “brother,” “sister,” and “mom”, many of them exchanged numbers to keep in contact. It was a cool bond to see - a bond that I had a small part in creating.
My personal favorite was the Silversmithing Workshop because my late Nali Dennis Yazzie was a silversmither. Since I started with NCAP, I have been given the amazing opportunity to learn how to silversmith. Now, that I have a taste for what it feels like with fire in my hand and beauty as the end result, I will continue learning. I want to keep that silversmithing emphasis alive in my family. We truly did “go all out” during that workshop, because we produced more than just bracelets! We got creative and made bracelets, pendants, rings and earrings. At one point, our participants did not want to leave the silversmithing building because they wanted to learn more.
It was truly an honor working with Crystal again and the turn out was great! After each workshop, we were thrilled to get positive feedback and it was a great feeling seeing the participants leave with cultural knowledge about the workshop. This summer workshop series is definitely for the books!
Grant Manager, Navajo Cultural Arts Program
in her blog "Leading with Fire" have always been inherently found in the practice of the cultural arts. Personally, weaving has helped to make me a stronger individual, and I would go as far as to say a tougher Diné woman. It was a treatment plan for my bouts with insomnia, depression, and writing blocks. Weaving also held the responsibilities of a teacher, showing me how to engage my cultural belief system and fortify my critical inquiry skills and self-esteem.
Throughout my time as the NCAP grant manager I have learned that cultural arts holistic well-being is an area that many of our Emerging Artisans are trying to not only fully comprehend but also to embrace. "Where do we start?" many ask as they entered the Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program. My response is always the same - Just do it - Work with raw materials, talk with the plants, put your scraps away properly, make mistakes and learn from them. I tell them to take care of those teachings and the many others that they will learn along the way because, as cliché as it sounds - if you take care of them, they will take care of you. With those inquisitive artisans in mind, I thought I would take a minute to address the NCAP's take on Holistic Well-Being, specifically focusing in on how artisans can start to reflect upon their work from a holistic perspective.
While there have been several pieces about holistic well-being published, one article in particular stood out to our NCAP team: "The Wellness Wheel: An Aboriginal Contribution to Social Work" by Dr. Margot Loiselle and Lauretta McKenzie. What we specifically liked about this article was 1) its adaptability to indigenous paradigms; 2) its dialogue with Diné holistic well-being; 3) its encouragement to self-assess; and 4) its proposed wellness program through an analysis of four aspects: Physical/Material Aspects, Emotional/Social/Relational Aspects, Mental/Intellectual/Cognitive Aspects, and Spiritual/Ethical/Cultural Aspects. Loiselle and McKenzie created a list of guiding questions that could be used to assess an individual's well-being. NCAP critically analyzed those guiding questions to understanding how they could be adapted to further inquire into the Navajo cultural arts holistic well-being.
The following are guiding questions that artisans can utilize to self-assess where they are in terms of their own cultural arts holistic well-being journey.
Physical / Material Aspects:
Mental / Intellectual / Cognitive Aspects:
Spiritual / Ethical / Cultural Aspects:
These are in no means an ends to Navajo cultural arts holistic well-being; however, they have been a starting point of discussion as we worked with several Navajo cultural artisans throughout this blog series. In call a particular we would love to give a tremendous shout out and thanks to Kurtis Smith, Shayne Ray Watson, Sharonna Rae Yazzie, Sam Slater, Leonard Gene, Waycee Harvey, Troy Uentillie and Jess Williams, for helping us to gather a little further insight into the holistic well-being of Diné cultural artisans. Ahee'hee!
And for artisans who wish to create what Loiselle and McKenzie call a "self-care plan", these guiding questions may be able to help set positive goals, identify negative behaviors, and look toward creating a more holistic approach to their cultural art well-being.
Stop by next week for our final blog of the series, which will include an analysis of the series' findings as well as an announcement by Miss Navajo, Crystal Littleben detailing our Summer Weekend Workshop Series!
Emerging Artisan, 2017-18 Cohort (Basket Maker)
Ya’at’aah shik’ee doo shidine’é. Shi éí Farrah Mailboy yinishyé
Hello! My name is Farrah Mailboy, I am the Water Flow together clan born for the Red Bottom Clan, my maternal grandparents are the Big Water People Clan and my paternal grandparents are the Salt People Clan. I was raised in Lukachukai, Arizona and continue to make my home there. I am a part of the 2017-2018 Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program. My emphasis in the program was Navajo Basketry. I joined the Navajo Cultural Arts Program so that I can give back to my students and youth across our Navajo Nation. As a Psychology major and educator, I would like to utilize Navajo Cultural Arts of a form of Art Therapy.
Before I joined the Certificate Program - I was kinda a NCAP weekend workshop junkie. The first workshop that I attended with NCAP was a two-day sash belt weaving workshop. I picked up sash belt weaving faster than I thought. So, I decided to try another workshop, which was silversmithing with Lyndon Tsosie. That workshop went pretty well as well. Then, I signed up for moccasin making with one of my fellow NCAP classmates Brent Toadlena. It was a little tougher than I had expected but it didn't turn me off to the Certification program. That’s when I decided to get an application and complete it.
So far, I am AMAZED at the amount of work, time and effort that goes into weaving a Navajo Basket. WOW! It amazes me what can be created from a single sumac stick. The struggle was REAL attending classes every Saturday with Thomas! Ayyyye! JK! I have learned so much from our instructor Thomas Yellowhair. Thomas shared with us the significance of Navajo Basketry. Learning to pick sumac and splitting sumac over and over and over and over as a real pain! OMG! I still haven’t mastered that skill. However, the smell of wet sumac is so delicious! Slowly but surely, I am still completing my first Navajo Basket.
Every one of us have a different mentality and I have learned for myself that I have to have a clear mindset. I want to put to put nothing but positive vibes into my basket. If I didn’t have that mindset then the “awl” was very difficult to use or the Sumac sticks didn’t want to bend a certain way. Navajo Basketry has taught me a lot about patience and therapeutic for myself.
I honestly cannot thank Dine College Navajo Cultural Arts Program for the amazing opportunity to be a part of this cohort. I am not an “artsy” person and I never been to any sort of Museum that have to do with cultural arts. Within this year, I got to visit The Heard Museum and the Museum of Northern Arizona. I have been exposed to another world, that I want to take my students along to visit and appreciate the importance of Navajo Cultural Arts. Thank You!
Emerging Artisan, 2017-18 Cohort (Silversmith/Weaver)
As a young Navajo person, I have made it my life’s goal to keep tradition, culture, language and history of my people strong and resilient from complete globalization and influences that affect the Navajo tribe from cultural extinction. The Navajo Cultural Arts Program (NCAP) has been one of the first steps into giving me hope and inspiration to providing knowledge to our people in the future. As a student emphasizing in Weaving, I had the chance to emerge and strive towards a mastery level. NCAP has been one of the most exciting and best decisions I have ever made in my life. While growing up, I lived with my grandparents after the death of my mother when I was 6 years old. I remember how much I’ve grown to this day culturally. I first learned to weave by only observing and talking with my grandmother. I never actually attempted to warp a loom in my lifetime until this past year during a workshop I’ve attended in Phoenix at the Heard Museum. I was shockingly surprised by myself when I wove my first rug that came out beautifully.
My first piece - done at the Heard Museum
I found myself weaving like I knew how to do it already. My movements were natural and flowed smoothly as I reached the top of the loom to finish the rug. I think it’s amazing how my mind and my body kept a little part of something that I didn’t inherit completely. It was from this day on, I felt that I could do so much more. One thing, you should know is that I am a graphic designer. I come from a mother that painted, beaded, made moccasins and learned a lot in fashion. She was great. My father was also a painter and beader. So, I was not surprised when I started to drift towards more of becoming an artist myself. I learned a lot of my techniques while going to school at Arizona State University and Mesa Community College in the Valley. I came home after 6 years to live with my family and reconnect myself to our Navajo ways. I found a perfect way to merge my two lives into one when I joined NCAP. I learned so much from master weavers and my instructors at Dine College. I find myself visualizing more designs and recently started to experience a lot with color. A lot of what I do now is more contemporary, where color is more heavier over traditional design. I have a very long way to go to perfect my technique in weaving.
My motivation increased recently when I was awarded the Community Choice Award in the NCAP Museum Exhibit in April 2018 for “Sunset”, a traditional wide ruins rug infused with fiery colors. This has been a wonderful experience with NCAP. I currently have a larger loom up and going that looks stunning in its earlier stage.
As an emerging weaver, I encourage the younger generations to learn more about our cultural arts. Weaving is a medicine. When you weave, your body heals itself mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally in ways you can’t imagine. I found something for myself that utilizes my life’s teachings and knowledge to find a place in this world. It’s never too late to find yours.
Ahxéhee’. Thank You.
Emerging Artisan, 2017-18 Cohort (Moccasin Maker/Silversmith/Basket Maker)
So, we arrived at Tsehotsoi Middle School on the morning. I had my baskets and other necessary items in hand, then proceeded on into the school. As the NCAP program assistant and I got into the classroom, we were greeted by a young group of students. They were well mannered and eager to hear about basketry. After a quick introduction from the teacher, I was asked to begin my presentation. As usual, I began by introducing myself the traditional way: stating my clans, my name, where I’m from, and what I’m presenting. I then began to tell the origins stories of Navajo Basketry.
I proceeded on with the history of Navajo Basketry, all the way from the emergence and the recreation of our “Ts’aa’.” As I was going on with the story, I also mentioned the patterns and colors incorporated in baskets and explained the significance. I was amazed with one student, I would ask a question for the whole class and she answered with great accuracy. So, I got to the point where I felt it was necessary to show them how a basket is stitched. At the time, I had a basket which I was working on and I showed them all about the various kinds of stitching. I had no clue how much interest they would have until I got to the that part. All the students looked closely as I stitched the last ring, which was the cedar stitch.
At about this time, I began wrapping up my presentation and I wanted to know what the students have learned. So, I pointed to symbols on the basket and asked them what it represented, to my surprise the class answered correctly. I still had 2 more groups to present to on the same topic. It was just a repeated process for each group. Before departing the school, a group of kids came up to me and handed me and thank you card signed by an entire class. Inside of that card was an envelope, I didn’t think anything of it or bothered to open it until we arrived back in Tsaile. Inside that envelope was 17 dollars, which all students contributed to.
This experience has given me an idea of what to expect in future demonstrations and I strongly feel I’ve executed my objective satisfactorily. The students were awesome as well, they made this presentation memorable for me. I’ll carry on this motivation to every demo, presentation or workshop I lead in the future.
You could learn how to host workshops too! Just join the next NCAP cohort, starting in August 2018. It is a 24 credit hour program over the course of 2 semesters. Worth it? I would say so! Just contact Christine or Sheryl from NCAP for more information!!
And if you are interested in checking out some of my basketry - don't forget to stop by my WH Moccasin & Basket Design facebook page!
Johnnie Bia, Jr.
School back in 2002 and he also took some credits with Dine College before he transferred down to Phoenix Valley where he went to Scottsdale Culinary Institute- Le Cordon Bleu. He resides in Phoenix Valley nowadays where he is an Executive Chef. Kurtis was first curious about how people made ceremonial blankets when he would attend NAC peyote ceremonies. He then finally took it upon himself to learn how to sew. From the encouragement of one of his good brothers, he was able to learn how to sew with a sewing machine. His first projects were for a giveaway items for his little sister’s peyote ceremony.
material/colors and how the customer wants their product to function. Kurtis feels that he is at an “Okay” level for his sewing skills and techniques because he believes that you cannot judge your own self on your work. But he does stress that he puts his whole self into his work, reminding others that you have to take care of yourself first - be in a good physical state and good mindset. If there is something wrong with you or not feeling good, it will be difficult to fold or to sew. People don't want individuals who are falling apart to create their pieces just like they don't want your blankets or bags to be falling apart - people can judge you for that so put in your best efforts. You are the first one that needs to be healthy before you start working on a project. You want your customer to feel good and to take care of your products
through their schedule. Kurtis mentioned that he takes care of his sewing abilities because it was given and he has been blessed with it. Once you figure it out and master it, just take good care of it. Sometimes it works in your favor and sometimes it difficult to work through problems that pop up. Either way, it is something you can’t just give it away or push it off to the side because it is a part of your livelihood. You put your mind into it, you made it a part of yourself. The designs and colors you put on the projects is a part of you. A person must give themselves to that gift that was given to them. There’s good thoughts, prayers, and songs that go into it, a person will have some teachings from it. He/she can make a good living with it, whatever they want they can obtain it through sewing.
Sewing can build up your self-esteem and self-worth by seeing the happy faces of your customers. You feel proud and good within yourself when you know that people are amazed from your blankets & bags. They feel thankful and happy about your work so when they Thank You, it moves or touches your mind, heart, and soul. Sewing can give and take relationships with family, friends and relatives. When working on a blanket or bag, you are using and sacrificing your time away from family, friends, and relatives. It helps to maintain a good relationship by setting a good example of knowing how to sew a ceremonial blankets and bags. It can be good and bad depending on how your family, friends, and relatives take it.
For Kurtis, sewing holds a significant and spiritual place in his life - putting himself out there for self-preservation, self-deaeration and away from self-destruction. He found something that he could put spiritual value into so that he wouldn’t harm himself or anybody else. For Kurtis, he wants to live a good life through his sewing, it can put a person in check and can leave them in a good place. Your relationships are based on what you put out for people. Sewing blankets and bags coincides with that output of his values, beliefs, and values. Kurtis takes time for prayer by finding it is best that a person should be in a clear mind, in a state of trancendency when dealing with spiritual instruments. Kurtis listens to peyote music because it helps a person to keep going as they work on a project. Singing along with the music while folding or sewing is always good to do because it helps you to get into it. By doing that, it’s a prayer in a song that goes along with and within a blanket and bag. Kurtis mentions the positive activities that a person can do for their spiritual well-being is knowing that it has to be you, “Taa’hwiajitee’”. Praying is the main thing that a person can do for themselves. You can give someone money to help say a prayer for you, but what if things don’t go your way. It will be easy to blame that person for nothing saying a right prayer for you. So it is best to pray for yourself, because that will help you to believe it by saying those words that come out of your mouth. Praying is the only and best way to keep your spiritual-self going.
In conclusion, there are a lot of things that go into folding and sewing Native American Church peyote blankets and bags. Being in good physical health within a person is important, because they have to be up to doing the work. Having a clear and positive mind helps a person to really get into folding and sewing. It helps an artist feel good emotionally through the customer’s reactions of the final completed product. The spiritual aspect is the main important one to focus on because people are going to be using the blankets and bags around a peyote ceremony. In a way an artist must be in a spiritual mindset, spiritual feeling, and to live that spiritual lifestyle. It is having respect for the gift of folding and sewing blankets and bags.
Emerging Artisan, 2017-18 Cohort (Moccasin Maker/Weaver/Basket Maker)
One of the art skills I learned from Diné College and have continue to practice is the art form of Diné Sash Weaving. For over 15 years, I have been weaving and enjoy making Diné Sashes (belts).
Currently I am a returning student of Diné College in the 3rd cohort of the Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program. The Navajo Cultural Arts Program (NCAP) has been a blessing and a gateway to furthering myself and my skills into the Native Art World and its environment. I am learning more about Navajo Art and their components to origin and cultural aspects. So far, I have added two new art forms to my belt: Moccasin Making (H. Walters) and Basket Making (T. Yellowhair). In addition to emphasizing in those areas, as part of our NIS132 Navajo Cultural Arts Materials and Resources class, we had scheduled several unique workshops throughout the 8 week session. We had a workshop on silversmithing, sumac collection, weaving tool making and, one of my favorites, wool dying.
In September 2017, Lorraine Herder and Edith Simonson drove in from their community of Hard Rock, AZ. As introductions rolled around, I came to find out these two passionate weavers are my paternal sisters through clan. At first glance, I took note to their humbleness as they walked through the campus, being well-mannered and both gentle-spoken & kind.
As the day started, Lorraine explained how she & her siblings were raised to tend to their livestock which was an everyday chore and was expected of them to maintain their family’s livelihood. One story she shared with our group was of her family, affected by the infamous Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute (1974); resulting in her family’s livestock being blocked from using watering holes, grazing pastures, and as well, a majority of the local vegetation that is used as part of their vegetation dyes, were also unattainable on the other side of the barbed wired fence placed directly through their homestead.
Throughout the day, while the pots of water & plants continued to boil, there were brief instances we were able to just stand and speaks amongst ourselves. Speaking to her, I recall she mentioned that raising livestock and dying wool were both arduous tasks and that she did not weave on a full-time basis. She explained that she had a job that kept her away from home but when she did find the time, she went home to tend to her flock & when time allowed she dyed wool & wove rugs using her own processed wool.
When we questioned what plants, she was utilizing that day, she had a few she had picked prior to her arrival on campus. Surprisingly, when she arrived on campus, right where we stood she picked a prickly plant which turned out to be green Tumble Weed; which I remember nobody could remember the Navajo name for the plant she showed: Ch’ildeenini. She also mentioned that the process was through experimentation, using various plants and never knowing the end result of the final color.
Towards the end of the day, after skeins of wool were boiling for several hours, we watched while she inserted various hues of white & gray wool into the same dye baths, from which we witnessed as she pulled the skeins of wool out of their baths, the differences in vibrant, to not so vibrant colors. It was a time-consuming process and my hats off to the two presenters who made the process look so easy.
From the Three Tiered Navajo Skirts to Contemporary Sewing: Holistic Well-being Through Dress Making
Johnnie Bia, Jr.
the three tiers of the skirt that trace our Diné women's journey through their childhood, adulthood, and elderly years. And as of late, we have seen a rise in contemporary takes of this style walk the fashion run ways from Arizona to New York to Europe. Despite its travels, the Navajo tailors and seamstresses continue to root themselves in the cultural nuances of this cultural arts practice. I am in no way close to a tailor, but I do know someone who is!
and old style pleats on the bust, the back, and the sleeves of each blouse. Shayne’s strategic plan to attaining success in his future with sewing is built around a self-owned small company. So in the future hiring staff will be beneficial. Together they could maybe triple or quadruple their work and their earnings each day rather than one person making one garment and finishing it for the next 2 to 3 days.
Sewing contributes to his overall physical health. He explained - you are always on your feet, always having your hand gestures move softly, quickly, steadily, and constantly. Some positive activities outside of the act of sewing that can enhance your work is eating healthy. Through proper nutrition you make sure you get your vitamins, water intake, and also protein intake with fruits and other organic items. One unique aspect that Shayne brought up was keeping up with your hygiene as another way to improve your work - when you are working, showering at least twice a day, one in the morning when you get up and then always one at night before you sleep is important. You may think this is a lot of showering but... because you don’t know what chemicals and fibers are on each fabric, its better to shower after each project for your health.
Shayne is satisfied of what he does because he can actually create an item or garment for someone who cannot create it themselves. But each piece is so unique that it brings to them a unique feeling of having something created just for them.
Meditation also helps positively build your mental health, not only during the project but also before. Mediation is your quiet time, where you can actually think clearly and prepare yourself for your next garment order. It also helps you to trouble shoot any issues that you may have run into.
From a spiritual perspective, Shayne learned his sewing techniques from his great grandmother and he will always be able to take those teachings with him wherever he goes. In this way, what he sews not only connects him to his grandmother but he also extends his grandmother's teachings to those who receive his work. In addition to the connections to his grandmother, Shayne feels a sense of connectedness and pride for the value of Navajo culture. In doing his work and creating new garment, he always has tied his beliefs into Navajo culture and history because that is how he creates his garments and designs. For these reasons, he is actually creating work that coincides with tradition - from old style traditional wear to contemporary and modern wear. Finally, he also points out that prayer is also something that you can do while you are in the midst of your sewing because that’ll help you so many ways. Prayers gives you more spirit and sets your mind in your current sewing task.
In conclusion, as a tailor or a seamstress, you impact both your own holistic well-being and that of the clients or recipients of the clothes you make. This makes perfect sense to me - I know how I feel when I put on a freshly pressed shirt made especially for me. It makes me stand just a few centimeters taller and feel just a bit more confident. We have come a long way since our days of loinclothes and rug dresses, but our clothing today and sewing of those clothes utilize many of those skills and techniques that help to reconnect us to our Dine holistic self. Thanks, Shayne, for all your insight! And stay tuned, blog readers, Miss Navajo will be hosting a skirt making workshop this summer as part of her Cultural Arts Holistic Well-Being Workshop Series :)
If you are just now joining our blog series, please take some time to review some of the past Holistic Well-Being blogs from this 10 - week series!