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.