Navajo Weaving BFA Student, American Indian College Fund Indigenous Visionaries Fellow
It is often said that people come into your life for a reason; it is up to you how you respond to their presence. As a parent to five children, certain teachers have left a big impact on our lives, from elementary to middle school to high school. And then there are people who come into our lives unexpectedly and we still learn a thing or two from them. My story is about how an aspiring weaver has taught me about twill weaving and then some.
As she grew old enough to enter elementary school in the 1970’s, she was put into boarding school. The BIA run boarding schools were sometimes miles away from home, which meant little to no contact with family and home. For some children, continuing education meant going further and usually off the Navajo Nation thus called the Placement Program. In most cases, the quest to become educated meant that students lost a sense of their hogan (home) and their livelihood. Although she was gone from her family for so many years, she always wished to continue the gift of weaving.
Her interest in learning to weave peaked as an adult; now living in the Valley of Arizona. The Heard Museum offered Weaving classes through financial grants that they would receive, these classes were conducted by world known textile artists, sisters, Barbara Teller Ornales and Lynda Teller Pete. One of these classes was held during the month of November of 2018. I had the privilege of attending this one week opportunity through the Navajo Cultural Arts Program via Diné College. It is here that we first met.
I really enjoyed her enthusiasm for weaving and, basically, for everyday life which I still enjoy to this day. We kept in touch through social media, she’s always encouraged me in my endeavors, not just through weaving but through all the things that I am going through in life. Her and her husband have been encouraging to my daughter and her artistic endeavors as well.
It was because of her genuineness that I chose Mrs. Fausto to be my mentor as part of the Indigenous Visionaries Fellowship. I especially wanted to learn more about her self-taught technique of Twill Weaving. I began to notice more and more that she was weaving twill and that she would mention how she was teaching others as well. I have woven a diamond twill before but had no idea how to incorporate other designs with the same heddle counts, and this is what she wanted me to learn. I have to admit that it was more frustrating than I thought it would be, sometimes the designs wouldn’t seem clear, or the count was off just by one or two--just close to giving up. It was through her encouragement and patience, for about three months, that I was able to finish my first small diamond twill sample that I was so proud of! She is still committed to teaching me the medium and large diamond twill weavings as well, so we are not done.
This opportunity also brought up the spirit of a weaver. Half way through the mentoring experience, Marilyn informed me that she had been undergoing treatment/therapy for cancer. My response was to feel so emotionally torn; how could someone so gifted go through something like this? My promise to her meant all that much more; I have learned this twill so I could continue to teach her teachings. Regardless of this, she kept optimistic and strong--she encouraged me to maintain a positive attitude as I wove my twill sample. I also remembered that as you practice a traditional art/craft, you think and pray for the good things in life to those who are in your life. It was a July day when she sent a message that the results of a recent biopsy showed benign cells! It was such a blessing to read her message and give thanks to the Holy Beings for bringing such a great mentor into my life.
The biggest lesson I experienced from all of this was the weavers gift of receiving and sharing. Marilyn agreed to teach me as long as I promised to teach others, even if it meant I teach my daughter. Her wish was based on her own experience; she wanted to have someone teach her but in most instances she was given very broad instructions or she was asked to pay an outrageous amount. She didn’t want others to feel the way she did; so if I could learn these techniques from her, I would then share it with others who wish to learn; I plan to keep this promise as I perfect twill weaving.