NCAP Apprentice 2018/19 (Silversmith)
I was only seeking cultural knowledge to back my weaving when I first joined the Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program in 2017. The program required that I select an emphasis area and at the time I wasn’t looking to expand my artistic ability past weaving. But I also recognized that silversmithing was an option in the program. A small moment of self-doubt, much like when I first filled out the application for NCAP went through my mind. As I contemplated adding silversmithing as an emphasis area, I asked myself, “was this going to worth my time away from my loom, friends and family?” The possibilities of “what if?” were at first negative - "what if it takes away from my weaving? what if I am not good enough?" I signed up anyway for my silversmithing classes with Wilson Aronilth and looking back on that decision...my :what ifs" have become “what if I had not?”
Every class, mentor and event that NCAP included only strengthened my understanding of K'é, which is both a Navajo philosophy and Navajo skill. Those moments of self-doubt are no longer signs of weakness but great turning points where life changing decisions are made.
By the end of the program, my weaving did not suffer - I received the Legacy of a Master Weaver award for my stripped blanket at the 2018 NCAP Exhibit. I took a gambled with that rug - another area of self doubt - my decision of reviving older styles of weaving. And guess what....my gamble selecting a second emphasis area paid off. Starting with sheet of 3x6" sterling silver plate during the cohort I received a ribbon for a simple split shank bracelet. They were recognized by established silversmiths and weavers as great examples of Navajo Art even though I didn’t feel like they were. To me, they were just small aberrations in the cosmos that is Human existence.
Fast forward to 2019 and I’m now an expert at trudging past the small pauses of why? NCAP did that. The Program gave me the ability to plan and work independently while developing relationships that strengthen Navajo culture. I find myself doing activities outside my comfort zone with a Certificate of Navajo Cultural Arts in hand. I’m doing this while also continuing to weave full time for Native American art Shows and being a caregiving to my father. Life didn't stop me from applying and receiving a NCAP Paid Apprenticeship. Through that gamble I was given the opportunity to learn from Lyndon Tsosie, a world renowned Navajo Silversmith and owner of the House of Stamps in Gallup. Little did I know at the time that his advice would have life altering affirmations of the path NCAP put me on.
“You have to earn your chops” and “believe in your work as you design it, not as the experts defines it” Those are the central lessons I learned from Lyndon as we both concentrated on the 61stHeard Museum Guild Indian market and Art show. During my time with Lyndon, I asked about older techniques and styles of Navajo Jewelry and Lyndon responded with a trove of knowledge and experiences that I have yet to utilize personally. But I have learned that with the simplest tools, great art can be created, nurtured and shown to hold its beauty among others styles.
Another moment of self-doubt - Submission time to the Heard. I was fully prepared to defend my work. I had three weaving pieces to submit with one sliver bracelet- A total of 4 pieces but the limit was 3. For a split second, I wanted to switch out my weakest weaving for my bracelet as the other two weavings were made for the expected standards of Navajo textiles. My weakest piece was an experiment and broke almost every rule of the standard of Navajo weavings. A split second later, I walked out with my bracelet and I left my atypical, experimental weaving to be juried.
What if I had NOT! That experiment - that piece that I thought had the weakest possibility of placing - Won best of Show at the 61st Heard Museum Guild Indian market and Art show. I brought home ribbons and an empty bracelet case. Even a half done bracelet that wasn’t buffed sold! I urged the client to wait until I had polished the edges with a rock making a comfortable hand formed bracelet for them. Now I understand having integrity in one’s art even if it’s different because if you work at making it the best it can be it will support you and someone will find it beautiful. I’m am excited to see what happens next because... what if I had NOT?!
NCAP Intern - Student Affairs Project for Success Internship Program
Hello my name is Kimberly Jake and I am from Ramah, NM. I am in my third semester of my Business Administration BA program at Diné College. So how did I end up becoming an intern at the NCAP? I happened to see a Student Affair Project for Success Internship Program's flyer advertising for students hires. I figured I’d give it a shot and see what happens. I interviewed and after an unbearable wait for a call back, I received a phone call telling me I was hired. I was pretty excited because I had no knowledge of what the NCAP was, where it was located, or what
N - C - A - P stood for 😂
My first day with the NCAP, I got to meet Crystal Littleben, project coordinator, and Sheryl Benally, program assistant. Later on during the week I got to meet Dr. Christine M. Ami who is the Program Manager. Dr. Ami covered my duties, expectations, and let me know it was a learning environment - I didn't realize how learning it would become 😁. When were introducing ourselves to one another I learned that Sheryl started out as an intern as well and that made me feel even more comfortable. I knew that there was room to grown in the program. After my first week, I felt as if I could feed off all their positive energies and I have to say I am glad that Student Affairs Project for Success Internship Program had placed me with NCAP, which I now know stands for the Navajo Cultural Arts Program 😂. All in all I was ready to learn something new and be a part of this awesome team.
I want to go back to Dr. Ami's comment about being a hands on learning opportunity for a moment!
In my first week of being an intern I helped out with NCAP's First Fridays at DC Libraries. February's event “Ribbon Pillowcase Workshop” was in Shiprock, NM at the Sen. John Pinto Library, South campus at Diné College. I set up the sewing machines, laid out materials, fabric glue, scissors, ribbons, and irons, and greeted participants as they walked in. Sheryl had asked me if I wanted to join in. I was hesitant at first because I had never sewn in my life nor had I ever used a sewing machine. I was intimidated for sure! 😥 The participants there were experienced and had been sharing their stories of how they learned to sew and what they had created. I toughened up and got my materials together. To my surprise I did not think I had to pick matching colors; I just assumed it was just done randomly ... but it was not. You get to be the creator of how your masterpiece will turn out. It’s the little things that mattered to bring my pillow out.
After I cut out 18x18 material, it was time to tackle the sewing. Boy was I scared to use the sewing machine because I did not want to break it or mess up the threading. The workshop leader Andrea Sekayumptewa was very kind, helpful, and patience. And thats what I have taken from from this ribbon pillow workshop - PATIENCE and POSITIVITY. I learned that it takes you put a lot of patience and good thoughts and energy into work like this. I notice this when I first started you could see that I was in a rush and my sewing was a bit all over the place. I was getting annoyed with how it was turning out, but after I took a break than came back to my sewing I came back with a positive attitude and better energy. After that break I started to realize and notice that my sewing was becoming straighter and I was getting more acquainted and comfortable with the sewing machine.
Being a part of the “Ribbon Pillowcase Workshop” making was an awesome experience. I am pleased to say that I feel more comfortable with using a sewing machine. When I showed my family members my finished ribbon pillowcase, they were surprised that I had the patience to do it. They gave me compliments and started telling me they wanted me to start making other things such as a ribbon shirt or skirt. It is a great feeling knowing that I accomplished making a pillow cause because at first
I wasn't so sure what I had gotten myself into. I didn't want to mess up the pillow. I'm glad everything turned out great. Who knows... I just might invest in a sewing machine and make my own creations!
I am have lots of fun working with the NCAP and I am excited for our upcoming events in silversmith work, basket making, weaving, and moccasin making. I am looking forward to learning more about how traditional Navajo cultural arts intertwine with modern living, the stories, the teachings and also the skills of how one comes up with so many beautiful pieces.
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 :)
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.