Monday, December 19, 2011

Tales of a Traveling Weaver, Chapter 2: Ancestral Puebloan Weaving

I woke up this morning, still in Cortez, CO (at the start of week number 10 of at least 16). I asked Emily what I could do for her today and she said, "I want you to get medieval on that tapestry." This is not only a testament to her dedication to me having weaving time, but a statement of how much more media-saavy she is than me.  Apparently that is a reference to the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film with John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman blockbuster Pulp Fiction--which of course, being a bit media-challenged, I never saw. It is also a reference to the medieval tapestry tradition. I may have to add this phrase to my lexicon, though perhaps I should watch Pulp Fiction first.

One thing I have greatly enjoyed about Cortez is that it is right in the middle of a huge archeological area.  It is estimated that this area around Cortez probably had a higher population in the ancestral puebloan times than it does today. There are literally archeological sites everywhere. The Canyon of the Ancients National Monument is a place with sites scattered all over this area, but they do have a visitor's center near the newly-created (at least relative to 1200 AD) McPhee Reservoir.

In the visitors center they talk a little bit about weaving and they have this practice loom set up with fairly good instructions on how to weave plain weave.

Before the Ancestral Puebloans had cotton, they wove sandals and bags out of yucca.

Fragments of woven cotton have been found--they were growing cotton.
Cotton woven fiber fragment

They also have a fascinating replica of a pit house which depicts dwellings from one of the Basketmaker eras.

In further recent ancestral puebloan weaving explorations, you can see holes from looms in the tufa caves at Bandalier (see holes on floor and beams from ceiling)...

And over Thanksgiving I took a trip to Hubbell Trading Post National Monument in Ganadao, Arizona and Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, AZ. Hubbell's has a visitor's center which employs Navajo weavers and you can go there and watch them weaving intricate rugs. It is also still an operating trading post. You can pick up a coke, some feed for your chickens, a skein or two of local churro yarn, or in their rug room, a beautiful Navajo rug.

We also stopped for the traditional Thanksgiving tour of Canyon de Chelly. This is a rather poor photo of Spider Rock. My understanding of the Navajo creation stories is shaky at best, but one rendition is that Spider Woman made her home on top of Spider Rock. Spider Woman taught the Dine ancestors to weave on a loom. There are references to either Spider Woman or her husband Spider Man weaving the universe on a large loom.  I love this image--the world starting with a weaving... or the act of weaving.

And finally, I just got the latest Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center newsletter and want to note that a Tiwa/Piro Pueblo weaver, Louie Garcia is going to be teaching some classes there. Our Southwestern weaving traditions are well saturated with Navajo and Hispanic weaving, but rarely do I see anyone talking about puebloan weaving. Here is a YouTube video where Louie is talking about his work. He talks about breath and spirit in every weaving and the spiritual aspect of pueblo culture.  It looks like he is teaching two classes at EVFAC in January and February.

(Also note that my colleague Cornelia Theimer Gardella is teaching some classes at EVFAC in the spring and I highly recommend her! She is teaching a color theory class with dyeing--so those students of mine who are asking about learning to dye and about color, consider taking this class. Check the EVFAC website for details or Cornelia's website as she is also teaching at Ghost Ranch.)

Maybe this is why I keep going back to these ancient sites:

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca, it has been awhile since we've been down in that area of the state. Great photos - they take me back to the quiet beauty that is there! Thanks.


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