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Weaving is a nearly 2,000-year-old skill that has been passed down each generation to the people inhabiting the Southwest. The oldest woven artifacts have been traced back to the San Juan River drainage, where Basketmaker people used domestic and plant materials such as yucca, hemp, milkweed fibers, human and dog hair, and turkey feathers spun into a yarn and hand woven into clothing and household goods like blankets and sandals.
Later, cotton was brought by trade from Mexico and southern Arizona and New Mexico reaching the Four Corners area around 600 AD. Cotton continued to be woven like previous materials using a technique called looping (similar to knitting). By 900 AD, vertical looms were being used to create large fabrics and blankets. For many centuries Ancestral Puebloan men grew cotton, spun into thread, and wove into fabric on upright looms. They would weave blankets and fabric for everyday clothing, ceremonial dress, and would trade their work among villages.
By the late 1500s, the Spaniards had introduced a new material to weave with, wool from Churro sheep. Indigo dye from Mexico would make its way north and be highly prized. The introduction of manufactured cloth, and new fashions brought west by the railroad, changed the way many Native Peoples dressed and fewer weavers continued the art. Pueblo weaving has declined almost to the vanishing point and the majority of items made are for ceremonial dress now.
It is uncertain when the Diné first took up weaving, but Diné weaving style diverged from the Puebloan style and become more distinct by 1750. The original Diné weaving color palate included brown, white, and indigo. Trade from the east brought new colors like red, black, green, yellow, and grey. Traditional weaving patterns would eventually diverge, and contemporary images and words would be featured in modern rugs. Weaving takes a great deal of time, depending on the size of the rug, it can take weeks to almost a year to produce a finished piece.
Gerard is a Diné weaver, originally from Indian Wells, AZ. Gerard’s grandmothers introduced the art of weaving to him. He enjoys weaving most traditional rug patterns, blankets, twill saddle blankets, rug dresses, and contemporary designs. Gerard sees weaving as a therapeutic tool to overcome our day-to-day challenges and carry on art that nearly vanished from his immediate family. Most importantly, Gerard is honored to bring life back to his grandmother’s weaving tools and carry on the tradition.
Bill comes from a family of weavers. Bill became very involved in his family’s weaving activities when he returned from Houston in 1984. He studied welding at a school in Oklahoma City and because of his welding skills, he makes metal looms for his family. He started to weave in1992. Bill further remarks that he now does the two “W’s – weaving and welding.” He remembers, “I’d been seeing it all my life, and it looks like it’s easy. Starting to weave was the hardest thing for me as a man, and so I had to think of weaving in a different way, so I think of weaving as an art and the loom as an easel. When I first started to weave, you should have seen my family member’s faces, they just couldn’t believe it.” He explains, “I weave for 2 important reasons: one is to honor my mom and the other is to be able to teach my 3 daughters, and I really like to learn new things.”
Rose was born just outside of Grand Canyon National Park’s eastern boundary, near Shadow Mountain. She originally took up weaving as a way to help her mother finish her large rugs. Once she became a mother and a student, she wove more often as a way to support her studies. Even though Rose enjoyed weaving the traditional rugs, she wanted to branch out and try new things. Now that she is retired, she will have time to work on weaving pillows, purses, and clothing and get back to competing in art shows.
Louise grew up in Sand Springs, AZ, and was relocated to Flagstaff in 1979, as a result of the Navajo-Hopi land dispute. She grew up in a rural area herding sheep instead of attending school. As a little girl, Louise helped with shearing, carding, and spinning. She was taught to weave by her mother, Laura Nez, when she was just 12. Since she began weaving in 1943, Louise has made hundreds of rugs. Due to living in a rural area, weaving rugs was a source of income for her family. She once traveled as far as Oklahoma to sell her rugs. She has woven the Saddle Blanket, Two Grey Hills, The Storm Pattern, and Yei. She learned to weave pictorials around 1980, from her sister-in-law Linda Nez. She says she didn’t depict people in her first pictorial because making the faces was too hard. She later mastered this detail and wove faces for her daughters and son when they were first learning.
Jane was raised in Sand Springs, AZ but now calls Tuba City her hometown. Jane is the oldest of Louise Nez’s five children, who she all taught to weave. When she began weaving, she started with traditional designs, specifically Two Grey Hills and Storm Pattern. She credits her grandmother, Laura Nez, as being the person who taught her to weave pictorial rugs and also the one who encouraged her to make a living from weaving so that she could support her family.
During her childhood, Florence was interested in watching her mother weave, though she never helped with shearing, carding or spinning, “like they used to do in the old days.” At the age of 18, a year after graduating from Tuba City High School, Florence decided she wanted to learn weaving and asked her mother to teach her. She began to weave pictorials when she was 20 and later became a full-time weaver. She weaves about 10 hours a day and her pieces are on the loom for one to three months, depending on their size. She remarks, “And now that’s all I do, just weave and weave, but I like to do it that way because I’m with my kids more.” Her ideas come from books, magazines, and observations of everyday life. Florence comments, “My figures are so realistic because I draw them first. I use store-bought, pre-dyed yarns, but I only use the fine ones because it makes the detail easier.”
Ahkima is a weaver and painter and is a member of the snake clan with the Hopi people. He is from the village of Paagvavi, in Third Mesa. He has been an artist since he was young painting on canvas ranging from small to large scale paintings. He mostly painted katsinas but also tried different types of genres like landscapes, people, animals, and spiritual influences. Weaving is something he picked up by accident. Originally Ahkima wasn’t interested in it until he was talked into it by family and friends in 2007. Since then, Ahkima has learned more styles of weaving extending to blankets and clothing.
Contact Ahkima Honyumptewa
Ruby is from the village of Paqavi, located on Third Mesa. She says her commitment to basket weaving is inspired by the Hopi people and their year-round ceremonial life. Several ceremonies require the items that she weaves such as the Women’s Basket Dance, the Footraces, and the Bean Dance. Ruby says she mainly weaves traditional items with traditional colors, but because she is an artist, she also enjoys exploring with different colors and patterns. She puts her prayers into her work so that those who receive or buy her baskets will be blessed.
Alberta lives on Second Mesa in Hopi and specializes in creating handmade traditional coiled baskets. She utilizes natural fibers from plants such as yucca and rabbit grass. She learned from her mother Grace Vance and specializes in miniature baskets.
Contact Alberta by calling (928) 734-6695.
Evanette resides in Kykotsmovi Village on Third Mesa in Arizona. Eva was introduced to the art of creating handmade yucca sifter baskets by her mother. Her mother is a member of the women’s culture group that produces baskets for the Hopi Basket Dance and she shared the knowledge with Eva when she was just ten years old. Eva draws her inspiration for her baskets from her Hopi culture. Just as she was taught by her mother, Eva teaches her children and grandchildren this art, as it is considered an important part of Hopi culture, and she doesn’t want this tradition to be forgotten.
Marvene is from the village of Polacca, on first Mesa on the Hopi Reservation. She was taught how to weave baskets by her step-mother, Doris, and has been creating sifter baskets from yucca since 2016. According to Marvene, yucca is considered to be a sacred plant. There is a process that a Hopi woman has to go through in order to be able to handle yucca and make the baskets. Marvene says she is privileged to be able to make yucca baskets and she draws her inspiration for her designs from the natural things in life.
Annetta lives in Hotevilla on Third Mesa. She is a fifth-generation traditional basket weaver using wicker, sumac, rabbit brush, dune brush and yucca. She harvests, cleans, dries, dyes and weaves natural fibers into baskets that carry on the strength of her Hopi culture.
Iva is Hopi-Navajo, enrolled in the Hopi tribe. Her baskets are made with yucca plant, willow, and three-leaf sumac branches, as well as metal rings. She uses both traditional and commercial dyes for coloring her yucca leaves. Traditionally Hopi are known for their coil, sifter, and piki trays. Iva created a new basket for Hopi which she named Poostaya. The Poostaya is only a few years old and was created at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM when Iva did an artist-in-residency program in 2014.
Clarissa was born and raised in Mishongnovi on Second Mesa. She began weaving sifter baskets at the age of 13, when she was introduced into a ceremony with her mother. Clarissa credits her mother as being her teacher and main influence in basket weaving.
Everett is a member of the Moapa Band of Paiutes and is blessed with the gift to create Southern Paiute, Shoshone, and Goshute basketry styles. He has learned these styles through various influences and opportunities. He was around his paternal Grandmother much as a child and learned from her. He has also been influenced and taught by elders in his tribe. His baskets are a result of a 9,000-year-old tradition of skill and knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation. Each of his baskets are made with natural native fibers from Nevada, Utah, and California and is hand-gathered, processed, and lovingly woven. Everett finds great pleasure teaching and sharing with his knowledge and passion for basketry with others.
Chris is a Zuni educator and weaver and labels himself a "fiber artist" - meaning he weaves a variety of materials. His handmade items include woven traditional Zuni belts, kilts, and maiden capes, but he also weaves yucca baskets, carrying mats, and willow baskets. In 2009, with help from the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, he started the Zuni Basket Weavers Guild. The goal of the Guild is to revive the art of basket weaving in Zuni.
A Zuni basket weaver, Zornia is of the Badger clan and a child of the Eagle clan. A student of Chris Lewis's, she started weaving baskets in 2015, beginning with willow and yucca materials. In addition to weaving, she sews traditional dresses for women and children, as well as back scarves and cooking aprons. She hopes to teach family and friends at Zuni the art of basket weaving and continue that time-honored tradition.