While in Santa Fe, we had the opportunity to visit The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, home to an extensive collection of Native art and material artifacts. The Museum opened in 1931, with a mission to collect and preserve Southwest Native American material culture. In partnership with the museum, our latest winter styles feature products inspired by textiles in the collection.
What significance do textiles have as an art form among the Southwestern natives?
Weaving is integral component of life, identity and creative expression amongst the Southwestern Indian peoples — and has been so for thousands of years.
The Navajo, Pueblo and Hopi peoples of the Southwest are all known for and regarded for their weaving traditions. Though their weaving styles and designs differ, they all share in the belief that weaving was a gift given to them by Spider Woman. Through her communication these Southwestern Indian people learned how to spin and weave and, in so doing, gained the ability to create beauty and share both a personal and cultural expression.
To learn more about the Myth of Spider Woman visit: https://youtu.be/c_Tj4lr8i_k
The first weavers were the Pueblo people of the Southwest and cotton and yucca were the initial fibers they used to make clothing, ceremonial dress and blankets. When the Spanish arrived in the early 1500’s they introduced the churro sheep and their long staple wool became the main weaving fiber.
In the late 1880’s trading posts opened up throughout the Southwest; and shortly thereafter the railroad arrived, delivering to the region new materials, new styles and new, and more frequent visitors. With so much fresh information and increase in demand, the focus and style of weaving changed. There was less need for woven basics and more demand from collectors and tourists for weavings to buy. Responding to the changing tastes and trends of the time, Southwest Native weavers produced more rugs than the traditional wearing blankets. A full 130 years later, the weaving tradition continues, with the native peoples of the Southwest making ceremonial dress, belts, and rugs both for personal use and for sale to collectors.
Stylistically, what are Southwestern native weavers known for?
There is no one style of weaving or pattern for which the Southwest is known, as every weaver approaches their craft differently. The one concept that does unify all weavings is the sense of balance, beauty and harmony with which all weavers approach their creative process. From gathering wool, to spinning, dying and weaving, gratitude and honor is accorded to the animals that provide the wool, the natural elements that nourish both the animals and the plants from which dyes are made.
What is life like within Southwestern Native communities today?
In New Mexico there are 19 Pueblos – or villages, located along or near the route of the Rio Grande River. The Pueblo people have lived in these towns or ones close by for over 1000 years. The ancient traditions of pottery, weaving, basketry, and jewelry making – are very much alive today and still practiced by the current generations.
The Navajo were originally a nomadic people who tended sheep. They moved as needed based on the season and the availability of good feed and water for the animals. That sheep were so integral to the Navajo way of life, it is understandable that they would become great weavers. While the Navajo are no longer nomadic and live in towns scattered across their 27,000 square mile reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, herding, wool processing and weaving is still practiced.
The Hopi people live in northeastern Arizona in small villages or settlements that have been there since time immemorial. Like the Pueblo people and the Navajo, the Hopi weaving traditions continue to thrive.
What types of tools and techniques do these artisans use when crafting their pieces?
Weavers the world round use the same tools – shears for harvesting wool from the sheep, carding combs to clean and separate the fibers, spindles to make the fiber into yarn, and looms for weaving the fibers. To learn more about the weaving process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyw93hJt__g
Shop Museum of Indian Arts & Culture x Tea Collection here.