Sunday, September 1, 2013

weaving a world: textiles and the navajo way of seeing

An important part of using my hands, heart and mind to make things is having an understanding of the cultural background of different techniques and materials I use and, where I can, passing what I learn on to others.

I love researching as much as I love making, for me the two go hand in hand as a learning process and provide an underlying respect in my own making and for those makers who have gone before.

In developing the recent loom weaving meet up for Brown Owls I read a book that really brought everything home to me about what handmade means and how culturally important process is. Weaving a World: Textiles and the Navajo Way of Seeing by Roseann S. Willink and Paul G. Zolbrod is a beautifully told story of Navajo weaving.

Elders of the Navajo Reservation in eastern New Mexico provide an analysis of the patterns in individual weavings. It’s an amazing journey of symbology in weaving and the importance of asymmetry and chaos. What I loved most about this book though is the cultural importance of weaving in everyday life, the songs, prayers and ceremonies that accompany the process of weaving; the tiny what we may call ‘imperfections’ barely visible but intentional and filled with so much importance; the handing down of process, prayer and stories to future generations.

There are many beautiful weaving stories told by the elders in this book, one account that really touched my maker’s heart was this:

            ‘… if a feather falls from a bird in flight and is caught before it touches the ground, the feather becomes a symbol of deliverance and should be woven into a rug.’  (p. 56)

Weaving a World: Textiles and the Navajo Way of Seeing
By Roseann S. Willink and Paul G. Zolbrod
1996, Museum of New Mexico Press

If you’re in Brisbane you can borrow it here.

The next Brown Owls loom weaving meet up will be at the BrisStyle Eco Bazaar, it’s free and all are welcome including kids. More info can be found here.