Spider Woman is credited with having taught the Navajo women how to weave rugs on a magical loom. Spider Man instructed the Navajo women to first make the loom by using the sky and earth cords for the cross poles, the sun rays for the warp sticks, crystal and sheet lightning would form the healds. A sun's halo would form the batten and the comb was made from ivory shells. The four spindles were created from lightning, coal, turquoise, abalone, and a rain streamer.
It is common speculation that Navajo rug weaving is an uncommon and slowly dying art. A short burst of excitement took the Southwest over like a storm when rug weaving had gained some popularity. Unfortunately, the excitement didn't last very long. Many traders and artists moved on when sales begin to decline and little interest was paid towards the artistic rugs. Elaborate looms were left to collect dust. At one point in time, Navajo rugs had attracted the interest of many. The public placed high value on these unique rugs that couldn't be duplicated elsewhere. The market slowly started declining with time.
This ancient art form still exists, but it's not as common as it once was. Some hope has re surfaced however, as a new generation has begun to take interest in this dying art. These artists are mainly female, but some males also choose to dedicate their time to sitting in front of a loom for many long hours.
Perhaps these dedicated artists look at the creation of a rug as a form of meditation. Others seem to do it to keep with tradition and pay their heritage with respects. Once the rugs are finished, the rugs are often sold to museums, private collectors and even some trading posts. For most Navajo people, this is their only form of income and helps put food on the table and pay most of the bills.
A wave of Anglo weavers have recently taken interest in learning how to weave rugs. Many are willing to travel many miles to attend workshops to learn about the art of rug weaving and gain some additional experience from Navajos’ on the reservations. These workshops may contain many different lessons taught over the span of many days.
The workshops typically start off with the history of the rugs, and how the rugs were first introduced to the Navajo people. The participants then practice the various methods and techniques to create their very own rugs.
The remaining time may be used to practice until the students feel confident in their abilities.
Rug weaving is slowly making a comeback and has even provided enough demand for the Navajo people to start earning income for their families again. Anglo weavers have been working hard to preserve the art so it may never disappear completely.
A friend on mine in the automobile industry called Ed Piotrowski has made himself Floor Mats Navajo Rug Style for his car. He found that people likes it very much and he decided to promote this types of floor mats with their partners at carpreview.
Each rug that is produced is handmade and unique to the creator. You won’t find an identical work elsewhere. This is what makes them so unique! Many people purchase them to support the Navajo people, but also add a conversational piece to their homes.
These rugs are not ideal for everyday use like a normal rug. They're made from delicate natural fibers from special sheep wool, which require special care in order to preserve their natural beauty.
The Navajo blanket can come in a variety of colors. In the 1700-1800s it was common for the delicate wool to be dyed with blue and red natural dyes. Today, the dyes that are used for rug weavings fall into three classes.
Aniline Dyes are synthetic or organic dyes that are extracted from coal or tar like materials. These were the very first synthetic dyes that were first used. The term is frequently used with disregard towards the actual material source. The pigments may be synthetic or organic. The pigment for these dyes can range from dark to very bright.
Vegetal Based Dyes: These are usually subtle in color and may be difficult to achieve a consistence color for the entire rug. These colors usually come from natural sources such as smashed berries, roots, flowers and seeds. It may take up to a year for the rug weaver to collect enough materials to create the dye for their rugs. Vegetal dyed rugs usually fetch more value on the market due to the additional effort it may take to source the materials to create the rug.
Blended Wools: The color for these rugs are created by carefully combining special wools to achieve a particular color. The materials are often collected from both sheep and goat fibers.
Here is how to preserve your own piece of history:
If you happen to spill anything on your rug, grab a natural white cotton towel and attempt to blot up as much as the mess as you can. Do not rub excessively as you may cause a permanent stain and ruin the natural fibers.
If you feel uncomfortable cleaning the rug yourself, take it to a professional who knows what they're doing.
It is often best to place the rug in a place where it can't be damaged by everyday use. For instance, avoid direct contact with sunlight. This can sun bleach the fibers and fade the colors. This is irreversible and is best prevented rather than treated.
Avoid placing the rug in a place where excessive moisture collects. This can cause the rug to mold.
The Navajo rug is not the ideal resting spot for furniture. The pointed or sharp edges of most furniture can ruin the delicate fibers.
Avoid placing pets near or on the rug, as they can also damage the rug with their teeth or claws.
If you want to preserve your rugs, be sure to place them in a safe place that is neutral in temperature. Avoid extreme heat and extreme cold. Attempt to find a balance so as to avoid damage from occurring. You can place your rugs in a clean large container to prevent damage from temperature and pests. If you choose to place your rugs in a plastic container, make sure there are no gaps and the container is completely air tight.
Taking care of these beautiful and unique rugs does require some extra care than most home furnishings, but the effort is well worth it to preserve these natural pieces of history and tradition.