Navajo Ganado Weaving: Hand woven on a traditional Navajo single upright loom with 100% wool, by Grace Henderson Nez. Grace was born May 10, 1913 in Ganado and passed away July 14, 2006.
Measures 73″ x 55″.
Navajo Weaver, Grace Henderson Nez
Grace Henderson Nez has lived her entire life in a hogan at the base of Ganado Mesa on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. For more than seven decades, she has raised and sheared sheep, carded and dyed the wool, and wove intricate and distinctive Navajo rugs. In addition to creating textiles with complex and balanced designs, she reveals her technique in her ability to select the right wool quality, yarn weight, and weaving texture to produce strong and perfectly even rugs and blankets. Her works are in the late 19th century designs known as the “old style” as well as the distinct Ganado style, using brilliant red backgrounds with natural white, gray, brown, and black geometric patterns.
Scholar Ann Lane Hedlund estimates that there are more than 10,000 weavers on the Navajo Reservation. She suggests that Grace Henderson Nez is especially deserving of recognition because she combines artistic excellence with the traditional values and spiritual concentration that serve as a model for all weavers of the region. In 2002, Nez received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Museum of Indian Arts and Crafts in Santa Fe.
Ganado Navajo rugs are known for their striking “Ganado Red” color usually contrasted with black, white, and grey elements. Designs are traditionally a single or double central diamond representing the weaver’s home and the four sacred mountains portrayed in a triangular geometric in each of the four corners.
History of Navajo Weavings
The Navajo people believe that in the beginning at the time of creation, Spider Woman taught the Navajo people the art of weaving and Spider Man taught them how to make their sacred loom.
Everything a weaver needed was there – fibers and dyes from plants, design elements from nature – lightning, stars, the sun, terraced clouds, trees, animal tracks, the four sacred mountains, the four cardinal directions. Inspiration came from sandstone striations on vermilion cliffs, from white of day and black of night. Modern experts say the Navajo learned to weave from the Pueblo people, yet the Navajo know that it was Spider Woman who helped them create a web of beauty with their sashes, mantas, serapes, breechcloths, blouses and blankets.
The first descriptions of Navajo textiles appeared in Spanish accounts from the 1700s. Later reports came from U.S. military and government personnel.The Navajo first wove with native cotton and yucca fibers. Indigenous people cultivated cotton as early as 700 AD in the Salt-Gila region and by the 1100s in Canyon de Chelly. Over time weavers replaced these plant materials with the silky wool of churro sheep, introduced by the Spanish in the 1500s . From increased contact with Spanish and Mexican neighbors, the Navajos’ original color palette of natural wool and vegetal dyed yellow, was augmented by the brilliant red of raveled English bayeta cloth, Spanish indigo dye and Saxony yarn.