From Two Grey Hills to Ganado: A Two Faced Navajo Weaving by Gilbert Begay

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Gilbert Begay works on the finishing stage of his two-faced rug. The rug will be offered for sale at the upcoming Navajo Rug Auction being held on July 18th at the HGA Convergence Conference.

Tempe, AZ  Gilbert Begay has just completed weaving a two-faced rug.  He started it about six months ago, encouraged and tutored by prolific two faced weavers Harriet and Virginia Snyder.  A two-faced Navajo rug is a very rare weaving today and documentation on the technique is sparse.  For those of you who are familiar with weaving terminology, what Gilbert has done is a weft faced double weave.  This particular loom configuration allows the weaver to produce a fabric with a distinct design on each side.  It’s a tricky thing to set up and you have to get the warp sett just right or the threads show through when they shouldn’t or they pack down too much and the weaving takes forever.

How Can You Do a Design on Both Sides?

Now, let’s get back to the part about the fabric having two sides.  Unless we’ve been dabbling in mind altering chemicals, most of us can only see one side a textile at a time.  This means that when you’re weaving a two faced textile, there’s a side of the design that the weaver can’t see unless they use a mirror or have some other means of seeing what’s going on over on that far side of the loom.  Most people who work on two-faced Navajo pieces, a group of maybe eight weavers, weave the most complex pattern on the side facing them and use stripes or a very simple pattern on the other side.  See this link to an article about another two-faced weaving by Lola Cody for a look at a really beautiful example of this type of design.   Gilbert, however,  didn’t take that conventional route because he wanted a design on both sides.  There is a beautiful Two Grey Hills design on one side of the rug and there is an equally beautiful Ganado Red design on the other side.   You can see in the pictures below that I’m not making this up.

The Ganado Red Side

The Ganado Red Side….

 10475618_757044751012892_777663113626959664_oThe Two Grey Hills side……

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Yes, it really does have two distinct sides. Nothing up Gilbert’s sleeves and his hands never leave his wrists!

I’m not at liberty to tell you too much more about exactly how the rug was woven.  The Snyder family and Gilbert are very protective of the technique.  The basics have been documented in Designing with the Wool by Noel Bennet and Tiana Bighorse.  Gilbert kindly brought his loom to two of our classes and allowed our students to observe him working on the rug.  His approach to creating a complex design on both sides involves some modifications to the loom and to the weaving process.  He also accepted the reality that doing something of this level of difficulty would require extra steps and a great deal of patience.  As a Navajo elder might tell you, “There is no easy way”.

Would You Like to See Gilbert’s Two Faced Navajo Weaving?

You can see Gilbert’s two-faced tour de force in Providence, Rhode Island at the upcoming HGA Convergence Navajo 2014  Rug Auction on July 18th.  The preview is open at 1:00 PM EDT and the bidding starts at 5:30 PM EDT.  Admission is free.  If you buy the rug and Gilbert says it’s OK, I’ll tell you how he tackled the issue of putting design on both sides of the rug.  Yup, I’m going to be there!  I’ll let you know if it sells!

Hagoshíí (so long for now)

Mary Walker

 

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