Weaving in Beauty October Class: A Field Trip to R.B. Burnham and Company

Jennie Slick demonstrates weaving in the classroom at Window Rock.

Window Rock, AZ After a quiet morning of weaving with instructor Jennie Slick (pictured above), we spent the afternoon at R.B. Burnham and Company Trading Post in Sanders, AZ.  Burnham’s has wool that is custom-spun for Navajo weaving and all of our classes really enjoy browsing through the vegetally dyed colors that hang from ceiling to floor in their wool room.    Although many Navajo weavers use Brown Sheep yarn for weaving, trader Bruce Burnham believes that it is too soft for Navajo rugs, especially in sizes for the floor.  The yarn that he has custom spun has a high twist which allows better definition in the resulting design.   Once I tried Burnham’s yarn, but only other thing that even came close was my own churro handspun and Jennie Slick and I use their yarns for all of our classes.  (Full disclosure: I also do the Burnham’s web site.)

Trader Bruce Burnham discusses weaving. Two Germantown Revival weavings by Mae Clark are in the background. Bruce wove the rug that he's holding.

We had a memorable visit with Bruce and he discussed the role of the trader in the development of Navajo textiles as floorcoverings.  Right now he has some J.B. Moore catalog rugs in the gallery and I’ve included a picture of a remarkable pictorial Storm Pattern variant attributed to Moore’s influence below.  J.B. Moore traded from the Crystal Trading Post, about 30 miles north of Window Rock, from the 1890’s until about 1913.  Using the same tools as his business contemporaries J.C. Penney and Sears Roebuck, Moore marketed Navajo textiles through his catalogs.   It is always frustrating to me that the identity of the weavers of these pieces is lost to history, but Mark Winter has had remarkable success in identifing weavers of Two Grey Hills textiles.  Perhaps a similar effort in the Crystal area would help to yeild the identities of the people who created such beautiful and enduring woven treasures.

A J.B. Moore Storm Pattern variant.

Hagoshíí (so long for now)

Mary Walker

 

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