If you have ever seen a miniature Navajo weaving, you have probably seen Herman Brown’s work. Herman and his wife, Lula Brown, and their children have produced thousands of weavings, most of them about 3″x4″ with about 90 wefts (rows) per inch. You can see Herman, Lula and their daughter in the picture at the beginning of this article with some of their small creations. Just because they are small doesn’t mean that any detail is overlooked. Every element is there, just way smaller. Even in pieces that he didn’t weave, Herman would re-spin the yarn that so that Lula wouldn’t have to spend time going it and could get her weaving done faster.
When Jennie Slick and I had a class in Window Rock, Herman and Lula would stop by and show us their latest miniatures and share a meal with us. Once, Herman brought over some rug finishing hooks that he’d made by cannibalizing an old couch for wire and then straightening it out and bending it. We decided that they were Herman Hooks and he made a bunch of them, but had to quit when he ran out of wire and couldn’t find another sofa with the right kind.
Herman was quiet, but he’d always let the students know if he thought they were making a mistake in their work. One of our students, Michelle Grant, was a special friend of his and they would collaborate on her designs. Michelle says “Herman helped me with my first Navajo rug and noticed the big mistake in my next one before anyone else did. He encouraged me even though I wasn’t a Navajo, just a person wanting to learn what he was so wonderful at. I will cherish my memories of him and his family when they visited our class. I will also cherish their miniature rugs that I keep on my desk. My special miniature American Flag that Herman made will join me on my Camino trip in Spain next year.” You can see Herman and Michelle with a Chief Blanket pattern that they had discussed. Michelle got nervous about some changes that she’d made and was highly relieved when Herman smiled his approval as you can see in the picture of them with the weaving.
Herman worked hard for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and was a highly respected roadman (pastor) for the Native American Church, but he had a big family and there were always more needs for money than there was actual money. When he died after a long bout with cancer on September 7, he left his family with broken hearts, beautiful memories and lot of bills. In the Navajo way, when someone leaves us for whatever comes next, people gather together and put what they can toward their relative’s final expenses. Since Herman has many friends among Weaving in Beauty students and clients, I’ve organized a GoFundMe site where you can contribute if you’d like to. Every dollar will go to the Brown family. Below is one of Herman’s American flag miniatures.
Hagoshíí (so long for now)