Betting the Groceries: Innovation in Design
Chinle, AZ Sometimes when I talk to my serious collector friends, we’ll lament that some of the best weavers are not innovators in design, that they don’t “push the envelope” or “think outside the box” or any of a number of cliched terms that say that we want to see something fresh and new but we don’t know what. It’s quite human on our part, but it’s asking a great deal of the weavers whose work we so admire, but whose living circumstances we may not always comprehend. What we are asking when we encourage a weaver to get out on the cutting edge and hang all ten toes over it is to quite literally bet the groceries on something new and untried. Most of my weaver friends derive a major part or all of their income from their weaving and market forces are a major influence for them. That income combines with various jobs to pay the light bill, buy the groceries and put children through school and if a weaver puts time in on a design that ultimately does not find a buyer, the lights, quite literally, can go out.
Some weavers develop enough stature and financial stability to take a chance but sometimes a weaver sees a design idea and is brave enough to try. That’s what happened with the weaving above that I picked yesterday from Lula Brown. The design idea is not original, but Lula’s translation of it into a finely woven 90 wefts per inch tapestry sure is and it is the second piece of this type that Lula’s done. It’s based on a 1981 painting by the late Helen Hardin called Original Robes. That painting inspired a rug by Pauline Yellowhair that I saw at Richardson Trading last year and included in this year’s calendar along with a picture of Lula, her husband Herman and their daughter Janelle. I gave Lula a copy of the calendar and she couldn’t resist giving the challenging design a try. She didn’t tell me, she didn’t ask, she just put it in my hand and said “Here’s something different”. It was so different that it took a second for the design to sink in but once I realized what she’d done, I went to Hastiin Beeso (the ATM, Mr. Money in Navajo) and made sure that Lula knew that she’d made a good bet as far as I was concerned. Then she said that she wanted to do a larger one and I said “I’ll take it” and one of my friends said, “I’ll take the one after that”.
That second one is the weaving that you see above and that Lula is holding in the picture below. It measures 7.5″ by 9″. If you would like to add it your collection, it’s in the Mercantile for $750 (Lula got 70% of that). I dropped Lula and Herman off at the grocery store on my way out of town.
Hagoshíí (so long for now)
I sure will. Another nice thing about it is that Lula’s really having fun with this. Getting some of those angles and textural accents to work wasn’t easy.
Oh, I do Like this weaving. Keep encouraging Lula!