Cheryl Yazzie’s Pictorial Weaving: A Clear Signature in Wool

Cheryl Yazzie Yei bi Chei Pictorial

Cheryl Yazzie depicts the Yei Bi Chei dances of the fall in this dazzling pictorial.


Tempe, AZ   There are certain weavers who have a way of formatting their work that makes it instantly recognizable but never repetitive.  It’s really kind of a signature.  Cheryl Yazzie’s pictorial weaving, for instance, is like a window that she opens to let us see into her view of the Navajo world and the minute you see see one, you know that you’re looking through Cheryl’s window and not someone else’s.  At first, it’s easy to be so awestruck by one of these rugs that you can miss some of the craftsmanship and technical perfection.  So let’s be awestruck and then do a little textile analysis afterward for those who are interested.

Pictorial Weaving: Weaving a Moment

This particular pictorial depicts a Yei Bi Chei ceremony.  You can see the Yei Bi Chei dancers and the patient at the middle right in the picture above.  This is a nine day healing ceremony that is quite costly to perform so it’s open to the public and people contribute goods and money to help defray the expenses.  You can see there are many people are gathered to participate on this particular night and that except for the ceremonial participants, everyone is wearing a uniquely colored blanket or outfit, some people are weaving traditional moccasins and all of the ladies have their hair done traditionally.  When I look at this rug, I think that this must a ceremony from years past because of the horses and wagons.  You can feel the chill in the air from the way that everyone is enveloped in their blankets and the stars are shimmering in the late fall sky, more stars than in the summer or the spring. The bonfire will soon provide additional warmth.  


A Closer Look at the Wefts 

Click on either picture to enlarge it.

Cheryl Yazzie Pictorial Detail I 

As you start to look at the rug more closely, you’ll see that Cheryl weaves as she sees the picture, a landscape orientation.  Many weavers weave this piece (which is about four feet wide) in portrait orientation even though it would be viewed in landscape.   Weaving the short side makes the weaving somewhat easier to finish because the finishing end would be narrower, but that would not give the Cheryl’s pieces the framing that they get from the closely spaced edging cords that the uses to at the top and bottom of her warps.  Cheryl uses the same cord in a two ply selvage at the edge of her pieces.  She generally uses fine weight Brown Sheep singles for her weft, occasionally using a heavier weight.  She generally uses interlock joins, but sometimes adds a turned join diagonal line to achieve the design that she is looking for. Cheryl’s weaving is very firmly packed and you never ever see a warp peeking through the wefts.  Ever.  Cheryl always borders her pieces in a warm reddish brown plain border and she uses a wide spirit line to end the design portion of her weaving, leaving her plenty of room to leave the scene, or maybe come back and visit now and then.  

Close view of Cheryl Yazzie Yei Bi Chei


More Cheryl Yazzie Weavings

Cheryl’s work can often be seen at Richardson’s Trading in Gallup, NM and she sometimes has pieces in the Friends of Hubbell Native American Arts Auction, which is coming up on September 14.  I’ll leave you with one more close-up of her magnificent Yei Bi Chei. Maybe you’ll spot some other rugs by Cheryl now that you know what to look for!  There are other weavers who also have very distinct styles that clearly identify their work.  Is there a weaver whose work you can spot right away?  What is it about their work makes it clear whose loom it was created on?  


Hagoshí (so long for now)

Mary Walker

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