Rug of the Day: The Flag of the Future by Jennie Slick
Tempe, AZ The United States flag is always on display at our house because this flag rug by Jennie Slick is in our family room. Jennie wove it in 2007 as a commission piece. She hadn’t ever woven a flag before. Five pointed stars are notoriously hard to weave using Navajo techniques, so she used a variation of a star that we call a Bear Lake Star. The lake is on the border of Utah and Idaho, near Wyoming and we do a workshop there every year and had developed the star the year before. When I saw the weaving on Jennie’s loom, I thought that it was one of the nicest flags I’d seen and I liked the way the stars made it look more Navajo and made it uniquely Jennie’s. As I said, it was the first flag rug she’d done, and since it looked good, Jennie kept weaving it to completion and didn’t realize that it actually had 61 stars until it was done. Navajo flag rug weavings are often done with what might be called several degrees of freedom, you should pardon the expression, as to the number of stars, the shape of the stars, stripes, number of stripes, dimensions and designs so she really didn’t think that the client would mind a somewhat futuristic State of the Union.
Well, the client hated it. He wanted his money back or he wanted a flag with the right number of stars. Since the money was long spent, Jennie was getting ready to do another flag, but she didn’t want to since the client was so angry (the word abomination had been used in reference to the weaving). Navajo weavers may be working to meet a market demand, but they are also participating in the Beauty Way. Words, actions and even thoughts have a spirit and life which surrounds a weaver’s work and Jennie was concerned that the negativity surrounding the transaction would affect the next piece of work, and she was also worried about doing another piece that the client might not be happy with. I bought the flag from the client and brought it home.
Jennie’s Flag of the Future is one of my husband’s favorite rugs (and mine) and we sometimes conjecture as to what those extra stars might represent. For me, Jennie’s flag carries the hope that our country will continue to grow and change in ways that we can’t imagine today. It represents a national dialog that allows us to continually disagree and compromise as we build the country that our children and grandchildren will live in. And like all of our country’s flags, no matter how many stars they have, Jennie’s serves as a reminder of the men and women who have given everything to defend our iiná, our way of life.
Hagoshíí (so long for now)
What a lovely way to bring harmony back – your story is a good reminder that weavings/life is not perfect.
I think the flag is amazing and it will always stand for freedom!
I like the phrase “several degrees of freedom” I’ve always heard it as “artistic license.”
What an appropriate weaving for today! It is wonderful that you rescued Flag of the Future from that buyer who obviously could never have appreciated it, even if you had explained its creation to him like you have to us. You definitely restored Harmony by giving the Flag a home.