June 2012 Weaving in Beauty: At the Start of Summer

Shirley Brown: Two Grey Hills in Color

Shirley Brown, a weaver who also works at the Two Grey Hills Trading Post, shows her Two Grey Hills in Color weaving.

Tempe, AZ  I’ve had fun this week going over the pictures from the June Weaving in Beauty class in Window Rock.  In this group, half of the students had taken a class with us before, so some of us had a chance to learn completely new things and some of us were seeing new things in a place that we had been in before.  Once in a while somebody asks me if I get bored working with one type of textile, but I never have.  There’s always something new, a different approach, a new style, a weaver who comes up with something you’ve never seen before.  Shirley Brown’s Two Grey Hills in Color is a case in point.   Although the Two Grey Hills area is noted for fine hand spinning, the fact is that collectors won’t pay the premium that they should for something that requires that much work, so trader Les Wilson carries some commercial Brown Sheep Top of the Lamb yarn for the local weavers.  Now you would think that would stop the hand spinning, right?  It doesn’t.  What a lot of weavers seem to do is to use the commercial yarn to make a marketable “production” weaving that brings in cash so that they use their handspun for their finest pieces and hold out for more béeso (money).  Maybe some weavers will comment on that phenomenon!   Or I could be wrong and people are using what’s convenient for them.       

Back to Shirley’s Two Grey in Color.   Les Wilson has a fiber artist friend who often visits from Michigan and she wondered what the natural commercial yarn would look like if it were over-dyed with aniline colors.  As in turns out, it dyes to heathery jewel tone shades that Shirley Brown can turn into beautiful weavings that are uniquely different without stealing any of the grandeur of the hand spun Two Grey Hills masterpieces that Shirley is justifiably famous for.  It’s a neat little rug that stands on it’s own without trying to be anything else.  Yes, I bought it and it’s in the Mercantile.  I know I can’t buy all of them, but with your help I will do my best!  

As always, our class was a great group of people.  We had four people from the New England area in the group and three sisters (and we didn’t have to stop the car once!).   A student from Albuquerque rounded out our group.  When we toured Canyon de Chelly, we had the chance to go out to Spider Rock with tour guide Bobby Van Winkle, whose family owns land near the base of the rock.  We stopped at the White House Ruin for a some history and shopping.  At Spider Rock, we took a break to talk with Bobby about growing up in the Canyon and how the area has changed as the Canyon has become a major tourist attraction.  

We also had a chance to visit with the Sheep is Life Celebration, which was just getting underway.  There, we had to opportunity to purchase some fleece from Arriola Sunshine Farm and I witnessed something else I’ve never seen.   Cindy and Mike were getting some of the sheep ready to show and class member Cheryl Holbert scored a fleece grown by a sheep named Cutie.  As Cheryl examined the fleece, Cutie came over and put her head into the bag, clearly recognizing that she was the original owner!  Cheryl has been processing and spinning the fleece and says that she recommends Cutie very highly.  At Sheep is Life we also had a visit with Gilbert Begay, who was teaching a sash belt class.  Gil showed us what he was weaving and demonstrated re-spinning for sash belt weaving for us.  He has some bags entered in the New Mexico State Fair, so be sure to seek them out if you’re attending that event.  I’ll close out with a picture of Gilbert but you can find other pictures from the week in the class album.   As you’ll see, it was the best class ever, just like all of the others!Gilbert Begay spinning


Hagoshíí (so long for now)

Mary Walker


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