Nizhoni Ranch News
Heard Hits It Out of the Park! 0
Color Riot! How Color Changed Navajo Textiles
Through September 3, 2019
We are proud to be part of this excellent show!
52" x 77"
- Beth Barth
Congratulations to Dos Cabezas Wineworks! 0
Dos Cabezas Wineworks, one Sonoita's local wineries has won "Best of Show", "Best Red Wine" & "Best Non-Traditional Red Blend" for their 2015 Aguileon in the 2018 azcentral.com Arizona Wine Competition!
Quite an honor, but frankly we are not surprised. The small family run winery headed by Todd and Kelly Bostock have been making award winning wines for more than a decade. Their 2015 Aguileon scored 93 points - JamesSuckling.Com.
Their tasting room is casual and welcoming. A great way to start a day of wine tasting - or start of a wine tasting weekend! In addition to fantastic wine, Todd and Kelly offer accommodations conveniently located next door to their wine tasting room at 3248 Hwy 82, Sonoita AZ.
Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas Wineworks in the high desert in Sonoita, Arizona. (Photo by Pat Shannahan)
- Beth Barth
Dye Master at Work! 0
Master weaver and dye artist Helen Bia was hard at work yesterday. We had the rare opportunity to see her dye in real time.
Step 1 - make the dye
Step 2 - add the wool and simmer
Step 3 - let the wool cool and sit to absorb the dye
Step 4 - check the color intensity
Step 5 - once the desired color is achieved, rinse the wool and let dry.
Making natural dyes and hand dying wool in incredibly time consuming. Very few weavers today take the extra time and effort to hand dye their wool.
It is a family tradition in certain weaving families along with "secret" family dye recipes.
Thank you Helen for giving us a glimpse into a day in the life of a Master Navajo Weaver.
Below is the final product!
- Beth Barth
Whirling Logs - Navajo Sacred Symbol 0
The swastika motif goes back thousands of years in human culture. One of the oldest symbols made by humans, the swastika dates back some 6,000 years to rock and cave paintings. Scholars generally agree it originated in India.
In the Navajo culture the swastika or Whirling Log, represents well being, good luck and protection. It comes from tale of the Whirling Log.
The Whirling Log
The hero of the story sets out on a long journey. At first the gods try to persuade him against going, but seeing his determination, help him hollow out a log in which he will travel down the river.
Along the way he has many misadventures which ultimately result in his gaining important ceremonial knowledge. In one such instance he and his craft are captured by the Water People who carry him down beneath the waters to the home of Water Monster. Black God threatens to set fire to Water Monster's home and the hero is released, but not before being taught by Frog how to cure the illnesses caused by the Water People.
When he finally reaches the lake that is his destination, the gods catch his log and help him to shore. Wandering about on land the hero comes upon a whirling cross with two yeis seated on each end. From them he learns the knowledge of farming and is given seeds. He then returns home to share these gifts with his people.
Until the late 1800s, when J. Lorenzo Hubbell and J.B. Moore opened their trading posts in Arizona and New Mexico, Navajos portrayed the swastika solely in their religious ceremonies in the form of sand paintings. But by 1896, with prodding by Hubbell and Moore, the symbol proliferated on Navajo rugs.
In 1940, in response to Hitler's regime, the Navajo, Papago, Apache and Hopi people signed a whirling log proclamation. It read, "Because the above ornament, which has been a symbol of friendship among our forefathers for many centuries, has been desecrated recently by another nation of peoples, therefore it is resolved that henceforth from this date on and forever more our tribes renounce the use of the emblem commonly known today as the swastika . . . on our blankets, baskets, art objects, sand paintings and clothing."
- Beth Barth
Opening Reception for "Master Weavings of the Navajo Churro Collection" 0
You are cordially invited to our special opening reception in celebration of our upcoming exhibit "Master Weavings of the Navajo Churro Collection".
When: Saturday March 9th, 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Where: Nizhoni Ranch Gallery, 51 E Pinto Trail, Sonoita AZ
Reception event will include a walk and talk with Steve and opportunity to watch Master Navajo Weaver Elsie Bia working on her latest rug!
Please join us! RSVP by March 7th: 520-455-5020
- Beth Barth
Have You Heard? 0
We are thrilled to announce The Heard Museum has asked us to participate
in an upcoming exhibit tentatively opening April 1, 2019!
Combing through the entire collection and the deepest darkest vaults, we pulled some of our most dramatic and rare pieces that have not seen the light of day for many moons. The Heard asked us to focus on the most visually brilliant and mystifying weavings. We think we nailed it. We can't wait for the opening and will keep everyone in the loop!
- Beth Barth
What is my Grandmother's rug Worth? 0
Here at Nizhoni Ranch Gallery we get our fair share of inquiries about Navajo rugs people have inherited from family members. Most stories begin with something like "my grandmother bought a weaving from a trading post while vacationing in the Southwest"
The main question we are asked is "what is it worth?" The answer is: it depends... In valuing weavings we suggest keeping the following things at the forefront:
Size, Condition, Complexity of Design, Age, Tightness of weave, Types of dyes used (natural vs aniline) and provenance.
Yes, size matters - a lot. Big rugs are rare which of course increases value. Past and present weavers typically weave small to medium size rugs. One reason is limited space. The larger the rug, the larger the loom. Many Navajo live in homes that have low ceilings and low square footage, which makes it nearly impossible for many weavers to take on large rugs. Another is the amount of time it takes to weave large rugs. Large rugs can take a year or more to complete. Weaver's payday typically come when they sell their rug. Which means fewer weavers then and now take on large rugs.
The condition of a Navajo Rug will of course affect the value. Pay attention to any damage, if it is clean, edges are damages, if there is any fading (one side is lighter than the other), if the wool colors have run, stains, etc. There are talented rug restores out there, yet some issues just cannot be fixed. Navajo rugs that have serious damage may not not even be worth the original cost. One rug restoration company we recommend our customers to is: Enver From Denver.
1840 to 1950
Navajo rugs before the 1950's we consider historic or antique. Navajo weavings started to become popular at about the turn of the century. Navajo Textiles from 1800's have a much higher value - and they don't have to be in perfect condition. Just ask Big LT... and his amazing weaving
1940 to 1970
In mid 1900 the Southwest was all the rage. The Navajo keyed in on this and began weaving rugs for tourists. A perfect and inexpensive souvenir that could easily fit in a suitcase to take home. Navajo weavers would set up along side tourist routes. Few tourists could resist a beautiful piece of art. The weavings were small in size, designs were simple yet colorful, not always finely woven and not with the best wool. These weavings typically have a moderate value. Not necessarily a valuable family heirloom, but a warm reminder of who passed it down.
1970 to Present
Today's Contemporary Navajo rugs, can range from UNDER $500 up to many thousands of dollars. The number of Navajo weavers working today is dwindling. Many Navajo are not learning this sacred Navajo weaving tradition, as it is a very time consuming, the pay is inconsistent and requires discipline in learning the art form.
There are 28 Styles of Navajo Rugs. Some Styles are more difficult to weave than others. Complexity and tightness of the weave affect the value. Generally speaking, the tighter and finer the weave, the more valuable the piece. Teec Nos Pos is generally considered the most intricate design.
Navajo Churro Collection, Teec Nos Pos, Geraldine Phillips, 6"1" x 12'1", Churro wool, 2015 Geraldine won Best of Category for large rugs in 2015. Churro # 1574, $16,000, 520-455-5020.
Natural Dyes vs Aniline
Using natural dyes vs aniline dyes (commercial chemical dye). Natural dyes add value because of the extra time it takes to hand dye the wool. Hand dying wool with natural dyes can take almost as much time as weaving the rug. See a previous blog we wrote on natural dyes: An Organic Experience
Provenance is the history of the weaver and ownership of the weaving. When the history of a weaving can be verified it takes on a whole new value. The well known story of the PBS Antique Roadshow Ute blanket's provenance went all the way back to Kit Carson. A must see video from Antique Road Show - warning it is a tear jerker!
First Phase Ute Blanket, circa 1850, PBS Antique Roadshow
The Bottom Line
If you want to get an accurate value on a weaving, contact a certified appraiser that specializes in Native American art, or better yet Navajo weavings. Nizhoni Ranch does not do appraisals, as we are not certified appraisers. We suggest contacting Joan Caballero Appraisals in New Mexico : website http://www.collectorsguide.com/jcaballero.
Steve, Gail, Robin and Beth
Nizhoni Ranch Gallery
Phone: 520-455- 5020
- Beth Barth
Don't Fall for a Knock Off Navajo Rug! 0
Oh, the thrill of stumbling across a beautiful weaving at a spectacular price. Here at Nizhoni Ranch some of our clients have interesting stories about coming across an estate sale, consignment shop, garage sale or auction house where they hit the jackpot or crapped out.
Yet, the old adage "if something sounds to good to be true, it probably is". Probably is the downfall for some. The definition of probably is: without much doubt, reasonably true, likely. Probably is trouble - it gives a ray of hope to those who want to believe.
Then there is the Antique Roadshow situation. As AR passed through Tucson in 2001 a man took in a blanket he inherited from his grandmother. The blanket was originally given to his great grandfather by Kit Carson. The blanket was used on his bed as a child then later sat on the back of a chair for years. After watching the appraiser almost pass out and then being whisked away by security, he was told the weaving was a Ute First Phase Blanket, circa 1850's. A national treasure worth (at that time) $350k to $500k. Today that very weaving is valued somewhere around 1.5 million. A beautiful story that remains one of AR's finest moments - a must see and a tear jerker!
So what is one to do? Pay close attention to:
1 - Fringe
Almost all Navajo weavings will not have fringe. There are only 2 exceptions. Textiles woven with Germantown yarn. Fringe is added after the weaving is completed. Take a look:
The other Navajo weaving that has fringe (only on one end) is a Gallup Throw. Gallup throws became a popular and inexpensive tourist souvenirs. They are woven with a cotton warp. Once finished the warp is cut then knotted. A typical contemporary Gallup Throw sells for somewhere between $50 to $100. See below:
Warp strings run vertically and made on a continuous loom that contains the actual warp threads. You can check this by running your hand along the side of the rug to feel whether the warp threads run the length of the rug or whether they’ve been cut. In Mexican-made copies, the warp strings run horizontally and threads are cut and then sometimes hidden, making it more difficult to detect.
Navajo woman weaving on an upright loom with vertical warp strings.
3. Lazy Lines
Lazy lines appear as a diagonal line in the weave of the fabric. During the weaving process, the rug maker would move to work on adjacent sections of the warp, resulting in the subtle diagonal lines referred to as lazy lines. Note: not every Navajo weaving has visible lazy lines.
Lazy lines at diagonal angles
Like all Navajo weavings, the values vary based on the age, quality, size, design complexity and condition. A 3 x 5 contemporary weaving, with good design, good condition and nice wool starts around $ 2,000. Below is a contemporary Teec Nos Pos / Red Mesa weaving. Teec Nos Pos is one of the most intricate of designs. This was woven in 2017 by Elsie Begay and measures approximately 5' x 9', $9,000.
The U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board have published a very informative pamphlet on How to Buy Authentic Navajo (Dine') Weavings. To view the publication go to: https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.
Bottom line, buy through a reputable source and keep all receipts and other documents. Reputable, meaning they stand behind the weaving and if it's not as portrayed, they will return 100% of what you paid.
If you are fortunate enough to have a weaving pop up outside of a gallery or reputable dealer and told it is Navajo, buyer beware. We believe if you love a weaving, the price is right and will still be happy if the weavings turns out to be something other than Navajo - go for it!
Steve, Gail, Robin and Beth
- Beth Barth
Navajo Churro Wool Rugs and Blankets - The Getzwiller Churro Collection 0
Master Weaver Elsie Bia has created yet another special weaving! This Ganado with Hero Twins is made with Churro wool. Winner of a Blue ribbon at the 2018 Gallup Inter -Tribal Ceremonial.
In the 1990s the quality and uniqueness of Navajo weavings was on the decline. Steve met with an old friend, Ray Dewey, in Santa Fe and they discussed how the quality of Navajo weavings could be improved. The answer was improve the quality of the wool and dyes.
For hundreds of years Churro sheep have been the center of Navajo life. Navajo churro wool was the first weaving wool of the Navajo Nation because of its low lanolin content, long staple and translucent qualities. Unfortunately the churro sheep were nearly exterminated by outside forces.
In the Getzwiller Historic Textile (GHT) collection exists beautiful pieces that are 100 years old, woven with Churro wool. Which confirms churro wool is the best and only becomes better with time. This conclusion planted the seed to bring Navajo churro wool back to the loom.
Steve was able to find the source of the Navajo Churro Registry where the genetics were being perfected for a better fleece.
Next, Steve found dye artists to dye the wool by hand for what would later be called the 'Navajo Churro Collection'. Though it seems like a simple thing, this took several years to put together. The final step was finding the best weavers on the Nation who were willing to use the Churro wool. The weavers were thrilled with the wool and loved the new colors (Indigo, Cochineal and the highest quality dyes from Switzerland). With that, the Navajo Churro Collection was born.
The Navajo Churro Collection celebrates the Navajo weavers and the art of the loom. The Nizhoni Ranch Gallery exclusively offers these weavings to the world, which represent some of the finest Navajo weavings ever made. As it is a legacy well worth preserving.
Churro # 1416, Elsie Bia, Teec Nos Pos / Storm Pattern
1st place AND Best of Category awards!
2015 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial
Churro # 1574, Geraldine Phillips, Teec Nos Pos
1st place Best of Category
2018 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial
2016 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial
Joe Ben Wheat Award is given for exceptional Design
2013 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial
- Beth Barth
Natural Dyes - Old Traditions Dye Hard, for that we thank you! 0
On to Cochineal dye. Cochineal dye has and interesting history. It starts with a tiny insect named Cochineal and the Prickly Pear Cactus. The insect lives on the pads of the cactus. The insects are brushed from the cactus, sun dried and ground into a dye powder. The dye creates beautiful deep scarlet, red and purple hues. During the Aztec Empire, Cochineal became Mexico's second-most valued export, second only to silver. When the Spanish arrived in 1519 they were impressed and intrigued with the Aztec's use brightly colored clothes.
(Photo credit: Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society)
Cochineal dyed wool
In the late 1700s the Navajo were at war with neighboring tribes and the Spanish Colonist in the Rio Grand Valley. Spain dispatched a punitive expedition to the Navajo stronghold of Canyon De Chelly. This punitive expedition was sent to punish the Navajo in the worst way.
1st Phase Chief Blanket, Churro # 1569
Navajo weaver Judy Marianito just finished (2018) this unique 1st Phase Chief Blanket. It is woven like a classic Chief Blanket, it has the handle of a true blanket weave. Narrow Cochineal red and Indigo blue stripes are highlighted with a thick black band. The ivory banding adds to the over all effect. Truly special.
- Beth Barth