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Nizhoni Ranch News

Heard Hits It Out of the Park!

Heard Hits It Out of the Park! 0

Color Riot! How Color Changed Navajo Textiles
Through September 3, 2019

 Click here to view our weavings that are part of this show

 heard museum opening of color riot how color changed Navajo textiles

Private opening of the Heard's new exhibit:
 COLOR RIOT! How color changed Navajo textiles. 
We are proud to be part of this excellent show!

Steve and Gail Getzwiller with Michael Cutshall
Steve and Gail with Michael Cutchall

Heard Museum COLOR RIOT! exhibit
Heard Museum COLOR RIOT! exhibit
Below are the weavings from this show that are available for purchase.
  • Beth Barth
Congratulations to Dos Cabezas Wineworks!

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 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.

Make it a weekend of weavings and wine. Both Nizhoni Ranch Gallery and Dos Cabezas Wineworks are located in the heart of the Sonoita Wine Country, just 45 minutes South East of Tucson.  

Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabeza Wineworks 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!

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!

Three Turkey Ruin: Vegetal Dyed Navajo Weaving : Gloria Bia : Churro 1597

$ 3,500



  • Beth Barth
Thank You!  Master Weavings of the Navajo Churro Collection Exhibit

Thank You! Master Weavings of the Navajo Churro Collection Exhibit 0

elsie bia at the loom nizhoni ranch gallery exhibit opening

  • Beth Barth
Whirling Logs - Navajo Sacred Symbol

Whirling Logs - Navajo Sacred Symbol 0

 crystal antique rug with whirling logs

JB Moore Crystal with Whirling logs.  Circa 1910-1920.  GHT 2309

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."

 Navajo whirling log proclamation


  • Beth Barth
Opening Reception for "Master Weavings of the Navajo Churro Collection"

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?

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!  

The Heard Museum


  • Beth Barth
What is my Grandmother's rug Worth?

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.  

Navajo Weavers at loom

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
First Phase Chief Blanket John Moran Auctioneers

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.

Antique Navajo Weaving: Yei Pictorial : GHT 2304
Yei Pictorial, 41" x 60", Circa 1940-1950, GHT 2304, $4,500

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.   

American Indian Blanket Double Saddle Navajo

American Indian Double Saddle Blanket, 32" x 63", Circa 1970-1980, SG 28, $ 1,000


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.  
extra large Teec Nos Pos Navajo rug for sale
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
Double Saddle Blanket,  35" x 58", Circa 1900-1910
GHT 2312, $ 1,250


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


Happy Trails,

Steve, Gail, Robin and Beth

Nizhoni Ranch Gallery
Phone: 520-455- 5020 

  • Beth Barth
Spider Rock in Snow

Spider Rock in Snow 0

Beautiful Spider Rock in Canyon De Chelly!
  • Beth Barth
Don't Fall for a Knock Off Navajo Rug!

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:

Saddle Blanket - Single Sunday Navajo Weaving : Historic : PC 119 - Getzwiller's Nizhoni Ranch Gallery

Germantown Saddle Blanket, PC 119


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:

Ganado Throw


 2. Warp

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.  

Mother and children Navajo weaving rug

 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 in Navajo weaving

 Lazy lines at diagonal angles


 4. Cost

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.

Red Mesa Teec Nos Pos Nizhoni Ranch GAllery

Red Mesa / Teec Nos Pos, Elsie Begay, 5' x 9', Circa 2017, $ 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: 

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!     

Happy Hunting!

Steve, Gail, Robin and Beth


  • Beth Barth
Navajo Churro Wool Rugs and Blankets - The Getzwiller Churro Collection

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.  

Sandpainting Churro 679 Helene Nez Churro # 679, Helene Nez, Sand Painting
1st place AND Best of Category AND Best of All Weavings awards!  
2006 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial


Elsie Bia Teec Nos Pos Churro 1416Churro # 1416, Elsie Bia, Teec Nos Pos / Storm Pattern
1st place AND Best of Category awards!  
2015 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial


large teec nos pos churro 1574 geraldine phillips
Churro # 1574, Geraldine Phillips, Teec Nos Pos
1st place Best of Category
2018 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial

 churro 1470 celelia nez red mesa modern art navajo rug

Joe Ben Wheat Award and 2nd Place Best of Category
2016 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial
Joe Ben Wheat Award is given for exceptional Design

Bistie Sandpainting Marian Nez churro 1345
1st place Best of Category
2013 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial

  • Beth Barth
Natural Dyes - Old Traditions Dye Hard, for that we thank you!

Natural Dyes - Old Traditions Dye Hard, for that we thank you! 0

Natural Beauties

Navajo's use of natural dyes has a long history.  Some scholars believe Navajo weavers began using natural materials to dye their wool as far back as the 1700s.  We agree!

Let's start with Indigo blue.  Indigo dye is made from Indigofera Tinctoria plant that grows in Mexico, Central and South America.  Mexico grew and processed the Indigo plants into a dye powder.  
   Indigofera tinctoria Indigofera Tinctoria

The dye became a popular export from Mexico. The Old Spanish Trail  - sometimes referred to as the Indigo Trail - begins in what is now Mexico City and goes all the way to Taos, New Mexico.  In the 1700s Mexican traders worked all the way up and down the trail,  bringing Indigo to the Navajo weavers.   Natural Indigo is still use today!  
Cochineal wool
Indigo Blue,  (Photo Credit: Isabella Whitworth)

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.
Prickly Pear Cactus invested with cochinealPrickly Pear Cactus infested with Cochineal,  
(Photo credit: Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society)

In Europe at that time purple and scarlet red fabric was so outrageously expensive that only rulers could afford it. The dye initially used to make purple, came from the Phoenician trading city of Tyre, which is now in modern-day Lebanon. Fabric traders obtained the dye from a small mollusk that was only found in the Tyre region of the Mediterranean Sea.  

After the Spanish conquered the Aztec Empire,  they began to export Cochineal dye to Europe.  The dye was consumed throughout Europe and was so highly prized, at one point is was more valuable than gold.  Fun Fact:  because purple was so closely linked to power, wealth and royalty, Queen Elizabeth the first forbade anyone except close members of the royal family to wear purple. 
Due to Cochineal's value, very little made it's way up the Spanish Trail.  Because of that weavings with Cochineal dyed wool is very rare.  Most weavings with red made in the 1800s is made with Cochineal dyed Spanish Bayetta.  Bayetta cloth was made in England for the Spanish traders.  The cloth made its way back to the US where it was distributed to the Navajo.  The weavers liked the red so much they would painstakingly unravel the cloth and incorporate it into their weavings.  Today our weavers use Churro wool dyed with Cochineal,  which creates absolutely beautiful weavings.  
Cochineal dyes wool
Cochineal dyed wool
You may be surprised to know Cochineal is used for more than just fabric dye.  Get ready,  Cochineal, also known as carmine, or Natural Red 4 is used in the food industry, cosmetic industry and even in pharmaceuticals.  Yikes!  So, if insects in your food is just not your thing,  read the label!
A bit of dark, however important, history which backs up our belief that early Navajo weavers used natural dyes in the 1700s . 
Massacre Cave Canyon del Muerto
Massacre Cave, Canyon Del Muerto, Cayon De Chelly
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.

When the Navajo heard the Spanish expedition was on the way, most fled the canyon.  Yet a group stayed behind.  The women, children and the elderly in the group were hidden in a cave high above the canyon floor.  The men waited in the canyon for the expedition to pass.  The story is one of the women in the cave, thinking they were safe from harm,  yelled at the Spanish expedition as they rode by, blowing their cover in the cave.

The Spanish opened fire on the cave killing many inside.  The survivors didn't last long as the Spanish troops found their way into the cave killing the remaining Navajo.  Spanish documents report that over 115 Navajo were killed that day - the women, children and elderly in the group.

Superstitions kept the cave untouched for 100 years until a trader by the name of  Sam Day explored the cave.  He found one complete blanket and fragments of clothing and blankets inside the cave along with skeletons of the inhabitants.  Marks of the bullets left on the cave ceiling can still be seen today.  Since that time the cave has been known as Massacre Cave.

Day retrieved the blankets and sold them to museums around the U.S.  Those blankets are believed to the oldest Navajo blankets in existence.  Below is one of the blankets, which has wool dyed with Cochineal!  
  massacre cave blanket
One of the oldest surviving Navajo blankets (circa 1800) from Massacre Cave in Canyon DeChelly,  (Photo credit:  Art Quil)

Below are a few weavings available with natural dyed Indigo and Cochineal.  
This small Navajo weaving is extremely special, circa 1865.  Woven for a baby in the classic period. It is finely woven with white and Indigo dyed home spun wool,   2 shades of red Cochineal Bayatta and light peach Cochineal Bayetta.

Chief Navajo Blanket
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.  
Questions, comments?  We would love to talk with you!  Give us a call at the gallery 520-455-5020.



  • Beth Barth