Steve Getzwiller with the dye artists from Wide Ruins, (Ellen Smith, Nellie Roan, Marie Begay, Betty B. Roan, Annie Tsosie, Mary Jane Barker), who contributed their natural dyed wool for the Navajo Rug pictured above. (circa 1984)
History of Burntwater Rugs
Burris N. Barnes' trading post burned one day and its timbers fell into the water well. From that time forward the Navajo called the area Burntwater. Later, a trading post was built and was called the Burntwater Trading Post. Don Jacobs was the trader.
Master Weaver Mary Goldtooth Smith had been exposed to the mesmerizing geometric designs in weaving styles like the Ganado while at the Hubble Trading post. She realized that the geometrics commanded more money than their banded Pine Springs and Wide Ruins counterparts.
In 1968, Mary Goldtooth Smith, her daughter Maggie Price, and her niece, Philomena Yazzie (all from the Pine Springs area), made the artistic decision to combine two weaving styles that had been separate for more than 100 years—the traditional border design elements found in Two Grey Hills, and the earth-toned dyes of the Crystal/Wide Ruins region where the plant and natural dye stuff was collected.
Their unique weavings were sold from the Burntwater Trading post, and thus, the Burntwater Rug style was born and has since become one of the most beloved and embraced styles the world over. Burntwater weavings were first introduced to the collecting world in the 1974 Arizona Highways Special Weaving edition.
The photograph above is pictured on page 9 of "The Fine Art of Navajo Weaving"
which Steve published in 1984 with Ray Manley. It represents a significant achievement in contemporary Navajo weaving. It is a combination of the talents of six of the most talented vegetal dye artist of the Wide Ruins area in the 1980's, and the weaving and design abilities of two of the finest weavers of the Ganado region during that time, Sadie Curtis and Alice Balone.
There are 25 subtly blended vegetal dye colors involved in the Burntwater Style Navajo Rug above. They represent some of the more desireable hues which the 6 ladies are most famous for. Some of the colors are considered to be family hallmarks. Most of today's Burntwater style Navajo Rugs do not contain the diversity of color as this one, however, there are occasionally rugs from the 1980's time period that come available and are quite collectible.
Steve made his mark during this time frame, as the first to give wool to Navajo dye artists in the Wide Ruins area and then give the dyed wool to Navajo weavers from the Ganado area to make bordered Navajo rugs with the Wide Ruins natural dye palette. This had never been done before or since.
Pictured below is a more contemporary Burntwater style, though fewer colors it still has the pleasing soft color palette of the earlier examples.
Breathtaking Colors with Vegetal Dye
One of the most unique aspects of Burntwater Rugs is the wide range of pastel colors used with each one. Primarily constructed of vegetal dyed yarn, these decorated floor decor pieces often feature crosses, triangles, zig-zags and frets; all outlined and highlighted with elegant color choices, lavish geometrics, inner borders and end panel bands. Expect a rainbow of beautiful colors with every Burntwater design.
Just like their Navajo ancestors, today’s Nizhoni Ranch Gallery weavers use traditional weaving and loom techniques to create gorgeous, tightly-woven rugs with precision detail.