Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

Tales of a Traveling Weaver Chapter 5; Weaving patterns...

Montezuma Valley (where Cortez is) from Mesa Verde

Last week we spent some time at Mesa Verde National Park. I would have stayed longer but they kicked us out at dark.

Weave for us a garment of brightness;
may the warp be the white light of morning;
may the weft be the red light of evening;
may the fringe be the falling rain;
may the border be the standing rainbow.
                                                                   -Tewa song

The patterns in the stone walls are fascinating to me. I have used ideas and feelings from these walls in my Emergence series of tapestries, especially Emergence I and Emergence V (links to photos of those pieces). Repetition is important. I have resisted it in many places in my life. But repetition teaches us something. It is comforting, and we learn from it. These walls are beautiful.
A wall at Lowry Pueblo, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

Sunset at Lowry Pueblo, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

Square Tower House, Mesa Verde National Park
Lowry Pueblo wall, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park
Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde National Park
La Plata Mountains from Mesa Verde

Tales of a Traveling Weaver, Chapter 2: Ancestral Puebloan Weaving

I woke up this morning, still in Cortez, CO (at the start of week number 10 of at least 16). I asked Emily what I could do for her today and she said, "I want you to get medieval on that tapestry." This is not only a testament to her dedication to me having weaving time, but a statement of how much more media-saavy she is than me.  Apparently that is a reference to the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film with John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman blockbuster Pulp Fiction--which of course, being a bit media-challenged, I never saw. It is also a reference to the medieval tapestry tradition. I may have to add this phrase to my lexicon, though perhaps I should watch Pulp Fiction first.

One thing I have greatly enjoyed about Cortez is that it is right in the middle of a huge archeological area.  It is estimated that this area around Cortez probably had a higher population in the ancestral puebloan times than it does today. There are literally archeological sites everywhere. The Canyon of the Ancients National Monument is a place with sites scattered all over this area, but they do have a visitor's center near the newly-created (at least relative to 1200 AD) McPhee Reservoir.

In the visitors center they talk a little bit about weaving and they have this practice loom set up with fairly good instructions on how to weave plain weave.

Before the Ancestral Puebloans had cotton, they wove sandals and bags out of yucca.

Fragments of woven cotton have been found--they were growing cotton.
Cotton woven fiber fragment

They also have a fascinating replica of a pit house which depicts dwellings from one of the Basketmaker eras.

In further recent ancestral puebloan weaving explorations, you can see holes from looms in the tufa caves at Bandalier (see holes on floor and beams from ceiling)...

And over Thanksgiving I took a trip to Hubbell Trading Post National Monument in Ganadao, Arizona and Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, AZ. Hubbell's has a visitor's center which employs Navajo weavers and you can go there and watch them weaving intricate rugs. It is also still an operating trading post. You can pick up a coke, some feed for your chickens, a skein or two of local churro yarn, or in their rug room, a beautiful Navajo rug.

We also stopped for the traditional Thanksgiving tour of Canyon de Chelly. This is a rather poor photo of Spider Rock. My understanding of the Navajo creation stories is shaky at best, but one rendition is that Spider Woman made her home on top of Spider Rock. Spider Woman taught the Dine ancestors to weave on a loom. There are references to either Spider Woman or her husband Spider Man weaving the universe on a large loom.  I love this image--the world starting with a weaving... or the act of weaving.

And finally, I just got the latest Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center newsletter and want to note that a Tiwa/Piro Pueblo weaver, Louie Garcia is going to be teaching some classes there. Our Southwestern weaving traditions are well saturated with Navajo and Hispanic weaving, but rarely do I see anyone talking about puebloan weaving. Here is a YouTube video where Louie is talking about his work. He talks about breath and spirit in every weaving and the spiritual aspect of pueblo culture.  It looks like he is teaching two classes at EVFAC in January and February.

(Also note that my colleague Cornelia Theimer Gardella is teaching some classes at EVFAC in the spring and I highly recommend her! She is teaching a color theory class with dyeing--so those students of mine who are asking about learning to dye and about color, consider taking this class. Check the EVFAC website for details or Cornelia's website as she is also teaching at Ghost Ranch.)

Maybe this is why I keep going back to these ancient sites:

Tales of a Traveling Tapestry Weaver, Chapter 1

So I am currently in roaming mode.  I miss my big loom and my shelves full of yarn, but it is interesting to experience a new place for 3-4 months. I am in Cortez, Colorado at the moment which near Four Corners--southwestern Colorado on the Great Sage Plain. Between hours of working at the hospital here and weaving on a commission, I have been doing a little exploring.

A trip to Sand Canyon Pueblo which is part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, revealed a beautiful canyon full of snow on the north-facing slopes and dry and warm on the south-facing slopes. The pueblo was built into the end of a side-canyon with full southern exposure.

This pueblo has been partially excavated, but then filled back in to preserve the site. You have to use your imagination to see where the multitude of kivas and walls were.

Hiking down the north slope of a beautiful canyon.

View south from the Sand Canyon Trail to McElmo Canyon and Sleeping Ute Mountain.
These new and wonderful places have become my inspiration. Walking lets me think and imagine and settle into the land.

Below photo: sun setting behind the mesa at Sand Canyon Pueblo. The magic of these places is indescribable. Go out and walk, look around you, and listen for the older voices.

Tapestry weaving and the nature of an art form

I picked up Joan Potter Loveless's book, Three Weavers again this morning (of all things, I had to buy another copy of it because mine is buried in a storage locker, but I needed this particular book and almost always pulls through). I had forgotten that she studied with Anni Albers at Black Mountain College (and took color classes with Josef Albers).  Perhaps this book should have been on the Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus reading list.

Here is a quote from page 17 that got me thinking of other aspects of tapestry weaving and more questions about why contemporary tapestry is most often not considered an art form by the larger art world (though historical and traditional tapestry often are--why is this?).

Even though, in one sense, the "evolution" of handweaving can be seen as a progression toward more ease, more efficiency, with the development of equipment and tools that accomplish these things, this is not a true picture of what weaving is all about. Weaving in the present is also, and most importantly, all of the minute, separate, weaving occurrences that have gone on in the past, all of the particular, individual, bits and pieces that have been woven in the the past by people sitting at looms or simply twining fibers into some form.  The satisfaction that we derive from being involved in a piece of weaving is exactly the same satisfaction that weavers always have derived from their work. Our work is no better; often it is not nearly as good. Weaving is not involved with the concept of progress; it is much more concerned with holding still the moment, with savoring and with marking it, with this still very simple participation with the fibers that we find around us.

Is this a common perspective among tapestry weavers? (and keep in mind that this book was published in 1992). I feel that meditative aspect of weaving almost every time I sit at the loom and I believe other weavers do also. Is there a fundamental rift between the glittery, monied art world and the slower universe of the tapestry weaver that we just can't overcome? Probably this is just one very small part of the problem of tapestry's place in the larger art world. After all, I imagine all artists have to find that meditative place when they are creating and thus experience this glaring difference of realities when faced with marketing and showing their work. But are tapestry weavers particularly inhibited by the slow plodding nature of our work when it comes to marketing and professional issues?

(photos Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, November 12, 2011)