Navajo elders work long hours to prepare rugs for annual show
What: Adopt-a-Native Elder’s 29th annual Navajo rug show and sale
When: 6-10 pm., Friday, Nov. 9; 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, and Sunday, Nov. 11.
Where: Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge.
Cost: Friday, $30 for adults and $10 for children ages 12 and younger; Saturday and Sunday, $5.
When the 29th annual Adopt-a-Native Elder Navajo Rug Show and Sale opens on Friday at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge, executive director Linda Myers wants to make clear how much effort it takes for the weavers to make the rugs.
It’s much more complicated than simply sitting at the loom with a skein of yarn they bought at a craft store, she said.
“They need to hand spin the sheep’s wool into yarn and then dye the wool before they can do anything,” Myers said.
Preparing the yarn’s pigment is also a layer of work.
“As you look at the rugs you will see colors from sage, red onion, prickly pear cactus, snakeweed, wild oak, wild carrots, lichen and sometimes coffee,” Myers said. “The colors are created by boiling plants and sand that the weavers gather in the desert. They have big vats on open fires. They dip the yarn and pull it out repeatedly as they try to decide if the color is right.”
Even harvesting the plants isn’t easy for the weavers who average 80 years old, according to Myers.
“They sometimes have to walk a ways from their homes into the desert to do this, and there is a spiritual system as to how, when and how much they can gather for a rug.”
Myers learned about the system during a past discussion.
“I saw this color of purple that was made from prickly pear blossoms, and I told some of the weavers that they should go out and gather more so they could make a whole bunch of yarn,” she said. “They said ‘no’ because they are only allowed to gather enough of the plant to make one rug. They are only allowed to gather more plants after that one rug is done, and sometimes they won’t be able to do that because the plant may not be in bloom at that time.”
This year, the Navajo Rug Show and Sale will feature up to 600 rugs created by 70 weavers, Myers said.
Friday’s event will include a sale preview of the hand-woven rugs, hors d’oeuvres, entertainment and a live auction. Saturday’s events include traditional children’s dances, a pageant, weaving demonstrations and “Grandma and Grandpa Idol.” Sunday events include a veterans ceremony, weaving demonstration and powwow.
Myers said these weavers’ dedication is unique to their generation.“People need to know the gift of Navajo weavers are the elders, who are the ones who made their living weaving rugs in the past,” Myers said.
The younger weavers, however, are dedicated to their craft even if they have day jobs, according to Myers.
“One of the younger weavers herds sheep every day,” she said. “He leaves early in the morning and returns home at night, so he can only spend time weaving when he gets home. And while we don’t see many rugs from him each year, we still see them.”
The theme for this year’s show is pictorials, and the idea is for the weavers to work as many images as they can into one rug, Myers said.
“It’s interesting because when you will look at a finished rug, you will see all the images standing upright, but the weaver had to weave the rug on its side,” Myers said. “Also, the weavers will use all of their yarn. Even if there are small strands left over, they will weave them into the rugs.”
The Adopt-a-Native Elder Rug Show and Sale helps Adopt-A-Native-Elder create a market for the elders’ crafts and raise awareness about the Elders’ needs, Myers said.
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A Utah Symphony woodwind trio will perform an intimate Deer Valley Music Festival chamber concert Monday at Susan Swartz Studios.