Writer and Amazing Storyteller, Georgiana Simpson

http://www.amazon.com/Navajo-Ceremonial-Baskets-Sacred-Symbols/dp/1570671184/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1375746323&sr=8-2&keywords=Georgiana+Simpson

Navajo Ceremonial Baskets: Sacred Symbols, Sacred Space

This well-documented work, beautifully illustrated with over 100 full color photographs of baskets, weavers, and related objects, details the history, origins, and meanings of these creations.

Included are detailed color photographs of vintage and modern baskets, portraits of award-winning basket weavers and their work, a section honoring a new generation of Navajo weavers, tips about the etiquette and safekeeping of ceremonial baskets, in-depth interviews with Navajo medicine men, and colorful takes of Kicking Rock Man, Changing Woman, Monster Slayer, and their role in the origin of the baskets.

Don’t wait, get this book!  It has it all going on, and it’s also available on e-readers.

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When Coyote Placed the Milky Way

Barry Simpson from Twin Rocks Trading Post asks Navajo Weaver Peggy Black about her latest basket.

When Coyote placed the stars is an important part of the creation story.  He was being naughty, but as is often the case, when Coyote is naughty it turns out working out fine in the end.

Regardless, Coyote is the archetypal trickster!

How to Weave the Clouds with Navajo Wickerwork

Wickerwork baskets have been used for thousands of years to carry water and food.  Some Navajo Artists have created works of art out of the same basket form.

This Wickerwork Basket Weaves the Magic of Cloud World

At Twin Rocks, we feel that Alicia Nelson had her head in the beautiful clouds while weaving this basket.

The Navajo Sky World is often represented by cloud symbols, and it is considered an enchanted place where deities dwell.  The world is a place of intense beauty, majesty and harmony.

Alicia is one of the best Navajo basket weavers around.  Her weave is strong and true, and her symmetry is spot on.  In this work,  Alicia has depicted a magical place upon a majestic form of the carrying basket.

A utility carrying basket is even less frequently seen than the water jar. Tsizis (tsi, hair, and zis, or azis, a bag or pouch, from the mode of carrying it over the hair of the forehead) is used for gathering the hashkan, or yucca fruit, for syrup. The baskets are plaited of willow twigs, the same way our own baskets are, but they don’t have a handle or a finished rim. Instead, a cord is fastened to two of the staves or bows.  The basket is carried exactly like the water bottle, but the cord is slipped over the forehead or scalp.

At times the baskets were strapped as a pack to a horse or a burro, one basket dangling from either side. A basket of the same type is sometimes made in the fields for carrying yucca fruit.

Alicia Nelson took a basket, and its form, and changed it from something to be used daily to an item of immense magic and pleasure.  Thank you, Alicia, for your inspired imagination!

Navajo Wind Energy Basket and Healing

Navajo Wind Energy Basket Relates to Holy Wind, our Breath, and Kinship

Navajo Wind Energy Basket Relates to Holy Wind, our Breath, and Kinship

Just like the Western notion of the soul, Holy Wind exists everywhere. Every living thing is part of it.

The basket pictured is made by Navajo artist Chris Johnson.  As a member of the Betty Rock Johnson family, Chris has been schooled by the finest. Using richly traditional colors of red and black and a wind energy theme, Chris had made an interesting crossover piece. Chris’ weavings do not last long so don’t hesitate.

Holy Wind is the underlying element that unifies all beings. People, deer, buffalo, spiders, stars, clouds, goatheads, fish and pinon trees — everything — are all united by breath and wind. The singe soul sings within it, and us, all.

Because we have kinship with all living beings, we also have the responsibilities that come along with those connections. This means that the earth, animals and plants that live on it (as well as the sky with its entities and phenomena) are related and will take care of us. And, they will provide for us as long as we recognize that we’re responsible for being part of the earth and the sky, too. It’s a two-way street.

Breath and speech are intimately related to the concept of Holy Wind, or nilch’i. There is a holy quality to breath that we don’t often recognize in our culture. Traditional Navajos think of breathing as a sacred act that unite all living beings.

It is possible for a patient in a healing ceremony to breathe in the life-giving power of the sun outside of the hogan, because the chanter’s breath rolls inside the hogan. The intimate relationship between speech and breath is a life principle that makes the very act of speech act sacred.

Words have a sacred, creative power. In Navajo creation stories, the Holy People spoke, sang, and prayed the world into existence. The uniting power of Holy Wind is the same force that fills the Holy People themselves with life, movement, speech, and behavior.

We have direct access to the thought and speech of the Holy Ones through breath and words. That Holy Wind, or soul, is our inner form, and so it is with all living beings. Beautiful.

The basket above is made by Navajo artist Chris Johnson.  As a member of the Betty Rock Johnson family, Chris has been schooled by the finest. Using richly traditional colors of red and black and a wind energy theme, Chris had made an interesting crossover piece. Chris’ weavings do not last long so don’t hesitate.

Beautiful Native Art is Happy

Craig.Watson.and.Friends

http://animoto.com/play/dadVc0l2zPG6ZvxJ8D1tKw                 PLAY ME!

What could be happier than beauty?  Nothing we can think of.  (Except love) Click the video above and…

Enjoy!

Mary Holiday Black, Legendary Basket Weaver, visits Twin Rocks

VIDEO: Legendary Mary Holiday Black shares meaning of water vessel with Twin Rocks Trading Post

Mary Holiday Black, Legendary Master Basket Weaver visits Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff, UT

Mary Holiday Black, Legendary Master Basket Weaver

Above, watch the video of Mary Holiday Black, legendary Navajo Basket Weaver, speaking with our queen of Twin Rocks, Priscilla.  She’s talking with Priscilla about the ceremonial meaning of the vessel and the weaving of it .  Big stuff and the conversation of two delightful women.

Okay, the video is longer than the media gurus say it should be, but you are watching an artist here, a Navajo icon, a glory and a wonder.

“One of the reasons we want to keep basket-making going among our people,” Mary says, “is because baskets are important when a person gets healed, to bring rain, for weddings, the Fire Dance, the Seven-Day Ceremony.”

Mary Black is largely responsible for the preservation and renaissance of the art of Navajo basketry. She  truly is a legend in her own time.

Mary received the Utah Governor’s 1995 Folk Art Award and, in September of 1996, she received a $10,000 National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.  It was presented to her in Washington D.C. by First Lady Hillary Clinton.

The matriarch of a large and talented family of basket weavers, Mary Holiday Black has preserved the tradition of Navajo basketry.  And, she has revolutionized it with her daring creativity. Recognized by experts as the nation’s preeminent Navajo basket weaver, Mary’s pieces are highly valued collector’s items.

Her story is worth telling.  In 1960 there were only about a dozen active basket makers on the Navajo reservation.  Most women had turned to the more profitable art of rug weaving.  One of those basket weavers was Mary Black. Taught to weave by an elderly relative when she was 11, Mary has spent over half of a century creating baskets for sacred ceremonial purposes as well as the art world.

She shares her knowledge with anyone willing to learn. Nine of Mary’s eleven children have followed in her footsteps, becoming world-class weavers in their own right. Each ceremonial basket has a story. ‘There are many basket stories,” Mary says. “If we stop making the baskets, we lose the stories.”

And, each ceremonial basket has a song that accompanies it. Mary knows the songs and other tribal lore because her parents, Teddy and Betty Holiday, were medicine people. Strict tribal taboos dictating how and when ceremonial baskets can be woven contribute to their scarcity. Mary has successfully challenged some of the taboos, arguing in favor of preserving cultural history through basketry. (Here we cheer for Mary!)

Mary was one of the first people to consider weaving baskets with imaginative designs targeted toward the Indian art collector’s market. Many of her baskets depict traditional beliefs, stories or legends.  Some are inspired by Navajo sandpaintings.

Working daily, a basket may take up to four months to complete. (Unimaginable and inspiring in our hurry-hurry world.) Mary’s hands often ache from the strain of weaving because she keeps constant pressure on a basket’s sides so they will curve upward when it’s finished. ‘These days my hands get tired, and I have to light a fire and pray for energy,” she has said. ‘They are not as quick as when I was a child!”

Mary Holiday Black is indeed a treasure, and we are honored to count her as a friend.  We at Twin Rocks are honored to offer her baskets and help keep the fusion of Navajo tradition and cutting edge art alive.

The Origin of Navajo Ceremonial Baskets

Sacred Navajo ceremonial baskets tell the beginning of the world and other Navajo stories from the Southwest United States

Navajo Medicine Man, John Holiday

Navajo Jewel Baskets contain all the elements of a ceremonial basket and you can find them at Twin Rocks Trading Post

Navajo Jewel Baskets have all elements of a ceremonial basket

This is how the Navajo World begins, not with a bang but with the patient working of two hands to create sacred art in the form of baskets.

According to Navajo Medicine man, John Holiday, ceremonial baskets tell the story of the Southwest and when the world was created. From John Holiday, Monument Valley, Utah, April 16, 2001:

“Before the earth was created as we know it now, there were the jewel baskets–one of white shell, one of turquoise, one of jet, one of abalone, and two others.  When First Man and First Woman were created, then the regular ceremonial basket came after these baskets.  This ceremonial basket is all of the jewel baskets combined into one.”

It’s true.  The original of the ceremonial basket reaches back into the deepest parts of Navajo history.  The basket’s place is firmly embedded in the first stories of the people and their gods.

In order to understand the basket’s importance in ceremonial and everyday life, we turn to these stories to learn about its role in providing a sacred, protected space.  It also gives visual instruction about a person’s own life, and the history of the Navajo people.

Here we see jewel baskets, the foundation of all ceremonial baskets throughout Navajo history.  And, to understand the origin of these baskets, we must journey back to the origins of the Navajo people, back to their First World.

But… That story is for another time.  For now, enjoy John Holiday’s words, his beautiful spirit, and his infectious joy of life.

(We would like to thank Georgiana Simpson, author of Navajo Ceremonial Baskets, Sacred Symbols, Sacred Space for the astonishing amount of work she has put into capturing the old stories and art in books for all time!)