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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The Navajo Sacred Basket and the Basket as Art

Native baskets are made by women, and a few men who lives as women

Baskets are the Province of Women… and a Few Men.

Basketry is generally a woman’s art that is also pursued by the nadle (he-to-she) or men skilled in the arts and lifestyle of both men and women. Basketry is not classified with textile fabrics (yistl’o), but with sewing (nalkhad).

Making baskets is a sacred act – many are used for ceremonial purposes.  Today, there are several amazing artists at Twin Rocks who have created an art form that is a fusion of tradition and cutting-edge contemporary art

Traditionally, while the basket is in progress, the sewer is untouched and avoided by the members of her family. The basket material, too, is placed beyond the immediate reach of the household.  The basketmaking is finished as quickly as possible.  Usually, the craft and art is passed down through women in the family, and learned at a young age.

In days past, if the basketmaking went on too long, sickness and rheumatic stiffness might affect both the wrists and the joints of the sewer.  This was remedied by a singer/medicine man who, in the course of a ceremony, clothed both arms of the patient with the skin of a fawn (bi’yazh).  Then, a hole was broken into the south side of the hogan through which the patient extended her hand and wrist. As soon as the wrist appeared on the outside, her younger sister took it between her teeth, pressing them lightly into the skin.  This removed the stiffness (nasdo’).

There are families of weavers we at Twin Rocks have been honored to work with in their passion to experiment with materials, colors and designs.  What they have created is mind-boggling.  We believe that creating a new art form is also a sacred act, and we applaud these men and women for their vision!

Elegant and Seductive Navajo Pottery

Navajo Pottery is practical and beautiful, making a prize for a collector

Navajo Corn Yei Vase by Kenneth White

The Navajo have made pottery in the Southwest since their arrival here sometime around the 16th century.

But, because people have made pottery since about the beginning of time, it’s a pretty sure bet that they brought pottery with them during their migration. The Navajos made both plain and decorated pottery, and the plain is usually considered to be their old-style.

After the railroads arrived in the Southwest during the 1880’s, the Navajos began weaving more rugs and making less decorated pottery — the rugs were very popular with the travelers who journeyed through our countryside. (No surprise there.  They truly are unsurpassable.)

Today, there’s no need to push your way through a museum to see the old-style pottery. It is still popular today, and you can see fine examples of it at trading posts and galleries.  (At Twin Rocks, we like to consider our collection particularly terrific!)

Navajo pottery is often pear-shaped, conically bottomed, and colored in a reddish brown. It is serviceable and made waterproof by coating it with resin from pinon pine. (Put your nose to the rim and inhale — the smell still lingers, and it is heavenly.) Once the resin permeates the clay, the pot can be placed in hot coals with no loss of the resin or its sealing properties.

The decorations are simple beading or applique. If the pot has the clay beads or fillets, a space or spirit break is included. It might appear as if the potter forgot to include one fillet — no, it is a mystic and intentional part of the design.

Anasazi culture potshards are ground and used as a tempering agent. The pot is built by coiling, shaped by hand with a corn cob and fired in an open pit.  The Wedding Vase, and other styles of vases, are the most popular and they make unique gifts. Navajos also create large jars, but they’re rare — usually the pots are under 12 inches tall.

The love of Navajo pottery has recently surged, a happy event for all. Appliqued decorations include yucca plants, cactus, horned toads, animals, humans, and flowers. Collectors love them, and so do we!

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!