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!

The Passion of Southwest Turquoise

Twin Rocks Trading Post offers the finest in American classic turquoise jewelry

New Burnham Turquoise Bracelet set in a Timeless Design.

Gem quality turquoise used in Native American jewelry is a special passion for us here at Twin Rocks Trading Post.  We search far and wide for the best in natural Southwest American turquoise as well as fine quality specimens of Persian and Chinese turquoise.

Turquoise is identified by the mine it comes from. Twin Rocks’ wide selection of classic American turquoise includes Bisbee, Blue Diamond, Blue Gem, Burnham, Carico Lake, Cripple Creek, Damele, Fox, Kingman, Lone Mountain, Morenci, Number 8, Pilot Mountain, Red Mountain, Royston, Sleeping Beauty, Stenech and Turquoise Mountain.

And, we believe in placing turquoise within classic southwestern jewelry settings.  We work with the best Native Southwest silversmiths and goldsmiths, including Will Denetdale, John Begay Jr., John Yazzie, and Eugene Livingston. We love to see their blasts into the past and their experiments that pull us into the future.  (We also work with outstanding turquoise bead artists Ray Lovato, John Huntress, Bruce Eckhardt and Kai Gallagher.)  Our goal is to offer true Native American turquoise craftsmanship in individually designed jewelry treasures.

If you are looking for unique, high-quality turquoise bracelets, earrings, rings, pendants, necklaces and other beautiful objects crafted in sterling silver and 14k gold, look no further. You will not find a better selection anywhere in the Southwest — that is our promise and our guarantee to you.

While exploring the Southwest, seek out one of the best-kept secrets in the United States: Bluff, UT, and Twin Rocks Trading Post and Gallery. For decades we have built loyal clients, and we all benefit from our strong relationships with local artists.

When you visit, stop by the cafe and put your feet up.  Enjoy the Bluffs. Talk to the locals.  Then come down to the Trading Post and Gallery. Feel the passion of the turquoise, and the love that goes into creating one of the finest collections of Native American arts and crafts.

It’s all about the beauty!

Ellen Meloy — Our Writing Angel of the Four Corners

Favorite Local Writer

Ellen Meloy, Bluff’s Favorite Local Writer — We Miss You.

Author Ellen Meloy lived in Bluff, and she left the earth far too early.

She captured our home here as few other writers have.  And so, why use our words, when we can give you hers about this, our desert home.

“…in the desert there is everything and there is nothing. Stay curious. Know where you are—your biological address. Get to know your neighbors—plants, creatures, who lives there, who died there, who is blessed, cursed, what is absent or in danger or in need of your help. Pay attention to the weather, to what breaks your heart, to what lifts your heart. Write it down.” ~E.M. November 2004

When travelers come into Twin Rocks, they often ask us directions, the history of the land, about Navajo people. They want to know how we can live here, the epicenter of nowhere and everywhere. We should simply print out Ellen’s words and hand them out to our guests.

We could also say that her advice works just as well if you live in New York or L.A.  You are still part of the natural world, and it makes sense to know your heart’s address, no matter where you live.

When researching her last book, she wrote, “…During my recent journeys this history (of land) felt foreign and unnervingly off-the-Map, even as I lived in its heart. Gaze out from the mesa, and you will meet my duplicitous lover. You will see eternity, a desert that like no other place exudes the timelessness of nature as the final arbiter. Scrape off our century, and you will find its usurper, pressed into a nugget of inorganic matter, the single greatest threat to the continuity of life. The history inscribed itself on the Map’s most alarming folios; ignoring it was no way to earn Home.”

Come visit us at Twin Rocks.  Read one of Ellen’s books. Understand that when you come here, you, too, will see eternity. What a blessiing, Ellen.  Thank you for your words.

The Crew at Twin Rocks.

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!

Zuni Deer Kachina Pin/Pendant — Magic to Wear

Twin Rocks Trading Post carries one-of-a-kind, quality southwest jewelry

Zuni Deer Katchina Inlay Jewelry

This piece of Southwest Zuni Jewelry is sterling silver inlay, and we at Twin Rocks consider it a particular find! This Deer Kachina that can be worn as a pin or pendant.  Set with green malachite, the blackest jet, mother of pearl, coral from the faraway ocean, and the iconic Southwest stone, turquoise.   It is a true beauty.

Expertly crafted by artist Andrea Lonjose Shirley, it may be the perfect gift, and it’s certainly an heirloom waiting to happen!

Another type of mosaic work, called overlay inlay, this piece features two pieces of silver.  One is for the backing and the second, with a pattern cut from the silver, is soldered on top.  Instead of leaving the silver empty, as in Hopi overlay, zuni artists fill the opening with stones laid in to form a mosaic design.

It’s an intricate process and it takes a steady hand, a fine eye, and an imagination that is boundless.

If you’re cruising around the Great Southwest, you’ve just finished ooooo-ing at the Grand Canyon, or you’re about to explore Mesa Verde, stop by Twin Rocks.  The art is amazing, the folks are friendly and there’s a cool drink with your name on it at the Twin Rocks Café.

Twin Rocks Cafe for Southwest Foodies

Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff, UT has delicious treats fro foodies

A Foodie’s Delight — the Navajo Taco

Twin Rocks Cafe is a little piece of heaven for the weary traveler, an oasis in the desert!  We have been there on blustery days with snow on the ground and hot days in summer, and it’s always a welcome sight.

“The food is always delicious, (the best breakfast burrito in the country).The gift shop offers great jewelry, souvenirs & a lot of good stuff.  The gallery next door is extraordinary.  Always a pleasant experience!” Can’t wait to be back!” ALJ, –Annie Jones • June 14, 2010

……….

Thank you, Annie, for the great note, and forgive us for taking so long to get back to you! We’d like to tell you (sound of trumpets) that we are still an off-the-beaten-path foodie haven in the great southwest.

If you, oh, southwest traveler, are looking for frybread, navajo tacos, or you simply want to sit on the porch and sip a cool beer or raspberry iced tea, we’ve got you covered. (Come back and visit, Annie!)

Our menu is larger than ever and, we’d like to think, the food just keeps getting better.  Our wait staff, couldn’t be better. We are honored to have some of the most wonderful people working at Twin Rocks Café, people who treat you the way all guests should be treated – with grace and care.

After you stop by and enjoy a Navajo Taco, come on down to the gallery.  Our selection of books will make your trip through the southwest more exciting and adventurous.  As for our folk art and fine art?  We are betting that you will find at least one piece irresistible, as did David.  Here’s his note to us:   “We visited Twin Rocks the end of Jun 2012…a great place. We purchased several things: a basket, and some earrings and a necklace. My wife found a set of earrings made to look like yellow corn. She also purchased a necklace and earrings made like corn in turquoise.

We would like to purchase a necklace in the yellow. Can you advise when you may have this item? We tell everyone that they must visit Bluff if they are out west. Great people and wonderful town. Our memories will last forever.” –David A. Raborn • November 30, 2012.

Thank you, David, and your beautiful wife.

For you who haven’t visited us?  Stop by on your way to one of the mystical and ancient places in the Southwest.  Wherever you’re heading, we’re at the crossroads.

Soon! – The Twin Rocks Crew