"Road Trip by Shane Bloodworth owner of American Trails Gallery"
David Bobb my partner and I just completed a 3500 mile whirlwind
tour of the Southwest hand selecting the best of everything we
encountered to feature in the new American Trails Ethnographic
Gallery. We started the tour by attending the Tuscon Gem and Mineral
Show where you can spend two full days there and only go to 10
of the 43 Venues.
We concentrated in meeting with the Native artists and manufacturers
while shopping for beads in all the colors of the rainbow: lapis,
turquoise, gaspeite, coral, sugalite and spondoulus shell to list
a few. We enjoyed seeing thousands of mineral samples, beads,
stones, artifacts, fossils and the interesting people from all
over the world.
Traveling North through the land of the Sugaro with huge towering
specimens for miles on end covering the red stone hills and canyons
around Tucson we eventully arrived in the land of the Zuni outside
Gallup NM to hold and select Zuni fetish carvings out of the hundreds
we looked at. These creative little fetishes originally represented
the animal totems of their religion. They have a plentiful palate
of stones and shells in which to create these miniature sculptures
and many are incised or decorated with feathers and shells. The
Zuni artists put a little of themselves in each piece and send
it and its blessings along to us.
Our next stop was the Toadlena
Trading Post South of Shiprock. Good friends of David's Mark
and Lynda Winter have owned the Post for 20 years and during that
time they have bought over 7,000 weavings. The Toadlena/Two Grey
Hills weavers create some of the finest Navajo rugs and tapestries.
They shear the local sheep which can have splotches of different
shades of black, gray, browns and russets along with the white.
They still clean and hand wash the wool. While talking with Thelma
Brown local weaver and Trading Post expert she joked it was a
lot of work to clean the wool "those sheep love to roll in
the dirt and pebbles and then they go through the thick brush
and all kinds of things stick to the fleece," The wool is
then carded in preparation for spinning. She was very kind to
come in on her day off to show us around and to give us a little
demonstration of how they use a simple spindle that they roll
along their thigh to spin their yarn. It looks like a lot of tedious
work but Thelma said she enjoys it and finds it meditative. As
she worked I noticed her jeans were worn through in places where
the spindle rolled.
By having dozens of shades of white, black, greys, tans, and browns
to work with the weavers create intricate designs of multi colors
without having to use natural or artificial dyes. Homespun wool
allows these weavers to create very strong and thin threads that
can be used to create tapestries. A relatively new weaving category
created at the Gallup Cerimonial so that someone other than a
Toadlena weaver could win a ribbon. The Tapestry category requires
80- 120 threads per inch.
We selected a group of weavings that represent the diversity of
artists they have at the Post from the traditional to the unusual.
One extended Family weaves round rugs with sand painting designs
including Mother Earth - Father Sky. Another family weaves Kokopelli
into their creations. The Navajos "Walk in Beauty" and
the time that goes into first preparing the wool and then setting
up the loom and finally weaving the design can take months. A
young Navajo girl strapped into a cradle watching her mother weave
for hours a day may be what allows mature weavers to fully envision
the design they intend to create in wool before the first weft
is started. The Navajo have Matralinally based Clan societies
so families have multiple generations of weavers that typically
all share the design motifs that make their weavings identifiable.
These beautifull weavings represent hundreds of years of tradition
and radiate the love and care of their creators.
While in Albuquerque we had the opportunity to tour the workshop
of Chimney Butte, tradtional jeweler, artist and manufacurer.
In a large room stacked all around with five gallon white buckets
of raw stone and nuggets one worker was grinding the excess silver
off of rings that were just soldered together and another was
soldering on the bezels for a group of bracelets. They start with
raw stone and then slab it. At that point they see what each piece
reveals and then decide what to do with it. A big bracelet cab
or maybe two pair of matched earrings. They don't use any filler
or backing on their stone cabs.
As Chimney expained it "you have to use a thick slab so you
can feel the medicine of the stones". Their shop creates
one of a kind hand made creations that carry the essence of the
metal and the stone and the blessing medicine the Artist imparts
on each piece.
We also selected a great group of colorfull paintings by the Artist
Farrell Cockrum who is from the Blackfeet Nation of Northern Montana,
Farrell Cockrum's great passion in life is informing the world
of his rich Native American heritage through his contemporary
works of art. Farrell Cockrum studied art at the Institute of
American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the early 1980's.
Steeped in the traditions and culture of his native ancestors,
Farrell captures the spirit of the Blackfeet in each of his unique
and colorful paintings. Vivid color, rich texture and striking
subject matter make up the core of Farrell's captivating subjects
including native figures and honored wildlife. He is very well
known throughout the southwest and collected across the world.
Heading North towards Santa Fe we stopped off at the Santo Domingo
Pueblo whom are known for their distinctive Pottery and also for
their Heishi necklaces and fancy inlay slab designs. We visited
the home of Lynn Aguilar who was working on a big table surrounded
by large Navajo rugs and was kind enough to get out her finished
jewelry and let us pick out what we liked. She mentioned that
her brothers Raymond and Lonnie were jewelers as well and before
you knew it the brothers arrived and the house was filled with
8 members of her family. We were able to get an outstanding collection
of Santo Domingo jewelry direct from the artists which saves our
customers money and gives the art a personal connection.
Further North we arrive at Taos to tour the Taos Drum factory
and to pick out some of their handmade drums. Most are made tradtionally
with cottonwood logs with the inside hollowed out and then covered
in wet rawhide and laced together. When the rawhide dries it shrinks
giving a tight head with great sound. They make a wide selection
of hand drums as well.
All in all we had a very successful trip bringing back a fabulous
collection for our Grand Opening coming on the First Friday Art
Walk in April. We also have shipments of Pacific Northwest carvings
including dance masks and decorative plaques which are hand carved
out of cedar with simple tools and then painted to bring out the
designs. Many of these carvings represent the totems of their
Clans, Eagle, Bear, Whale, Wolf etc. We also have a custom made
hand carved inlaid panel and boxes by renowned carver James Michel.
We look forward to seeing the incised silver earrings, pendants
and bracelets we have coming from Tlinget and Haida artists as
Also arriving daily are weavings from the Zapotecs in Mexico,
fanciful animalistas coming from the State of Guerrero and distintive
pottery from the Mata Ortiz which is a small village in the state
of Chihuahua, Mexico, less than 100 miles from the US-Mexico border.
The community is one of the designated localidades in the municipio
libre of Casas Grandes, one of several such pueblos in a wide,
fertile valley long inhabited by indigenous people. Mata Ortiz
is located at the base of a mountain known as El Indio and on
the west bank of the Rio Palanganas, a tributary of the Rio Casas
Grandes. The ancient ruins of Casas Grandes are located nearby.
We invite you to come by and join us for our grand opening so
you can get to connect the art with some of the faces of the artists
working hard to maintain their tradional ways of life in an ever