Native American, Extra Fine Exceptional, Navajo Two Gray Hills Weaving, by Teresa Foster, #1364

$ 10,000.00

Native American, Extra Fine Exceptional, Navajo Two Gray Hills Weaving, by Teresa Foster, #1364

Description: #1364 Native American, Extra Fine Exceptional, Navajo Two Gray Hills Weaving, by Teresa Foster, 100% all natural sheep wool. Navajo Two Grey Hill design rug. The name of this piece is "Coyote Threw The Stars Up". Teresa relates the following story to this piece.

"First man and First woman had a daughter. She laughed in 4 days, , in 4 days she ate and started walking. Every four days she grew. She was named the "Changing Woman".

"Spiritually had twins, a girl and boy. The boy was named "Turquoise Boy" and the girl was named " White Shell Girl". The Holy people had a meeting on how to create sun, moon, and stars. They shaped the moon, Sun, and stars on a buckskin (deer) which was perfect, with no holes. While meeting, the coyote came. He wanted to be a part of the creation of moon, sun, and stars. The Holy people told him it was already done. The coyote left mad and didn't come for three days. Within that three days the Turquoise Boy was asked to set the sun. The sun was made from seeds, hard goods and shaped like a puberty cake ( yellow color). He was also given a flute, so to the music sound, the sun will move. "

"The "White Shell Girl" was sent to create the moon, which was made with a perfect round shape, pure white shell. She was also sent with a flute to move the moon with sounds of the flute. First woman and first man planned the sun and moon both to have 102 trails. March and September to have the moon and sun cross paths (eclipse). In payment, the "Turquoise Boy" requested for the sun that there should be payment. The payment will be lives taken (death). That is why people die everyday. The sun sets lower on horizon in July and returns in December with Winter and Spring months. The Holy people said OK. The White Shell Girl said she wanted to have births be made for her payment and the tides to move to the movement of the moon. So on full moon babies are born. So this was all set."

"The coyote returned in four days. He was so mad, while the Holy people were still discussing the stars on the buckskin. The coyote grabbed the buckskin and threw the stars in the air. They went all over the sky. He wanted to be in charge of the arrangement of the stars. Northern make and Northern female stars. They will both circle around as man and wife around the hogan fire. Coyote named the stars Squatting man, Horned Star, Pinched stars, Milky Way, Rabbet Tracks, Big One, and Skinny One. One star fell back to earth. The Coyote said that will be my star. He called it the "Big Star" which he threw up in the sky. This Coyote Star hangs in the horizon and shines brightly early in the morning. A lot of the stars weren't given names. The coyote wanted extra days in the calendar year and wanted 13 months instead of 12. But the Holy People agreed only on the days but kept it 12 months. This is the story my late Grandmother told to me."

"The black back ground on my rug shows darkness. In all beauty around the world shines with what is done on earth. Ladder of life shown in my rug. You start with a lot of ideas, goals. In the middle all is accomplished. The ladder of life comes together in the end with accomplishments, with stars brightly around the edging. All rugs have a meaning and story. It relates back to creation ass the Navajo's Holy People set for us. Thank you, Teresa Foster. *The Spider woman wove a similar rug to represent the stars. She created it with strings on her hand and made a rug she called "Happy Bright Star"

Dimension: The rug measures approximately 32 inches wide and 48 inches length.

Condition: Excellent

Background on Teresa Foster (Formally Teresa Begay):

Teresa Foster, began weaving at the age of 8 years old. She helped her parents support the family with her rugs and later used her weaving to raise and support 4 boys after the boys dad walked out on them. Over the years she has perfected the art form of weaving the Two Grey Hills and Ganado Red design rugs as well as rugs dresses and hand bags, etc. Her rugs have won awards for the buyers who entered them in art shows. I spent some time on the phone with Theresa, talking to her about her early days, when her uncle would come over and bless her weaving and make sure to tell her to weave all of her happiness into each one of her works. I believe that this piece speaks volumes about how happy she is when she is weaving. The detail is extraordinary and will help carry on her legacy in the future as a Master Weaver. It is a real honor to help move another one of her masterpieces forward in time to the next owner. You can see from the snaps the toll that weaving these fine rugs have on her hands.

A Brief Social History of Navajo Weaving and a Historical Context for a Popular Contemporary Collectible

There is an ageless beauty to Navajo weaving. Navajo weaving's are many things to people. Above all else, Navajo weaving's are masterworks, regardless of whose criteria of art is used to judge them. They are evocative, timeless portraits which, like all good art, transcend time and space. Navajo weaving has captured the imagination of many not only because they are beautiful, well-woven textiles but also because they so accurately mirror the social and economic history of Navajo people. Succinctly, Navajo women wove their life experiences into the pieces.

Navajo people tell us they learned to weave from Spider Woman and that the first loom was of sky and earth cords, with weaving tools of sunlight, lightning, white shell, and crystal. Anthropologists speculate Navajos learned to weave from Pueblo people by 1650. There is little doubt Pueblo weaving was already influenced by the Spanish by the time they shared their weaving skills with Navajo people. Spanish influence includes the substitution of wool for cotton, the introduction of indigo (blue) dye, and simple stripe patterning. Besides the "manta" (a wider-than-long wearing blanket), Navajo weavers also made a tunic-like dress, belts, garters, hair ties, men's shirts, breech cloths, and a "serape-style" wearing blanket. These blankets were longer-than-wide and were patterned in brown, blue and white stripes and terraced lines.

For more than a century, the products of Navajo looms were probably identical to those of their Pueblo teachers, but by the end of the 1700s Navajo weaving began its divergence. While Pueblo weavers remained conservative, Navajo weavers learned that wefts did not need to be passed through all the warps each time, but rather, by stopping at whatever point they wished they could create patterning other than horizontal bands. These "pauses" in Navajo weaving are often seen as "lazy-lines" (diagonal lines across the horizontal wefts) in finished pieces. By 1800, weavers were using this technique to create terraced lines and discrete design elements. Navajo weavers also demonstrated more willingness to use color than their Pueblo teachers.

Spanish documents describing the Southwest in the early 18th century mention Navajo weaving skills. By the 1700's Navajo weaving was an important trade item to the Pueblos and Plains Indian people. In 1844, Santa Fe Trail traveler Josiah Gregg reported, "a singular species of blanket, known as the Serape Navajo which is of so close and dense a texture that it will frequently hold water almost equal to gum-elastic cloth. It is therefore highly prized for protection against the rains. Some of the finer qualities are often sold among the Mexicans as high as fifty or sixty dollars each."

Blankets were traded great distances as evidenced by their appearance in Karl Bodmer's 1833 painting of a Piegan Blackfoot man (Montana) wearing what appears to be a first-phase Chief's blanket or an 1845 sketch of Cheyenne at Bent's Fort (Colorado) wearing striped blankets. Historic photographs illustrate that the desirability of blankets increased with the 19th century. Closer and more frequent trading partners included the Utes, Apaches, Comanches, and Pueblos.

The Spanish or Mexicans had never been able to reach a lasting peace with the Navajo. When Mexico ceded the Southwest to the United States in 1848, the "Navajo Problem" was also inherited. With a pronounced resolve, Kit Carson led a "Scorched Earth" campaign in 1863–4, destroying food caches, herds and orchards, ending in 8000 Navajo people surrendering. They were marched hundreds of miles to an arid, barren reservation, Bosque Redondo, at Fort Sumner in eastern NM.

For five years the people endured incarceration with shortages of supplies, food, and water. Their culture changed dramatically during this period, not least in weaving. To substitute for their lost flocks, annuities were paid which included cotton string, commercially-manufactured natural- and aniline-dyed yarns as well as manufactured cloth and blankets. These lessened the Navajo people's reliance on their own loom products. In 1867, four thousand Spanish-made blankets were distributed to the Navajos as part of their annuity payment.

The combination of widespread availability of yarns and cloth and the influence of the Spanish Saltillo designs were probably a direct inspiration in the dramatic shift in weaving during the Bosque Redondo years, from the stripes and terraced patterns of the Classic period to the serrate or diamond style of the Transitional period. It is testimony to the resiliency of Navajo culture that a period of internment could produce a robust period of change and continuity in weaving.

In 1868, the Navajo were allowed to return to their beloved mesas and canyons. In exchange for their return they promised to cease aggressions against neighboring peoples, and to settle and become farmers. Reservation life brought further dramatic changes to Navajo culture, including a growing reliance on American civilization and its products. The sale of weavings in the next thirty years would provide an essential vehicle for economic change from barter to cash. Annuity goods included yarns, wool cards, indigo dye, aniline dyes, and various kinds of factory woven cloth. Skirts and blouses made of manufactured cloth replaced the woven two-piece blanket dress. Manufactured Pendleton blankets displaced hand-woven mantas and shoulder blankets so that by the 1890's, there was relatively little need for loom products in Navajo society.

US government-licensed traders began to establish themselves on the new Navajo Reservation. Whatever their motivation, adventure or commerce, the traders became the chief link between the Navajo and the non-Indian world.

Trading posts exchanged goods for Navajo products such as piñon nuts, wool, sheep, jewelry, baskets, and rugs. While wool and sheep were important to Navajo people for weaving and meat, they were also important to the economy beyond the Reservation. Wool was in great demand in the industrialized eastern US for coats, upholstery, and other products. Traders bought wool by the pound and sold it to wool brokers in Albuquerque and Las Vegas, New Mexico. The sheep purchased by traders were herded to the nearest rail'head and on to the slaughterhouses. The herds grew substantially and it became more profitable for Navajo people to sell wool rather than utilize it in weaving.

The railroad reached Gallup, NM in 1882, establishing a tangible connection between the Navajos and the wider market, with the traders acting as middlemen. The completion of the railroad signaled the closing of the American Frontier which, in turn, stimulated a nationwide interest in collecting American Indian art. The railroad made travel to the vast reaches of the west easier and thus opened the area for tourists. The traders recognized these new markets and began to influence weaving by paying better prices for weaving;s they thought more attractive to non-Indian buyers. This new market, coupled with the Navajo's decline in use of their hand woven products, infused new life into Navajo textile arts.

By the 1880s, trading posts were well established on the Navajo Reservation, and traders encouraged weaving of floor rugs and patterns using more muted colors which they thought would appeal to the non-Indian market. By 1920, many regional styles of Navajo weaving developed around trading posts. These rugs are often known by the area's trading post's name.
The history of Navajo weaving continues; over the past century, Navajo weaving has flourished, maintaining its importance as a vital native art to the present day. Virtually all the nineteenth and twentieth-century styles of blankets and rugs are still woven, and new styles continue to appear.
Thanks to Bruce Bernstein, former director, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe
Originally appeared in The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe and Taos - Volume 11
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