Monday, March 17, 2014

Hubbell Trading Post and Navajo Looms

Recently, my husband and I drove to Ganado, AZ for a visit to one of our favorite spots, The Hubbell Trading Post.  Not only is this beautifully managed by the National Parks Service and a cool place in the world, it's still an operating trading post where the artisans trade their work for cash or goods.  This place has been active and going since 1876.

Hubbell Trading Post, front door

As soon as you walk in the door of the trading post the squeaky, handmade door and the creaking wood floor greet you.  When your eyes adjust to the interior lighting, you are surrounded by shelves of goods, things for tourists to buy and a high ceiling hanging with "stuff."  Stuff, everywhere you look, and it is wonderful to behold.  In one glass cabinet is a cheap toy watch with a cigarette lighter in its face that was very tempting, laid right next to silver and turquoise rings!  Off to the right is the jewelry and basket room with the rug room opening out of it.  This is where the real bounty is kept. There are hours and hours to be spent in just the looking.  This place is a veritable treasure cave.

Barn, complete with the old wagons and tack and two fat, friendly horses

We came here to look at the edges of the Navajo rugs to help me understand how the mechanics of the weaving process works so beautifully in their weavings.  We were also looking for an actual loom to look over to see how it's constructed. I am used to working on a four harness loom, and learning this kind of weaving will be a bit different, but I can hardly wait to figure it out!  Tom will help me build a loom as soon as my semester ends and I already have designs dancing in my mind.  I seem to be possessed by the whole project and waiting till May seems a bit harsh.

Remnant of an old Navajo loom

We got to look over the looms in the visitors center and take pictures.  One loom is for the local weavers to demonstrate to visitors, while the other is, oh joy, for us touristy types to try out. It was a slow day and I got plenty of time to look it over and try the weaving joints out. 

One question I had was how do the rugs come off of the looms finished on the warp ends, which was answered here.  I could see how the twining works and how the warp is attached to the loom boards.  

The demonstration loom has the beginnings of a Two Grey Hills pattern rug on it, my husband's favorite pattern and color of rug.  While I ran around wringing my hands and exclaiming in excitement, he measured and figured out how the whole thing is put together and other practical things like that.  We work well together that way…  

Tension bolts across the top are the perfect solution for increasing and decreasing the warp tension

The pipe this loom builder used is designed to adjust into different places, allowing for different sizes of rugs

The beautiful Two Grey Hills pattern in the beginning stages

Behind the trading post and barn, nearly out of sight, is this old hogan with the remnants of the loom under the tree.  I love to think of the woman who lived here sitting in that shade.

Churro sheep, traditional in Navajo work, in the field outside the grounds

Stone hogan, built in the 1930's and now used for the resident artist program.  I hope to apply for this next year!  

My treasures from the Hubble Trading Post

Right there on the shelf at the visitor's center was this book by Caroline M. Spurgeon, which is exactly what we need for this project.  I also bought a skein of red yarn to add to the wool rug I have going on the warping board right now.  I'll weave a little piece of the trading post right into it my work.  And that makes me happy!  

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