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Learning Navajo Tapestry Weaving in Santa Fe

Georgia O’Keeffe first visited New Mexico in 1917 and said later, “From then on, I was always trying to get back there.” New Mexico can have that effect on people. The big sky, the clear air, the piñon trees dotting the landscape, it’s no wonder so many artists flock to New Mexico. And then keep returning.

When Design Pool founder Kristen Dettoni needed a creative escape to unplug and be inspired, she came across an Ace Camps trip to study Navajo tapestry weaving with Lynda Teller Pete and Barbara Teller Ornelas in New Mexico, and she knew it was the trip for her. Kristen had studied weaving as part of her textile design degree and had even spent time weaving commercially in her early career. Most of that work was done on floor looms and with a focus on design and industry. Yet there was one lesson back in school that had piqued her interest, and she’d always wanted to expand on tapestry weaving. Kristen had been to New Mexico once before and loved the idea of returning. This trip seemed the perfect opportunity to revisit tapestry weaving and learn a weaving technique very different from what she knew, and far away from the industry.

Kristen wasn’t off the plane for long before she too felt the magic of New Mexico. The air feels like creativity is in it. Kristen’s trip began by spending time in Santa Fe, exploring the city, visiting the galleries of Canyon Road, and getting lost in museums such as the International Folk Art Museum and Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Her group then headed up to Abiquiu, where Georgia O’Keeffe lived the final years of her life.

Georgia O’Keeffe Abiquiu Home

With Abiquiu as a home base, they traveled to Ghost Ranch to learn Navajo tapestry weaving from two expert weavers, Lynda and Barbara. This type of weaving is done on upright looms with a weft-faced structure. Weaving in Navajo culture has as much of a spiritual significance as it does a functional one. The patterns and motifs are all meaningful and symbolic, and the colors reflect the stunning natural beauty of the southwest.

Kristen was especially touched by learning about the spirituality that was incorporated into the actual weaving process, and the importance weaving plays in the culture and history of the Navajo people. The weaving process began and ended with a prayer, and weavers demonstrated a special ritual they practice when folding the weaving after it came off the loom, as well as cutting the excess yarn from the finished piece. Slow, thoughtful, and with each step being done with respect, the process was the antidote Kristen needed to slow down and be inspired again by the process of weaving. She felt fortunate that these weavers were willing to open up to her group and share this unique part of their culture with them.

This trip influenced her work back at home. She tries to be more mindful when practicing her creative work, and she was inspired to design a collection of patterns that translate to home furnishings. In 1960 Georgia O’Keeffe said, “If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.”

Lynda Teller Pete, Kristen Dettoni, Barbara Teller Ornelas

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Kristin Crane

Kristin Crane has designed jacquard designs for the home furnishing and residential jobber market for many years, with mills in the US and in China. Today, she writes about pattern and design trends for Design Pool from her home in Providence, Rhode Island. When not writing about fabric, she can be found weaving in her home studio or hiking along the Rhode Island coast.


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