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Navajo Blanket

Example of a Navajo Blanket

The Navajo blanket is a beautifully crafted, well designed example of one of the most ancient of all human arts: the art of weaving. The Navajo were a migratory, nomadic, and predatory people. The Navajo assimilated some of the practices, such as weaving, of the Pueblo people, who had inhabited the area for centuries. Over time the Navajo developed the skills and artistry needed to make rug making the back bone of their economy. Native cotton, yucca, human and animal hair were used until the introduction of sheep when wool was then brought into use. Colors found in the blankets and rugs have gone through several cycles over the years. Today these blankets are considered collector's items.

Questions to Ask

What is the first thing that you see? This is the focal point. The focal point is what first draws your eye, something that stands out.

Describe the designs. Are they symmetrical (same on both sides) or random?

What colors do you see? Early blanket colors were somber as a result of the natural dyes used. When European cloth became available the Navajo would unravel it to obtain the yarns, particularly red. After 1865 they began to use both commercial yarn and commercial dyes, colors were then brighter.

Can you guess how many categories of rugs there are today? There are four. One kind uses natural fleece colors-white, black, brown and gray. Another uses bright commercial dyes in many colors. Those that use natural dyes creating soft pastel shades of brown, green, yellow, and pink and those that combine some elements derived from designs used in sand paintings.

How do you think this piece of artwork was made? What is weaving? Is this a new or old art form? Weaving consists of passing horizontal threads, the weft, over and under vertical threads, the wrap. This can be done on ones fingers or on looms. Looms were large structures usually set up outdoors. A rug may have taken week or months to weave depending on the size. Blanket weaving is both old and new, since it is still being produced today.

What do you think these weavings could have been used for? (Clothing, blankets, and rugs)

Who were the artists who made this type of art? What tribe were they from? (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah - show on map) Do you know anything about them?

Activities for the Classroom

Additional Kid Friendly Resources at the AHML are "Navajo" by Kenneth McIntosh, and "The Navajo" by Rennay Craats.

Ask students to create their own drawing of a blanket using unique designs and colors, patterns and symmetry.

Bring in colored precut strips of construction paper and ask students to weave strips of paper together.

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