Weaving Inspiration in American Indian Art

BeWeaveItIn March, I stopped by the Denver Art Museum for the first time since I last went on a field trip in grade school. (Don’t worry – I have already been adequately shamed for ignoring such a treasure of a museum so close to my home!)

We didn’t have a lot of time, and I ended up spending just about all of it in the American Indian Art section. One piece in particular caught my eye, and I’m glad it’s viewable on the museum website. You can check it out here – it’s called Bird and Cornstalk Rug, and it was woven in 1983 by Ason Yellowhair, a Navajo weaver who is part of a multi-generational tradition of weaving this way.

This piece first attracted my attention because of the tiny blue birds perching on some of the white flowers in the design, not unlike how the eye is caught by the small flutterings and bright colors of birds in nature. I imagined the artist walking around her home like I do when I’m looking for inspiration, and seeing those colors and shapes around her.

In reality, her inspiration came from somewhere a little less “picturesque.” According to Yellowhair’s daughter, the shapes of the stylized plants were actually inspiring by the design on Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum wrappers!

That’ll teach me to be snooty about where my weaving inspiration comes from!

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