I was sharing a lunch of crackers and a peach in the sparse home of a Navajo Woman in Kayenta in 1975. Another women arriived and spoke in Navajo then in English asking, "How did you learn to weave?" I paused respectfully, then blurted, "From a book." They grinned, then giggled. I felt so awkward having made this implausible disclosure.
Working With The Wool had come into our lives sometime in 1973. Pati preferred weaving on a large floor loom, so I just began to read the pages. What efficient and magnificent loom and tapestry design! I became dedicated to following the text and diagrams by Noël Bennett and Tiana Bighorse. To the letter. Made a large loom plus several forks and battens from beech, teak and charred oak planks, all driftwood found along Monterey Bay, committed to using only found sources.
Shortly after meeting Jim and Marilyn Brandon, with Leo and Sarah (Begay) Natani at the 1974 CNCH conference, the Ashtl'o Guild was formed. Noël shared weaving-specific ceremonies, traditions and taboos with us during a workshop in Aptos at the home of her mother, Merton Kirkish.
I traveled with Carol Lane by train to the Natani's first Workshop in October 1982. Our group stayed with Sarah and Leo Natani and family in their hogan at Table Mesa, N.M. I felt ecstatic and meek, adhering to tradition in Sarah's skilled hands, wisdom and beauty.
During the early 80s I taught Navajo Weaving classes at the Pacific Grove Art Center, the Monterey Museum of Art, and also Monterey Peninsula College. Then I was asked by the Anthropology Department of the California Academy of Sciences to weave a tapestry with a historical design for the Navajo Weaving Diorama in the Wattis Hall of Man in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Such warm memories emerge as I regularly card fleece then spin on a favorite Navajo spindle. Yet I admit having lapsed at times from the difficult process of spinniing and weaving to the easier process of writing about weaving as publisher of the original Ashtl'o Guild Newsletter.