Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where to Find Navajo Rugs

navajo rugs
Woman's Fancy manta, public domain
  One of those sought after Native American products are the beautiful Navajo Rugs. There's quite a bit of history involved as to when and how the Navajo began making these distinctive products. Historians believe that the  Navajo may have learned to weave from the Pueblo Indians when the Navajo moved into the Four Corners region of Arizona and New Mexico between the era of the 1300's to the 1500's. Some others believe that the Navajo's were not involved in weaving to perhaps the 1700's. This would have been after Spaniards entered the region. At first the Navajo's employed cotton for their weaving products but it seems that they converted over to wool after the Spaniards arrived.

There's some interesting history that might explain how the Navajo's learned the craft from the nearby pueblo peoples.While historians can document that the two different tribes did not exactly get along because of Navajo raids into pueblo territory, it appears that the two tribes did indeed forge some type of friendship after the Conquistadors entered the picture. The pueblo Indians were put into a kind of forced servitude during the first Spanish occupation of Nuevo Mexico which resulted in the bloody Pueblo Revolt of 1680. It was during and after this revolt that many pueblo Indians fled westward to the land of the Navajo.

The earliest pieces of Navajo weaving which can be dated and that are still exist today come to us from Massacre Cave in Canon del Muerto. Pieces of Navajo weaving dating to the years 1804-05 when the punitive slaughter took place in the Canon, were found circa 1900. These pieces contain a plain stripe pattern in the blanket's designs. This is considered a Navajo adaptation of the Pueblo teacher's style of design. 
navajo hogan
Rug door on Navajo winter hogan,1880-1910

Commerce increased for the Navajo and the selling of Navajo blankets and Navajo rugs after the opening of the Santa Fe Trail in 1822. The first products on the market were blankets rather than rugs. The change to rugs happened circa 1880.

Today, there is a large market for the Navajo rug and and the Navajo blanket and many Navajo's are involved in it's commercialization. These genuine Navajo rug products today might sell for $800 and for many Navajo's this business represents their sole income. The only real obstacle for their rug industry are the many foreign imitations that are found in many shops. It's important to know what you're buying and while there are certainly many top-notch dealers of genuine Navajo rugs in the Santa Fe and surrounding area, one excellent auction venue in particular, the Crownpoint Auction,  will allow you to buy the real thing directly on the Navajo reservation.

Auctions are held usually the second Friday of each month on the Navajo reservation. The auctions is planned to start at about 7 pm and ends around 10 pm. Payment is accepted in cash, traveler checks or personal checks. The auction does not accept credit cards. The auction itself is held at the Crownpoint Elementary School in the small town of Crownpoint. The town is located about 25 miles north of Thoreau New Mexico on NM 371. The Thoreau exit on Interstate-40 is #53. Thoreau is located between gallup and Grants New Mexico. If you're in Santa Fe or on Interstate-40 in New Mexico on the auction dates, a visit to the Crownpoint Auction makes a very unique and rewarding side trip.

Buyers at the Crownpoint Rug Auction have the  unique opportunity to purchase Navajo rugs directly from the weavers themselves and prices that are well below retail. The Crownpoint Rug Weavers Association has been auctioning rugs from all over the reservation since 1968. The auction keeps growing in popularity and brings buyers from all over the United States and the world. For additional information the auction phone number is 505-787-7386.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The High Road to Taos

The High Road Art Tour
The High Road to Taos is one of the most scenic and culturally rich drives you could wish to take in northern New Mexico. It's a New Mexican artist mecca and it's also a great side trip to a Santa Fe vacation. The High Road to Taos is known as a 56 mile route through the scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Santa Fe and Taos New Mexico. The route winds through Indian villages, art community towns and parts of the high desert of northern New Mexico.

Officially, the High Road to Taos begins at the intersection of US Hwy 285/84 and NM 503. This is about 17 miles north of Santa Fe. The route officially ends in Rancho de Taos where NM 518 meets NM 68. Most New Mexican's however consider the end to be at the San Francisco de Asis Mission church which is a few blocks south. While every route between Santa Fe and Taos is scenic, if time permits, taking the High Road to Taos at least once is really a must drive to take.

In a lot of ways the Spanish heritage of New Mexico is most prominent in towns along this beautiful route. The local dialect is distinctive, and area residents can claim ancestors who settled the towns in the 18th century. While some of these towns to the New Mexico tourist may seem remote and a bit closed off geographically, you'll come upon quaint art galleries which offer the authentic quality of New Mexican artwork you'll find in galleries in Santa Fe and Taos. Actually, the scenery you see while driving the route is the same scenery that has inspired many artists and artisans who live along the High Road. This area of northern New Mexico gets it's share of snow and cold weather. That's one of the reasons that ski slopes in Santa Fe and Taos attract so many winter tourists. By the same token, some, not all,  of the galleries along the High Road to Taos also stay open year round. 

Gallery in Truchas New Mexico
One special time along this famous route is during the last half of September. This is the time of the "High Road Art Tour' which takes place the last two weekends every September. The High Road Art Tour gives you the opportunity to deal directly with the artists as well as visit the tiny, historic Land Grant villages along the way. You'll be able to browse multiple crafts and all types of traditional works along with contemporary painting and arts. As art tours are concerned, this one is truly unique in many ways. The High Road Art Tour is conducted by the High Road Artisans, a volunteer-run organization. You may want to visit their website for additional information and event postings at

The High Road to Taos will also pass by Chimayo which is home to El Sancturario de Chimayo,  The Chimayo Sancturario is a world renown church which dates back to the very first Spanish settlers in the area and is considered a shrine where over 300,000 visitors travel there annually. This is a must stop while driving this route. 

The drive on the High Road to Taos is an adventure and a great photo taking opportunity.