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Earth Notes: Diné Pictorial Weaving

Grand Canyon National Park/Facebook

Pictorial weaving is an innovation born out of traditional Navajo geometric designs. Since the 1970s, the style has become increasingly popular among Indigenous artists.

Florence Riggs of Tuba City, is a renowned Diné textile weaver who learned the craft from her mother, grandmother and great grandmother. In keeping with tradition, pictorial weaving is done on an upright loom, working from the bottom up. Florence has taken her designs into new territory – using them to tell stories about the vivid life and landscapes around her.

The fine wools she uses to capture intricate pictorial scenes are colored with dyes derived from plants – like wild carrots, fresh tumbleweed leaves, and cactus fruits. The scenes she creates feature everything from dinosaurs, to trading posts, to laundry drying on the line.

Florence is also known for weaving custom dresses – something that started with a design for her own daughter. Now, Navajo women special order them for graduations and weddings. The pictorial dresses incorporate very personal designs … like the wearer’s home, family or horses.

Florence may carry an idea in her head for several years before the timing feels right to start weaving. When that time comes, she puts only positive energy into her work to honor the Earth and her Diné  traditions.