As the next generation in a legacy woven into the long shadows of Monument Valley, Tiffany Yazzie carefully blends tradition and innovation on her loom.
A weaver of the Navajo tradition, Yazzie makes her own style of rugs that demonstrate why textiles are not just cloth but an art. One of her most popular patterns is the “eye dazzler,” giving the appearance of techno pulsating.
“I really wanted to start with the turquoise and the black and the grays, so I really originally thought I would start with this,” she said, pointing at a piece she displayed for a “Textile Extravaganza” in May, “but I couldn’t help myself with the sun color.”
She calls the piece “Supernova.” She said it took eight months to weave. She was gratified to hear an exhibit visitor tell her it was the most spectacular piece in the room at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship.
Before the extravaganza with other textile artists, Yazzie had her own show at MCE.
“Her work and her backstory of weaving through family heritage are so interesting,” MCE’s then-office manager Tracy Schmalenbach said.
Yazzie and her husband moved to Maricopa eight years ago for the same reasons as many other residents.
“It was the small-town feel and the jobs were here,” she said. “I didn’t necessarily want to live in the city. When my husband drove out here, I thought, ‘No, don’t take me far away from home.’ But when we got here, the houses were beautiful, and we both fell in love with it. And I thought, ‘OK, if we’re going to stay here and work, this is the place.’”
Now a stay-at-home mom with three daughters, she grew up in the Navajo Nation in a family closely associated with the land along the Arizona/Utah border.
As a child, she watched her mother and both grandmothers weave. She wanted to try, too, but it was not yet her time. Yazzie first had to learn carding and spinning and taking care of the sheep.
“I just wanted to do what my grandmother and my mother did, just getting to the weaving part once everything was done,” she said. “Now I can do that.”
Her paternal grandmother was Susie Yazzie, who demonstrated Navajo weaving techniques for decades in Monument Valley and became an icon of the art. Photographed repeatedly by Arizona Highways and other publications, she died in 2013 in her 90s – as befitting a legend, her birth year was always in dispute.
Tiffany Yazzie still uses her grandmother’s weaving comb. She has family members in Navajo Nation bring her the wool and goat hair yarn she uses in her weaving. She can point out the shine the goat hair brings to the finished piece. As a member of the Maricopa Arts Council, she has had her work exhibited several times in Maricopa.
She said her works are often function as much as art.
“If you look at this size, this is 30-by-59, you can fold this and it’s about the size of a saddle blanket, so it’s just a fancy saddle blanket,” Yazzie said. “With this size, a lot of cowgirls back home like to just cover themselves when they’re out on the range. But a lot of people like to just use it as a wall tapestry because it absorbs ambient noise, so you don’t get a lot of sound bouncing.
“But some people like to throw it over their couch. It’s just more added texture. And I love how tactile it is. I just want to go up and touch it.”
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This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.