Monday, November 3, 2014

Clara Sherman

Clara Nezbah Gould Sherman (February 18, 1914 – July 31, 2010) was a renown Navajo weaver who was instrumental in the development of the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills style rug.
"When you weave, everything comes back to you and you feel fresh again."
Clara grew up herding sheep and cattle, and raising corn and watermelons, often working side by side with one of her sisters, Yazzie Blackhorse. The two would often herd sheep, and pick up the bits of wool that would catch on the barbed wire fences. In defiance of their mother, who didn't think they were ready to learn how to weave, the two built a secret loom in a dry arroyo, and taught themselves.
"When we would herd sheep, the wool would stick to the barbed wire when the sheep passed through the fences. Yazzie told me to hide the wool carders under my coat and go out. At the time we were herdin' sheep over there at the place where I was born. We would card our wool over there in secret. And the same thing we did was hide a spindle from my [older] sister. She didn't know that we used it. And my sister [Yazzie] already know how and she taught me how to spin. We put up a rug like this size [approximately two feet high] on those bushes, and we covered it up so no one would know."
source: Convocations: Indian Arts Research Center

What sets her region's rugs apart from other Navajo rug designs in the reliance on colors that occur naturally in sheep's wool. While other Navajo weavers make dazzling rugs from brilliant reds and blues, the Toadlena-Two Grey Hills weavers work with the colors the sheep provide naturally.
As the weavings of the Toadlena-Two Grey Hills have become more and more renowned for their quality and artistry, the weavings have become finer, and more intricate and precise, including an emphasis on the evenness of color. Through the years and generations, these qualities have won these weavers top prizes and escalating prices. But sheep's pelts are unevenly bleached by the sun, and from one year to the next, a sheep's wool is different. For the master weaver with her own herd, the mind boggles at the complex considerations from preparing the wool, envisioning the elaborate designs, and weaving it through every season's change of humidity. Unlike modern pilots or surgeons, these weavers do not work from checklists to make sure they have the exact length of each handspun and blended color they will need.
source: Art of Outside: Exhibition of weaving shows timeless dynamic
In 2004, at the age of 90, Clara won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts. And in 2006, she was awarded the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.


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