tres tejaderas: retreat in tselani

In the beginning of July, just a few days after Dennis & I returned from our NM camping trip, I had the incredible pleasure of spending several days with DY Begay & Janie Hoffman at DY's hogan & studio on the Navajo reservation in Tselani. Located about 30 miles SW of Chinle as the raven flies, Tselani is quite a bit further by road... as DY said in one of her emails to Janie & I, "Bring plenty of wine! The nearest store is 96 miles away!"

I'm not even sure how to begin describing our time together there; it was so wonderful, words do not even seem adequate, but I'll try...

The hogan & studio are located on DY's family lands; she grew up here with her many brothers & sisters, surrounded by other family members; many still live there or nearby. She climbed, ran, played, hauled water, learned about plants & their uses, & memorized a landscape punctuated by junipers, buttes, & mesas. Even though DY didn't tell Janie & I this in so many words, it's readily apparent that she comes back here to ground herself, to decompress from city life, to allow her creative energies to thrive unhindered.

Mornings were for hiking, following DY up canyons, clambering over sandstone & shale, inhaling juniper scented air, drinking in the vistas. She told us about many land features, plants, old home sites, & little bits of what life was like growing up & living there, even of meeting her first English speaking person. We collected quite a few dye plants on our hikes-- sage, chamiso, cota, mistletoe, juniper berries --& collected pocketfuls of colorful pebbles. Tselani means "many rocks" in Navajo & it is easy to see why it is called so. The heavily eroded sandstone cliffs are banded & striated in every color one could imagine & some you'd never think of. Colored boulders encrusted with rainbow colored lichen are strewn about the canyons like a giant's bag of marbles. DY & I traded Navajo & Spanish words for the plants & objects we encountered, leading Janie to christen us the "Tres Tejaderas", the three weavers.

Afternoons we lunched, napped, & retreated to the studio to weave, listen to music, & talk. The studio's rectangular windows were carefully placed low & on the horizontal so DY has spectacular views of the landscape & horizon while she is seated at her loom weaving. We examined & talked about what we each had on our looms, admiring each piece & making observations, & discussed our future weaving plans.

Evenings we enjoyed an ice cold beer or chilled glass of wine on the hogan's broad deck, soaking in the ever-changing view of the mesas on the horizon. We took turns as cook each night & enjoyed scrumptious meals of lasagne, chicken chef salad , & chile verde pork posole.

How exquisite this experience was... all three of us share a passion for weaving, natural dyeing, & the natural environment which made it very easy to spend time together & strengthen our friendships. Our visit felt timeless, yet the hours seemed to fly by.

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." Anaïs Nin

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


a touchable tapestry


smooth, silken, soft

rough, ribbed, ridged

thick, thin, thirled

desert life fragments

human made trinkets

tangible & visible feast


a NM trip & new tapestry

At the end of June & through July's beginning we took our first trip of the year to our New Mexico mountain property. It was also the first time Roger & Moka have gone there, & for Roger, probably the first time he's ever been on a trip at all. Moka's foster owners, Lisa & Kurt, had taken her on a brief camping trip just before we adopted her. So, this was more of a "shake down cruise" than the laid back relaxation we had enjoyed when we took Roux in previous years. After all, she was, as Dennis put it "an old lady" & knew how to behave; in sharp contrast, Roger & Moka are two rowdy teenagers & needed constant supervision! Their senses were in high gear, seeing, smelling, & hearing all things new & wonderful. They did pretty good overall, although they became quite vocal over turkeys that passed through our clearing on a couple of days & very agitated with a bold vole that kept dashing through the middle of camp & seemed to know just how far Roger & Moka could stretch their ropes. They were tired & quiet at night, very ready to come into the camper & settle into their beds. The biggest issue we discovered turned out to be Roger's inability to cope with riding in the vehicle in a calm manner, so this is something we'll have to work on so we can better maintain our sanity when we travel with them the next time!

I did do a bit of gathering on this trip, collecting more stinging nettle-- the last I collected was in late summer on a previous trip; early summer is supposed to give slightly different colors, so we will see. I also collected elderberry leaves & branches to bring as a gift for DY when I made a trip to her hogan in Tselani with Janie Hoffman--- that trip will be the subject of the next post!

On a walk down our road with Dennis & the dogs, I was surprised to look down & see a spiral shape amongst the rocks... I found a cephalopod fossil! What a special find, I did a small sketch of it with my watercolor pencils & crayons, inspired by Tommye Scanlin's ferns. I think I would love to design a tapestry based on my sketch! I also did a sketch of a vervain bloom, New Mexico's state flower, & one day worked just a little on my painted hills tapestry, unweaving some of what I had woven previously because the colors weren't working, & began to replace those areas with yarns that I just dyed this past spring which worked much better.

Before leaving on our trip, I had started working on a mixed media tapestry, entitled "sensia", for submission to the exhibit, “Please Touch, Again”, the third in a series of award-winning, hands-on exhibits at Tohono Chul Park. The series is intended to give everyone a unique opportunity to experience art using multiple senses, reaching out to people in the community who have vision loss. Once we returned from NM, I was able to finish the weaving & submit it. It is constructed of linen warp, wool, linen, & sea silk weft with mixed objects woven in. Some found & picked up here on our desert property & during walks with Roger & Moka & others from my stash of "art stuff"-- seed pods, cholla & saguaro skeleton fragments, a snake backbone, desert luffas, wood & glass beads. I also used a few different weaving techniques with the wool & linen weft in areas to add texture-- soumak & a looped weft Coptic technique. Now I need to finish the hems... I have been considering several different methods & will choose one this week to complete it.