Photo by Ray Baldwin Louis
Megan Benally, under the guidance of Dolly Begody, starts her first rug in Native Arts and Crafts class at Greyhills Academy High School on Jan. 28.
The class is more than just working with hands or making crafts related to their culture. The students are involved in research about what they are doing. Recently, the student artists got on the internet and studied different native artists and their work. The students were astounded to learn that R.C. Gorman’s paintings were going for $68,000.
The students also learn different disciplines in the classroom. As they try to create with their hands, they have to think about their designs, they have to count and figure out distances between strands of reeds, wool or circles. Sometimes, they get frustrated, but it is a part of learning patience and how to correct mistakes, according to Claw.
Grandma Tohannie is there. She is the expert, donned in traditional clothing, she gives advice and counsel as students work at the weaving loom.
“It is good to have your yarns here next to you so you don’t have to reach very far for them,” Grandma said in Navajo. “It is also good to tape them up here on the cross-bar of the loom so you can see the different colors you are using.”
Grandma Tohannie is constantly moving, from one loom to another, from on student to another, and from one advice to a different one. It is always in kindness and ever encouraging as she says, “my little one,” or “my young child.”
Some of the students come from the Exceptional Students Services, but most of them come from the regular academic areas, and they all work side by side learning their arts and crafts.
Claw said that community people have heard about students making baskets and rugs and they have already expressed interest in purchasing them from the students.
“It is hard for the students to sell them because it is their very first basket or rug,” said Claw. “The option is up to them. If they want to sell what they’ve made, then it means they are doing good work that’s worthy for traditional ceremonial use.”