Thursday, December 7, 2006

Pauletta's Rug

"I need $2,000.00 for my rug," Pauletta stated with a look of quiet determination on her face and a trace of a smile on her lips. "Here we go again," I mumbled to myself. Standing before me, backlit by slanting shafts of autumn sunlight streaming in through the open Kokopelli doors, stood the three Ps; Pauline, Pauletta and four year old Paulina. The golden aura surrounding the threesome caused me to recall the last time I encountered Pauline, and how she had attempted to use divine intervention to negotiate an exaggerated price for her weaving.

Navajo Rug by Pauletta Deswudt
Pauline & Pauletta Deswudt @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

Worriedly, and carefully, I scanned the hidden recesses of the trading post, sighing with genuine relief when I discovered we were alone, Focusing on Pauletta, with her adorably crooked smile and her mother's wickedly devious earthy brown eyes, I took the bait. "Why do you need $2,000.00 for your rug? Although I would like to buy it. I am pretty sure it is beyond my budget!" I said. Smiling openly now, and giving me the "DUH" look, this 17 year old, expertly tutored, maiden of the high desert delivered her answer. "My senior class is planning a trip to Miami in the spring, and my cost for the adventure is $2,000.00."

The day before I had received a telephone call from Pauline informing me that her daughter was nearly finished with her first ever weaving, and she wanted me to buy it. I was intrigued, because Pauline weaves extremely interesting old style, hand-spun rugs and I was hoping Pauline had taught her daughter well. Hand-spun rugs are rapidly declining in availability, because the weavers must spend huge amounts of time and effort weaving them. The collecting public has been reluctant to pay for rugs that are not of a refined nature, and hand-spun weavings are generally more "folk art" than fine. They are normally not as finished or symmetrical as rugs woven with the carefully graded and evenly spun commercial wools. Because weavers of hand-spun rugs shear the sheep, clean the wool, card it, spin it and only then begin to weave the rug, there is a great deal of extra labor involved.

There are certain definite indicators of this process. Because of the methods involved, hand-spun rugs are "of and near the earth" and they retain many vestiges of their origin. Strong soaps are not used to clean the fibers because detergent strips out the wool's lanolin; the secret to their durability and stain resistance. Because softer soaps are weak at best, the "ode de sheep" remains. In layman's terms, they smell like sheep and stuff. The smell of juniper smoke, red earth and local vegetation are often prevalent and noticeable. Running one's hands over such weavings with too much enthusiasm can provide a deeply embedded sliver to worry over.

Don't get me wrong, these additions to the finished product are not necessarily detrimental; to me they add to the character of the rug and flavor to the trading post. The warm rich smell and texture are reminiscent of my past. These are the rugs my brothers, sisters and I grew up on. Stimulated by sight, smell and feel, these weavings bring back fond memories of growing up in Bluff in such close and significant proximity to our Native neighbors.

It is not unusual for me to hold a new rug woven in this manner close and breath in its fragrance to relive my memorable and treasured youth. I must caution those new to this endeavor to proceed cautiously, however, while sampling the flavor of the Rez. The other day I spied a hand-spun rug Steve had purchased from Tuley Begay setting unattended on the counter. Striding eagerly towards the weaving, I whisked it up, covered my face with it and breathed in deeply.

Instantly I was struck by the overwhelming fragrance of sheep, flora, fauna and smoke. Stumbling backward, and falling to my knees, I flung the overpowering, aromatic rug away and gasped for unspoiled air. Hacking and spitting in an attempt to clear my airways, I slowly regained my composure and my footing. Priscilla was the only one to witness my self-induced asthma attack, and was kind enough to withhold her laughter. Picking up the rug, she took it outside, shook it briskly and hung it in the crisp fall air for the rest of the day.

Navajo Rug by Pauline Deswudt
Paulina, Pauline & Pauletta @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

As my thoughts wondered, Pauletta and Pauline gazed at me with a questioning air while Paulina played lovingly with the stuffed sheep. As these thoughts coursed through my brain, I smiled inwardly at the bold audacity of this young weaver. I thought for a moment, then calmly spoke to Pauletta, telling her that I too thought she should have the opportunity to travel to Miami. Unfortunately, I explained, I was not in a position to pay for the entire trip in one fell swoop. I told her I was willing to buy her rugs throughout the winter, at a fair price, and together we would accomplish her worthy goals.

Pauletta, Pauline, and even young Paulina seemed satisfied with the arrangement, so it did not take long to finalize agreeable terms for her weaving. Looking down at the wide eyed innocence of Paulina, I took a dollar from the cash register and gave it to her. I advised Paulina to start saving now for her senior trip, which would make it easier on both of us. From that day forth, in an attempt to get her to Miami, we have purchased Pauletta's weavings for slightly more than they might otherwise bring. Every time she walks in the door with her agreeably fragrant rugs, she smiles her mischievous, crooked smile and says; "I'm going to Miami, I need $2.000.00 for my rug! And Paulina is looking for another dollar.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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