Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Need is a Four Letter Word

Barry and I often joke that at Twin Rocks Trading Post, “need” is a four letter word. When customers say, “Oh, I don’t need this turquoise bracelet, Navajo basket or beautiful rug,” we advise them that if it is a question of need, we are out of business.

Navajo Rug Weaver Eleanor Yazzie with Feathery Escape Rug
Navajo Rug Weaver Eleanor Yazzie with Feathery Escape Rug.

The Navajo folk art carvings we carry will not keep you warm unless you pitch them in the fire, in which case you will surely require more carvings than we carry to make it through the winter. The turquoise jewelry on display in our counters will not nourish you. The Navajo pottery arranged in the windows and Paiute and Navajo baskets stacked in our cases and on our shelves might be serviceable containers, but if you have nothing to store, you surely do not “need” them.

So, as 2 million people have lost their jobs in the first 11 months of 2008, as stocks have posted their worst year since the Great Depression and as foreclosures continue to rise while housing values decline at a record pace, one might rightly question the future of selling things that people do not require to feed or shelter themselves. In answer to the inquiry, Barry and I would respond that we not only sell art, we provide beauty, nourishment for the soul, and that is something everyone “needs”, in good times and especially in bad.

As I sit at the computer reading bleak economic reports on the Internet, and realizing that we are in the deepest economic downturn in two generations, there is a copy of Southwestern Indian Jewelry; Crafting New Traditions by the silent cash register. The book, written by our friend Dexter Cirillo, is, “[A]n absorbing and authoritative chronicle of the current innovations in jewelry-making among tribes of the Southwest.” Several featured artists: Clarence and Russell Lee, Kee Yazzie Jr., Allison Lee and Tommy Jackson are personal friends and long-term business associates. We have become acquainted with many others at various exhibitions, art markets, trading posts and studios.

When I thumb through the pages of the book, admiring the exquisite work, I get a satisfyingly warm feeling; a sensation that touches me deeply. To its creators, the art is important economically. It is also, however, aesthetically significant to them. Many, if not all, of the artists are capable of doing other jobs or trades, but find that creating exquisite objects is most satisfying.

On a visceral level, I fully understand this sentiment. Each day when I open the doors to Twin Rocks and walk among the art created by a variety of Southwest artists, I am overcome with a feeling of richness; not necessarily wealth, but something larger. In each creation I see the artist and remember the experience of negotiating the purchase with him or her, relive conversations with the makers and recall the thrill of seeing the item for the first time.

Often I walk past a rug or basket and run my hand across its surface, just to experience the texture. On such occasions I am reminded of the Beauty Way ceremony, which is performed by Navajo medicine men to reestablish balance, harmony and beauty in the patient’s life. Barry and I believe the Beauty Way appropriately expresses what we feel about the art and artists of Twin Rocks, and have faith that its guiding principles will carry us through to brighter days.

The Navajo Beauty Way Ceremony

In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk
Beautifully I will possess again
Beautifully birds
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk
With dew about my feet may I walk
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty
It is finished in beauty

For us, the beauty is in the people as well as the art, and what we expend in support and appreciation is returned to us in similar coin many times over. Surely, that is something we all inherently, deeply, intimately, viscerally need in our lives.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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