Friday, July 22, 2011


Shirley was not happy, in fact she was rather put-out, and her disdain was finely focused on me. Earlier that morning Shirley had called from Pinon, Arizona and talked with Steve. She had just finished weaving a large storm pattern rug and was ready to sell. Steve explained that although we were not, not buying rugs, we were being hyper-vigilant concerning quality of weave, symmetry and color; the rug had to be first rate before we could even consider buying it. I overheard Steve reiterate this point several times, saying "Please do not make a special trip unless your rug is fine and well finished; otherwise it will be wasted time." As Steve hung up the telephone and walked past my office, I gave him my, "You know she is going to drive over here no matter what" look. Steve countered with his, "You heard me tell her not to come unless it is a great rug" look. Because Shirley puts her heart and soul into each and every rug she creates, she feels they are all good. Unfortunately, as we have learned the hard way, not everyone agrees. It was my bet Steve was about to get his proverbial teet in a ringer.

Navajo White & Red Ganado Rug - Clara Toney (#2)

Two hours later, in walks Shirley, followed closely by her man. Shirley was packing a rug, which had been folded and placed in a white plastic bag. My heart sank, because Steve was across the street helping Craig and Jeremy (the driver of Le Pew's septic service truck) pump out our exhaustively active and overly-supplied system. "Stink!" I said under my breath. I looked to our long-time associate Priscilla for help, but she moved off several paces as if anticipating what might occur. What ran through my mind was that Shirley can weave exceptional rugs, many of which we have bought and sold through Twin Rocks Trading Post. On the other hand, Shirley can also weave, let me put it delicately, rugs of a lesser standard. Those have not been bought and sold through the trading post. I figured the odds of a nice weaving coming from that bag were about 50/50. Through the years Shirley, Steve and I have had several thoughtful discussions. During those conversations we have informed Shirley that there is a good market for high quality American Indian art, but no market for the mediocre. For some reason, which still baffles us, she often times chooses to disregard our comments. Some lessons are hard to learn.

Thus, when they walked through the Kokopelli doors, Shirley spotted me, stopped in her tracks and said, "Where's Steve?" "Ober dere." I said, pursing my lips and pointing them in the direction of the clean-out crew. Priscilla gave me the, "Reservation slang humor might not be appropriate at this point" look. I guessed she was right, but I was attempting to keep the mood light. Shirley stalked toward me, pulled the weaving from its wrappings and unfolded her prize as if it were the most beautiful rug in the world, and she was daring me to contradict her. Over the last 40 years I have been working in this business, I have developed what I consider buyer/seller triage. I can look at something a seller brings in and quickly decide if we can use it in the store or not . If interested, I go into discovery mode and begin to look ever so closely at the offered product in order to determine quality, desirability and value. If I am not interested, I do not waste the artist's time, and let them down as easily and respectfully as possible. Most artists we do business with consider me more . . . opinionated than Steve; he is an easier mark. My thoughts were that this particular rug was not well made.

The problem was that I know Shirley, I like Shirley and I want to buy her rugs. I knew there were months of hard, meticulous work represented here, and I knew she, and the guy staring me down, had just driven that worn-out primer gray and grass green Ford Focus two hours to get here. I was hating life about now. Just to be sure I had not made a critical error in judgment, I went into discovery mode. I spread the rug on the floor behind the counter, got down on my knees, said a brief prayer, dropped to my hands and knees and began to look the weaving over as carefully as possible. To my great dismay, I found that the rug was wider at one end than the other, the symmetry of the pattern was off, warp was poking through in several places and the weave was loose and uneven. My original diagnosis had been correct, unless I wanted to throw $1,200.00 out the door, this rug was a goner! I sighed inwardly and looked up, directly into the face of dear Shirley. She had been hunched over the counter, inspecting me just as closely as I had been inspecting her rug. Apparently she could read my body language and facial expressions. Shirley had not liked what she had seen any better than I. Her right eyebrow was raised, her left lowered and there was a look of consternation in her big brown eyes.

I did not want to do this; be the one to turn her down. I got up off the floor and looked across the road to where Steve was cleaning an underground tank with a high pressure hose. "I'll be back," I said, coming around the counter and heading in his direction. I was intent on bringing Steve back into this equation. After all this was his baby. When I arrived at the offensive opening, Steve was hunched over the tank looking into its detestable depths with a scowl on his face. Seeing me approach he looked up and said, "My Ray Bans just fell in there!" I could tell Steve was experiencing a purgatory of his own. By the look on his face, and the malodorous aura surrounding him, I suspected he was also feeling inconvenienced by the shallow minds and clouded vision of those responsible for our ongoing sewer woes.

"What's up?" Steve asked, sitting back on his haunches and placing his hands on his thighs. "Your buddy Shirley showed up with her rug," I said accusingly. "Good or bad?" he asked, trying to remain focused while kneeling in front of that grand, offensive opening. "It's a stinker!" I told him. "That's unfortunate", he said shaking his head sadly. I am sure the loss of his sunglasses played into that statement as well. "Well", he continued, "we can't be throwing good money down a black hole can we," he said, looking into the septic tank. "You heard me tell her we were only buying great rugs. We should pass on it," he continued. I wasn't going to get any help here, so, in a foul mood, I walked back to the trading post.

Shirley was waiting for me. I pointed out the reasons for the unwelcome rejection in hopes it would help with future negotiations. Shirley and her man were upset indeed when I told them I could not buy the rug. They even drove across the parking lot and confirmed the negative response with Steve before driving away in the worn out Focus. As they went, I was feeling terrible about the entire encounter, as, I was certain, was Steve. I hoped the next go-round would prove more beneficial for everyone involved. Shirley, on the other hand, would probably rather have shoved us both into that nasty tank, replace the lid and been done with it. Surely, in her mind we were the stinkers!

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

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