Twin Rocks Product Archives
Navajo 32" x 55" Storm Rug - Shirley Lopez (#1)

Our archives section showcases some of the exceptionally beautiful artwork that we have traded. Although the item you see on this page may have already been sold, you can still view and enjoy the fine artwork.

Navajo Rugs
32" x 55"

Explaining the storm design presents a bit of a dilemma.  The pattern is created by weaving artists from all corners of the Navajo reservation and beyond, yet pinpointing its origin and meaning is a different story, or I will say, several stories. 

Although storm pattern rugs later became associated with Tuba Trading Post on the western side of the Navajo reservation, many feel it first made its appearance and was first popularized by J.B. Moore, a short-lived but  influential trader at the Crystal Trading Post in the nineteen-teens.  In his first catalogue published in 1911, he featured two weavings with the quincunx (I love this was one of Kira’s spelling bee words last year) layout and attributed the pattern to one family designated specifically to weave what became known as the storm design.

Our culture loves asking the question, “...but, what does it mean?”  The first story comes from Cameron Trading Post:  Jean Mann, a weaver from the area explained that the center of the rug, in the square part, was the weaver’s home or the weaver’s hooghan. Lightning connects the weaver to the four sacred mountains that form the border of Dinetah. These mountains are the squares in each corner of the rug. The rain is the warp of the rug. Centipedes flank the hooghan on each side. In early versions of storm weavings, above and below there were whirling logs close to the hooghan. This symbol, similar to and because of, the Nazi swastika was later changed to look like another centipede.  Outward from this element is the 6-legged water bug. The whole rug symbolizes a storm and also portrays the storm as a sacred occurrence.

My understanding is that J.B. Moore had a fondness for Oriental weavings and possibly introduced Eastern rug patterns to the local weavers.  An explanation given by the Navajo Rug Repair Company, experts in cleaning and repairing Oriental and Navajo weavings, lends credence to this theory.  They state, “One story about the design origin is that it was derived from the labels on flour sacs sold to Navajos in the early years.  This author has not been able to find any flour sac labels that show anything like this design (the same story is often written concerning the swastika design as found in some Navajo rugs).  I theorize that the Storm Pattern's origin lies within Kufic script that is found in Persian, Caucasian and other Mid-eastern rugs, particularly in the borders of those rugs.  The "Storm Pattern" design shows the favored quincunx pattern, a ubiquitous design styling in the Orient.”

I like what Ann Hedlund, a cultural anthropologist and director of the Gloria F. Ross Center for Tapestry Studies at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson has to say about J.B. Moore’s introduction of the design:

 “In 1911, trader J.B. Moore published a catalogue showing a Navajo rug with a central rectangle, four zigzag arms radiating to the corners, and bold, isolated geometric motifs along the ends and sides. Stating, ‘This pattern is one of the really legendary designs embodying a portion of the Navajo mythology,’ Moore started his own legend that has yet to be unraveled or understood. No earlier Navajo design resembles this one—in weaving, sandpainting, or any other medium.”  Professor Hedlund’s explanation supports the idea of outside influences on Navajo weaving and to me, belongs in the category I have endearingly titled “Great White Trader Stories”.

Ann Hedlund chimes in again with the following thoughts:

“Weavers today differ in their interpretation of the motifs and layout. Some deny knowledge of any symbols and say the stories came from traders. Others suggest that maybe the center symbolizes a Navajo hogan, a lake, or the center of the universe; the corner elements are spoken of variably as the four sacred mountains, the four winds, or the four cardinal directions. The radiating zigzag lines are usually called lightning lines or whirling logs. The individual motifs at both ends are called water bugs or pinon beetles.”

Whatever their murky beginnings, storm pattern weavings have since become one of the most popular Navajo rug designs and invite many interpretations as to their meaning. 

---Georgiana Kennedy Simpson

About the artist

Date of Birth: April 28th 1945. Shirley is a talented weaver that can weave any style of rug. She has a lot of years of practice since she has been weaving since the age of 7. She learned how to weave from her mother, Maggie Smith. She has also passed down to son and her daughter and most recently has started teaching her 7 year old granddaughter. See full biography | See all items by Shirley Lopez

Related legends

After the medicine woman told the people about the prayersticks she told them that there was a place in the underworld where two rivers crossed. It was called ni tqin'kae tsosi, fine fiber cotton (Indian hemp). There were two persons who brought the seed of that plant, they were spiders. They said that the people were to use the plant instead of skins for their clothing. So this seed was planted in the earth? More about this legend

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This site was last updated on August 22, 2017

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