Marie Sheppard

Marie Sheppard

Marie Burbank Sheppard - Rug Weaver: Sitting on the floor in front of her loom up to fourteen hours a day, Marie Burbank Sheppard may weave only six to eight inches on a three foot wide rug in that much time. This intense effort is a labor of love for her as she works the wool yarn she has dyed herself. Raised outline rugs are her trademark, created by using a double weave. Her technical style of design has incorporated up to 44 colors in one rug, usually subtle colors as she loves earth's pastels. This grandmother has won multiple awards at the Gallup Ceremonials and is considered by many experts to be a top weaver.

A good-natured, outgoing person, Marie Burbank Sheppard loves her craft and is proud and pleased to share it. Recently returned from Germany, where she featured her work in a rug show, Marie enjoyed everything about the trip but the plane ride. But she is happy to be back in front of her familiar loom. "I can hardly stand to go a full day without weaving," she says.

With KTNN - the Navajo radio station out of Window Rock - playing softly beside her, Marie works on her beloved rugs, not tolerating any other distraction. Her weaving is soothing to her and it has given her other more tangible benefits. The income from her weaving helped a great deal toward paying for her three son's college educations.

Marie enjoys winning competitions. While planning out a rug she collaborates with others, discussing recent trends and probable winning designs. But when she sits to her loom the rug becomes hers alone. She wants her rugs to be enjoyed by those who purchase them, but she will not compromise her standards or artistic self-expression to please someone else's taste.

Born for the Red Running Water Together, and to the Walking Around People Clans, Marie was raised in the Navajo traditional way. Taught to weave by her mother and grandmother, Marie respects her culture and honors her heritage. Unlike many other weavers, Marie will not use sandpainting designs in her rugs, fearful of the consequences that displaying such a familiarity with deity might bring. She believes it better to avoid such taboos, rather than bring problems on herself and then require a cleansing ceremony.

Marie once wove a rug 6 feet wide and 9 feet tall. In order to complete it she cut a hole into the ceiling of her basement weaving room. When she needed to tighten the tension on the rug she would go upstairs and reach through the hole in the floor to do so. The hole, presently in a closet, remains in case of a future large rug.

Although it is relaxing for her, weaving has its challenges. Marie is concerned about her eyesight and developing arthritis. "I don't let myself feel the pain," she says, but admits one day it may be too much for her to ignore. Then she promises, "I will weave as long as I can."

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This site was last updated on November 19, 2017.

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