"From the Beginning" Basket
14 1/2" x 2" deep
The Navajo people believe that life is meant to be a lesson in upward movement. Everything begins with a personal awakening, moving from the darkness into the light. From that point of consciousness, each person begins their personal journey gaining knowledge, understanding, compassion and companionship. Every individual path spirals upward and outward. Elsie Holiday's “From the Beginning” basket reflects that belief in a beautifully formed, graphic manner. This basket was woven several years ago and has been part of a collection for some time, but now it is back on the market, ready to find a new home.
Elsie Stone Holiday - Basketweaver: Considered one of the best of the best Navajo basket weavers, Elsie Stone Holiday married into the famed Douglas Mesa family of weavers. Weaving baskets has become almost an addiction for her. "When I go two or three days without weaving I get anxious to get started again," she says. She weaves 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. "Sometimes I think, 'How long can this last?'", she wistfully states, but for now she is content with her art, finding immense satisfaction in creating premier quality baskets.
Learning the art of basket weaving from the family that is famous for the Navajo basket renaissance is certainly an advantage for Elsie Stone Holiday, and she has added talent and dedication to that advantage, with remarkable results.
Elsie knew how to weave rugs before she married, so weaving baskets was fairly easy for her to master. She learned from such renowned artists as Sally and Lorraine Black, Rose Esplain, and her mother-in-law, Betty White Holiday. Then she simply made the art her own by using her natural intuitive creativity.
The mother of six children, Elsie has only been weaving for about eleven years, since her children became old enough to allow her the time. Now they watch her, and sometimes help with the non-weaving tasks connected to the work, learning as they do so.
Elsie gathers the sumac strips used for her weaving along waterways in Hanksville or Moab, Utah, and Farmington, New Mexico. She says the reeds grow well along irrigation ditches, and are most pliable in the spring and fall months. She gathers about a six-month supply and then takes them home and readies them for weaving by stripping off the bark and splitting the reeds. Then Elsie does something few other weavers care to do- she takes the split reed and pulls it through a hole in a can, to strip away any excess, making the strips uniform size. It is this, and her propensity for a uniform, tight weave, that makes Elsie's baskets premium quality. If she notices any irregularities, Elsie picks out her weaving and begins again. She truly cares about making her baskets as perfect as possible.
Elsie's technique is not her only fine point, she also has a wonderful imagination for new design ideas. Elsie is modest when praised for her work and eager for any suggestions. She has an enthusiastic desire to please those who buy her baskets.
Elsie's father is a practicing medicine man, but it is her mother-in-law who has helped her with her weaving by performing ceremonies for her. A crystal gazer, Betty knows much about traditional Navajo medicine. She sprinkled corn pollen on a spider web and placed it on Elsie's head, all the while saying a prayer. The spider web represents the weaving done by spider woman, an important personage in Navajo mythology. Elsie confirms the validity of the ceremony by proclaiming how much it has helped her in her weaving.
Emergence Story of the Five Worlds By: Rosie Yellowhair
This is a story told by the Navajo people by word of mouth to the young and old. The Navajo believe there are Five Worlds. We are presently in the fifth world. The first world was a small, dark and water filled world. It was known as the Red World where the flying insects were the first and only people. The second world was blue with the air. The spirit people here were swallows. The third world was yellow. The locust were known as the air people. The people lived along the river flowing through their land. There was noting but darkness in the north. These worlds had people who defiled themselves, their bodies and land. The Chief within each group of people forced the defiler (spoiler who ruined their land) to leave. The people asked the Water People to help to chase out the defiler. All the people took flight from their world, into each world until they reached the Fourth World. As they approached the Fourth World, they noticed other people. The four-legged people who had very nice coats ? the animals. The people greeted one another as friends, kinsmen as in previous worlds. They settled in as if they never left any other world. Days passed when at a far distant they hear the wind, a whistle. Faint at first and then grew louder as it got closer. Then very soon, the whistle was upon them. Four Yeis of spiritual guidance came to tell the people of the Fourth World that there was going to be a great "Happening." Three Yeis left to return to the Holy One. One Yei was asked to stay to prepare the people until the other Yeis returned. First Mand and First Woman, the five finger people were made. The buckskins of antelope, a feather, white corn and yellow corn was brought by the three yeis who returned from the Holy One. They sand and danced until the Holy One brought the breath of life. The five-fingered people were told to expand and multiply within the Four Sacred mountains of the Holy One. Within the Fourth World, Coyote was one person who was nosy, mischievous and always wanting to be apart of the growth of the Fourth World. One day he stole Water Creature?s baby, which caused a great flood. The Great Flood caused the people to rush into the reed to be safe from the flood. The Fourth Yei, the Black Yei , was their mentor and mediator. The reed grew and grew until they reached the clouds to enter the Fifth World. The last onto the reed was the Turkey Person who packed seeds of corn, squash, beans and melons within his feathers. The Fifth World. The Air People (locusts and beetles), the Holy Guidance Yeis, Bear and Lynx entered the Fifth World followed by First Man and First Woman. Coyote was forced to return Water Creature?s Baby back to the water. When all was well again and to this day, the Navajo have these beliefs. Water People are ancestors and for this reason most Navajos will not eat sea food. Turkey is given respect within most ceremonies for supplying food for seeds to be replanted in the new world. The Navajos wear turkey feathers on their head as a representation of appreciation and remembrance. The Navajos use the corn and zig zag on it as their travel from the Fourth World into the Fifth World. The passage of travel was blessed by the Holy One. This is known as the Blessing Way. There are many more stories linked to the Emergence of the Five Worlds and many more paintings are needed. Many more winters needed for the stories to be retold.