Navajo Basket with Rock Art Rams
Evelyn Cly is one of the more humble and soft-spoken Navajo basket weavers. She has won numerous awards for her creations, but only smiles and nods in appreciation when she is recognized for her creativity. Evelyn was trained by her paternal grandmother Wanda Rock, and recalls weaving her first basket when she was only five years old. From that point on Evelyn has been involved in the art and loves to weave geometric and traditional figures. She believes when it comes to design, that more is less, and thinks basic patterns and open fields are most dramatic and appealing. This particular basket was woven several years ago and placed in a collection back East. Through an estate settlement, the basket has been returned to the Southwest and is looking for a new place to grace. The big horn sheep design was inspired by petroglyphs on red rock cliffs near Evelyn's home on Douglas Mesa, Utah.
Evelyn Rock Cly - Basketweaver: Evelyn Rock Cly says she had no idea how good she was at weaving baskets until she received the Grand Prize award at Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff. "I was really proud of myself," she says, "It got me going. Now there's various types of designs that I like to do." Evelyn's baskets are known for their extremely tight weave and open geometric designs. Perhaps the best indicator of how valuable her baskets are is that different traders have her baskets in their private collections.
Born the twelfth of fifteen children, Evelyn Rock Cly spent a great deal of her early years with her paternal grandmother, Wanda Rock. A basket weaver, Grandmother Rock taught Evelyn the art when she was only about five years old, over 30 years ago. "First a pitchpot", Evelyn remembers, "then a plain basket. Then I started making designs in the baskets."
"I think geometric designs is what I want to do," Evelyn continues, explaining the difference between herself and some of her relatives who have gone against traditional taboos in making pictorial baskets. Evelyn does not portray the Yei and other sacred symbols, out of respect for her elders and their teachings. "Some 'step to the side' and do it anyway," Evelyn says, but she also indicates that they have suffered consequences because of it.
Evelyn has been very successful with her "non-offending" geometric designs. She never really plans out her baskets with sketches or graph paper. She says she has new ideas "all of the time, out of my head; it just comes to the back of my mind. When I think about it (as she is weaving) the colors come... it turns out really neat."
Evelyn believes in the concept of less being more. At one time she worked in a trading post and she noticed that the woven baskets that had the most appeal were usually simple in design. "They have more feeling," she observes, "and look better from a distance." Then she adds that she doesn't care for "too busy" of a design.
Born in Monument Valley, Evelyn still lives within the world famous red rock formations. She was raised in the Navajo tradition, hearing Navajo legends and myths by firelight, "in wintertime." She has done some rug weaving but prefers making baskets.
Perhaps one of the reasons Evelyn makes such a quality basket is because she "takes breaks"-she only weaves 3 or 4 days out of the week. When she's not working on a basket she doesn't worry over it. She says that as soon as she picks up the baskets to work on them, then the ideas begin flowing into her head.
"I really concentrate," she says, explaining her tight strong weave and symmetry. "I'm careful to keep it even", referring to the rods.
Evelyn is the mother of 3 children ages 9 to 19. Her two sons and daughter have all made and sold baskets, but as yet don't have their mother's interest in making them. Or, perhaps, it is her inspiration they lack. There are very few weavers who are able to sit down and design as they go.