Back in the year 2002, on the northeastern edge of Monument Valley, Navajo land, Mary Holiday Black was educating another young pupil in the art of basketry. Kayla Black, a granddaughter through Mary and Jesse's son Anderson, was under the tutelage of the most recognized Navajo basket weaver of all time. Mary is the matriarch of Navajo basket weavers because of her selfless instruction to those willing to spend the time and effort to learn and grow. From that joint undertaking between Mary and her granddaughter Kayla sprang this wonderful basket featuring Frogs from the Hail Chant. Because she has suffered several small, yet debilitating strokes, Mary no longer weaves. Mary now lives with, and verbally instructs her prodigies, how to weave superior baskets. Through Mary, yet another star may rise.
Kayla Black- Young Navajo Basketweaver -
Rarely does such a young weaver show so much promise. Kayla Black is a mere ten years old and already weaving baskets on a standard many will never reach. Much of the credit must go to her paternal grandmother, Mary Holiday Black, who took her in at a very young age and exposed her infant charge to the fine art of Navajo basket weaving. The process began with Kayla picking up the left over Sumac and stripping it into splits for her grandmother, this began at the ripe old age of three years old. Having a master weaver as a patient and loving tutor has fostered a basket weaving prodigy.
Kayla is the daughter of Jonathan Black and Clara Atene, both barely more than children themselves when their daughter was born. Clara tried to raise Kayla herself but the undertaking seemed too much for such a young and unsettled girl. Following a strong tradition of family concern, Jonathon's older sister Agnes and her husband William Gray convinced the stressed mother into giving up her, now two week old, child into their care. This situation lasted until Kayla was a year old where upon the family decided that her grandmother now needed her companionship. Mary's husband, Jesse, had recently passed away and all but her youngest son, Anderson, had left home. This proved to be a boon to both Kayla and Mary. They thrived on the attention each provided the other and have been together for the last nine years.
In the making of one of her earliest baskets - Navajo Hail Chant/Frog Basket - Kayla expended much time and effort in creating it. She prepared the materials, produced the start of the piece, which is usually Mary's contribution, and wove diligently for two months, patiently stitching away at the ever evolving pattern. Every evening after school she came home, cared for the family's nineteen goats, did homework, and wove. At a rate of approximately six inches a day she wove, stubbornly refusing help from her ever watchful, and advising teacher. Only when it came time to finish the outside edge did she ask for help. This is her grandmother¹s specialty and Kayla wanted this basket to be extra special. Upon completing her marathon undertaking Kayla took her basket to school. Show and Tell was the perfect place to share her achievement. Who better than her Teacher and friends, to appreciate her hard and creative work.
The symbol in Kayla's basket was from the Navajo Hail Chant. Frog is one of the main figures in this ceremony. Representing maladies of the bones and joints, Frog is a personage to be respectful and cautious of. He can effect healing if he feels he has been shown the proper care, or he can cause much distress if mistreated. Frog also has the power to read your mind and cannot be easily fooled - an interesting theme considering Kayla's grandmother has been suffering from arthritis for the last few years.
When Kayla and Mary came to the Trading Post to sell her basket it was a remarkable experience for us all. The pride and passion they felt for each other was obvious. We saw an experienced artist introducing her pupil to yet another aspect of the process. We have watched Kayla grow into a young girl and artist and have appreciated her effervescent personality and outgoing attitude. To see such talent in one so young, a gift from a thoughtful and concerned grandmother, was an experience we will never forget. When Kayla asked, "Why do you buy baskets ?", the answer was simple... " Because of you, Kayla - you and your grandmother ".