Bessie Coggeshell

Navajo Rug Weaver Bessie Coggeshell

Bessie Coggeshell - Rug Weaver: Bessie Coggeshell has been weaving for nearly five decades, but she is still enthusiastic about her rugs. When asked which of her finished rugs is her favorite, she answers, "I liked all of them."

This is an unusual and wonderful statement. Most artists comment that they are always trying to do better, always seeking the perfect product. Bessie studies other people's rugs and savors the challenge of a new design. Her rugs vary form the oldest known Navajo style- the Chief Blanket- to creative pictorial rugs, or, most often, the Red Mesa style, an outlined eye dazzler. But whatever she weaves, it is wonderful that she can comment conclusively, "I liked all of them."

Before Bessie Coggeshell begins a rug she chooses her design and her multiple colors carefully. "Sometimes it takes all day to choose colors," her daughter comments, interpreting for her mother. "Before we put in on the loom we put whole skeins together and then sit back and look at it. We might change out minds and choose different colors here and there."

The yarn is store bought. "In the old days they just used to wash wool and leave it sitting out in the sun," Bessie's daughter, Ruby, continues, "letting it dry. They they would card and spin it. That's how it was done until they came out with the yarn in the store."

Because of the multiplicity of available colors, Bessie's rugs are usually bright with many complimentary colors and contrasting hues, marvelous to look at. She prefers a zigzag design, an early Navajo rug style made popular as early as 1870.

Bessie knows a little about how those early rugs were made. "When she was a girl, the men would string up a loom on a tree down in the canyon," Ruby reports. "They used to put up their rugs on a tree on a branch sticking out, and tie it down. That's how she learned to weave." Bessie learned by watching others and then trying it herself.

Bessie often begins her day at the loom at four or five o'clock in the morning and continues weaving, with only short breaks, until ten or eleven at night. A large rug may take up to two months for her to finish, but every part of it is carefully done. She loves what she does.

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This site was last updated on October 21, 2020.

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