Jamison Black

Jamison Black - Basketweaver: Male basket weavers are not the norm in traditional Navajo culture, but for Jamison Black, son of Mary Holiday Black- the most famous Navajo contemporary basket weaver- weaving is as natural as breathing. Jamison also has a profound belief in the importance of preserving Navajo beliefs and customs, and he realizes the best way for him to do so is by expressing them through weaving. Jamison has developed his inherent talent along with his knowledge of Navajo history. His unique combination of skill and philosophy have produced remarkable results.

The sixth of eleven children, Jamison Black was born in Monument Valley in the mid-60's. At that time the Navajo Reservation was criss-crossed with sandy red roads and horse drawn wagons were not uncommon. Education for Navajo children was gained at great cost in travel time, and usually only by sacrificing familial and tribal ties. Still, Jam ison's parents, Jesse and Mary, managed to keep their family close and intact, while still emphasizing the value of an education.

Jamison was eighteen years of age when he sat down and made his first willow basket. Like any young man, he had need of money and he could see how much his sisters and mother made when they sold their baskets. He decided he had all the resources at his disposal, he may as well take advantage of his opportunities and earn money the "easy" way.

Jamison soon found that weaving wasn't as easy as it looked, but still, he had a knack for it. Besides he was living with the best teacher he could ask for- his mother. He had some training in silver smithing at Monument Valley High School, but soon decided to stay with basket weaving.

Living in a remote, sparsely populated desert area of southeastern Utah, Jamison's home has no electricity, no modern conveniences to distract him from his chosen occupation. He is in tune with his surroundings and nature, much the same as his ancestors.

Jamison says his ideas come easily. He takes some from rug weaving designs. He also likes to go back to the old style designs, the ancient Navajo "four directions" pattern, symbolizing the continuous cycle of life through four outward reaching arms. The crosses are also known as whirling logs, referring to the Navajo legend of their escape from the flooded Fourth World into the present world.

Jamison usually has several baskets going at once. "It takes a lot of energy," he confesses, leaving him drained. But the energy goes into the basket and makes it a living thing, a work of art that will endure beyond the present, beyond Jamison, beyond the cultural transitions that make it so valuable.

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This site was last updated on September 23, 2020.

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