Allison Billy

Navajo Rug Weaver Allison Billy

One day, his grandmother, Gladys Yellowman, discovered his crooked hourglass weaving.  Rather than reprimand him, she sat down and started working with him in the open and the weaving career of one of only a handful of Navajo male weavers began its journey.  She told Allison that their clan, Kinlichinii, the Red House clan, derives from the Hopi people.  In the Hopi way, it is the men who weave and she believed that explained his desire to pursue Navajo rug weaving.

Allison has his mother, his grandmother and ten aunts who all stand firm in their support of his weaving.  The journey requires courage.  He is often told that he should not be weaving.  He said, “As long as my family stands behind me, I have the strength to continue forward with my work”.

The winter of 2007 has proven a crucial time in his artistic development.  On hiatus from his position overseeing disability services for a portion of the Navajo nation, Allison used the break to further develop his weaving skills.  After his eighty year old grandmother was bumped and bruised by a ram, she decided it was time to give her sheep to younger members of the family, including Allison.  His mother, Clara, and grandmother, Gladys, have guided him through the arduous task of shearing, carding and spinning his own wool.

At first, he struggled with the spinning, often applying too much pressure and breaking the fragile threads.  With practice, he is not only capable of making varied natural colored balls of weaving wool, but he often pulls apart other spun threads and woven material to create a finer weaving thread.  The results are increasingly finer hand spun weavings with his particular artistic flair.

Allison possesses a unique vision for his rug designs.  He honors the previous weavers in his family with Red Mesa outlines, playing cards and weaving comb patterns which harken back to his great-grandmother.  His design sensibility does not merely lay in the past.  Allison and his brother, Alvin, have designed their version of a saddleblanket; he has drawn inspiration from passing billboards on the reservation; even pulling a pattern from Iranian pottery which under his guiding hand became known as “lizard lightning”.

A few years ago, he built a traditional hooghan next to his home and it is there that he pursues his weaving.  He knows it is a meditation, in fact, probably a rumination which has save his life.  A few years ago, he gave up drinking and allows weaving to calm his work and everyday stresses.  Each new weaving is a step in his exploration toward a more balanced life. By expressing beauty and strength in his artwork, in his very existence, Allison manages to keep his feet firmly planted in both his traditional and contemporary worlds.

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This site was last updated on October 23, 2020.

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