Navajo Chief Basket
20 1/2" x 17"
Master Navajo textile artist, Lorraine Yazzie Black has stitched-out a most marvelous and interesting basket. Lorraine has given her basket the Navajo name of “Nihinanit’a’l’ Ceh-yehs-bes” which means "Our Chief Braided Hair.” Lorraine wove her basket in an unusual oval shape depicting said chief with those famous plaits donated by Lorraine’s old horse Otis. A multitude of eagle feathers shows that the chief is “Big Medicine” and the bone-like breastplate offers protection from a frontal assault. Lorraine bordered her basket in a rich golden color portraying corn pollen and sunshine for extra might and majesty.
Lorraine Black - Navajo Basketweaver: Inspired by dreams, Lorraine Black's skills have literally elevated basket weaving to new dimensions. Famous for her Horned Toad story basket, a three dimensional piece that won first place in the Navajo Show at The Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, as well as an award at the Gallup Ceremonials, Lorraine's work is distinctively original.
Lorraine Black's infectious laugh belies the serious magic her hands conjure up when weaving a basket. Unprecedented in her ideas, Lorraine's baskets are innovative and beautiful. Many of them make good use of texture through over-stitching and the addition of objects such as flint arrowheads.
The third daughter of Mary Holiday Black, Lorraine grew up in the family tradition of basket weaving. She began by harvesting young stalks of sumac in the springtime, from where it grows along water ways. She learned how to prepare it for weaving by splitting the willow shoots into three thin strips using teeth and fingers, removing the core, and then rubbing away the bark with buckskin. Her hands soon knew the cuts and sores created by handling the sumac, her cuts stained by the colors of the dyes.
After the intensive work of harvesting and processing is complete, then comes the challenge of beginning a basket. This requires holding together two layers of either three or five rods of unsplit willow, coiling them, and binding them together by interweaving the sumac strips. It is a challenge for the most skillful hands.
Learning to weave ceremonial baskets at about age thirteen, Lorraine continued in the art, quickly transcending traditional designs with new concepts in both design and color.
Now the mother of two young sons, Sebastian and Deon, Lorraine presently makes her home in a small town in Southeastern Utah. Still, her roots extend to Monument Valley, the place of her upbringing. Her art is influenced by her birthplace and her heritage from the Bitterwater and Folded Arm Clans.
Holding one of Lorraine's baskets, with its bright colors and intricate designs, you can almost hear her childlike laughter transcend the coils and spill into the room.