A MAC Odyssee through space and time to retrieve older basket and rug designs

Separation Navajo : Hopi 082495

Last Labor Day, while visiting Twin Rocks Trading Post, we discovered files with a corpus of Damian Jim’s early basket designs from 1995-1997. Thanks to the excellent filing system at the Trading Post we were able to take photographs of the old print-outs as neither Bluff nor Blanding have a copy shop. But we were certain that the print outs did not represent the entire design work, as in those early years Damian worked on a fair amount of rug and jewelry designs as well. After posing the question, Barry Simpson dug up a CD ROM with old files, which were drawn in MacDraw Pro and Symantec Greatworks. To be able to open these files we borrowed a 2003 Power Mac G4 with an older OS operating system.

Once we were back in Phoenix, the search for retro fit software began, since copies of MacDraw Pro and Greatworks were not available. The first software package that we bought, “Canopener” could not open any of the files, which lead us to Eazy Draw 7.1.1. which comes with a retro fit option for MacDraw and Claris Draw files. Software in hand we discovered that the OS version on the 2003 PowerMac was still too advanced. After more research we bought an old Mac Mini from eBay with a OSX Leopard version.
I felt like a time traveler througIMG_1516h the Mac Universe, barely remembering how to navigate an older Mac OS software and a mouse without scroll function. It was very nostalgic, let me tell you.
With the software and hardware finally in place we were able to open the old files, converting them from MacDraw Pro in EazyDraw Retro to “tiffs” and “png’s”. BUT and this was a hard pill to swallow – we are only able to retrieve the designs in black and white.

Some of them still don’t open (Greatworks files), but so far I was able to add about 150 new designs to the database and the ones that we are unable to open do exist in copied print outs. So there is hope that we will get a complete picture of this humongous corpus after all!

NowIMG_1671 the database is a whole different chapter in itself: originally we used Bento, however this software is no longer supported by the manufacturer and newer OS software causes it to crash. So after much debate, we decided to buy a full fledged FileMaker version migrating all 1600 records over seamlessly except for the embedded photos. Re-integrating those will be my task during those long hot Phoenix summer nights when one can’t set a foot outside of the house anyways, whereas Damian will re-color selected designs. I see a “Fringe” binge watching session ahead of us.


Small miracles do happen….

“NDN Gothic” by Gerry Quotskuyva

As the Byting Willows Exhibit will open its doors for one more evening on April 17th, I am wandering through 1Spot Gallery, admiring all these extraordinary pieces that have been created. Some of which have already found a new home in a collection. But what about others that are still waiting to be appreciated – true masterpieces some of them worthy to be in museums collections.

So let’s assume, you have fallen in love with one of the pieces visiting the Byting Willows exhibit and am still thinking about it…….what could possibly hold you back from taking it home and marveling at it every day?

As an art collector myself I know that there are many factors involved when I make the decision to purchase a piece of art:  How strong is my emotional attachment to the piece? Do I have space to display it? Does it fit into my collection? Do I have the budget? to name just a few.

Easy enough questions to answer don’t you think? But usually there is at least one of these questions that I have to answer with “no”. And yet that doesn’t discourage me to still see if I can make it work and turn the “no” into a “yes”.

Except if the emotional attachment is not strong enough – I never talk myself into buying something that I am not getting attached to.

If I don’t have the space then how about rotating some of my older pieces – tastes change slightly overtime and it might be time to “retire” one or the other pieces for a while in storage. If you collect, you know exactly what I am talking about – you most likely have a storage somewhere filled with pieces not on display.

If it doesn’t fit into your collection because you have never collected that medium before, then let it spark a new interest.


“One Who Wears Many Hats” by Kelly Church

If budget is your concern, then you could try to do what I do.

I will ask the gallery staff if they would work with me and if there is room for negotiations. Usually galleries do have some wriggle room, for instance omitting taxes and shipping costs or they might even contact the artist for you to see if he or she is willing to work with you.

A lot of the artists that I collect are very interested that their pieces end up with collectors that don’t necessarily buy them as investment opportunity but that are attached to the artwork which they truly appreciate and thus become repeat collectors overtime.

The other way that galleries can work with you are layaway policies. This is very common these days.


“Milkyway” by Adrian Wall

I fell in love with one of the pieces the moment I unpacked it but unfortunately the price was way out of my budget. Yet every time I was in the gallery I could not take my eyes off it. One of my three favorite designs out of all the 1550 designs,the medium, everything was so appealing. I called the artist and told him that I absolutely loved his piece but couldn’t afford it and if he would be willing to make me a smaller one for less money. He pondered that for a while and then got back to me. He said that the pieces in this exhibit were very special and should not be replicated. But he also said that sometimes a piece should be with the right person and wanted me to have this particular piece of art for what I could afford to pay, because he felt I was the right person to own it! I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know how to thank him enough and got so emotional that I almost started crying. How generous!

Now I can’t wait for the exhibit to close and bring it back home…..

So what is holding you back from approaching the staff at 1Spot Gallery and see if you can take your favorite piece from the Byting Willows exhibit home?

The one you can’t live without?

See you on April 17th from 6-10pm at 1Spot Gallery in Phoenix! And if you can’t make it there is always the website: 1spotgallery.com

Thirteen Days until the opening of the Byting Willows Exhibit – the countdown is on……

Keeping the Traditions Alive by Craig George

Keeping the Tradition Alive by Craig George

I have been awfully quiet when it comes to blogging over the past couple of weeks, as I was very busy to prepare the Byting Willows Exhibit.

We were able to place advertisement into the current issue of Native Peoples as well as the upcoming issue of CNAM magazine.  FAAM magazine is showcasing the entire Byting Willows project as a two page spread in their “Native Design” section of issue #6.
It is a blessing to have a graphic designer as part of this venture and my partner in crime Damian Jim has tremendously helped to keep the look and feel of the postcards, invites and posters homogenous. We went for an art deco look as a couple of abstract designs have that symmetrical and linear look and feel to them.
by Damian Jim

by Damian Jim

Despite all of the in-house expertise, we ventured out to create a state of the art press kit and hired graphic designer Eunique Yazzie who miraculously pieced everything together to create a cohesive story and integrated hyper links to websites as well as embedded videos into the kit. The result looks exciting and I doubt will be overlooked by the newspapers who receive it.
And then there is artwork arriving nearly every day. To be honest, it feels like Christmas! We are stunned by the creativity of everybody involved, every time we open a package. Some of the pieces are incredibly close to the original design and some of them venture out far beyond and transform the design into  different object all together.
The exhibit will open on February 20th during third friday artwalk. This will give local people the opportunity to check the show out before two weeks later, when their schedules might be too busy with the Heard Indian Market and all its related activities the weekend of 3/7-3/8.
The same weekend, 1Spot Gallery will host Randy Boogie Barton, one of the collaboration artists of the exhibit to re-paint the front of the gallery during Paint Phoenix.
Our big opening night will be Thursday March 5th with a special collectors event from 4-6pm, followed by the opening from 6-10pm during which well known local DJ Byron Fenix will entertain.
That is it for today, I am off to work on the introductory part of the exhibit which will highlight the development of the Dine’ baskets from historical times to today.
Stay tuned and I hope to see you all soon at 1Spot Gallery

Do You Believe in Fate? – A Road Trip to Bluff UT

Talking God / Bluebird Basket - weaver Peggy Black, design Damian Jim

Talking God / Bluebird Basket – weaver Peggy Black, design Damian Jim

Avoiding holiday traffic, we decided to leave Phoenix right after Christmas to drive up to Bluff, UT to touch base with Georgianna Kennedy Simpson who agreed to write a chapter in the Byting Willows book and visit Twin Rocks Trading Post to inquire about the commission of some Dine’ baskets for the upcoming Byting Willows exhibit.

A week in advance we checked the basket section of the Trading Posts website to select baskets as potential loaners and there it was, a Talking God / Bluebird Basket. My favorite design out of all of the 1,500 that were created between 1995 – 2004. I could not believe my eyes! Do you believe in fate? I do! This particular basket was woven in 1998 by Peggy Black and then sold to a collector in Santa Fe. As he is downsizing his collection he approached Twin Rocks Trading Post to sell it for him.

The basket design enables the viewer to either focus on Bluebird (see photo above) or if turned upside down on Talking God. Bluebirds represent peace and happiness and are a manifestation of Talking God. Talking God himself is regarded as the grandfather of the gods and the tutelary of the Night Chant. He also acts as mentor, warning or telling mythical creatures the answers to test questions. But Talking God is also characterized by his playfulness. Peace, happiness and playfulness represented in an ingenious design – whats not to like?

I am the kind of person that acquires one object from every exhibit that I curate as a memorabilia to remind me of that show. I was determined to buy a piece of art from the upcoming exhibit and have been eagerly awaiting the collaborators submissions. The re-appearance of this basket on the market threw me a curveball and yet I didn’t hesitate for one minute before writing an email to the Trading Post informing them about my interest in seeing the basket in person during our visit.

Then we are finally off to the Land of Navajo Tacos and Gas Station Burritos. First stop on the road: Alpine Pizza in Flagstaff – a tradition is forming as we are heading out to Bluff on a regular basis. The car is packed with all kind of snacks including breakfast items as the only breakfast option in Bluff during off-season is K&C Mart selling breakfast burritos and chimichangas. We try to be as self-sufficient as possible.

When we meet with Georgianna, she surprises us with a wonderful first draft of her chapter. The book is starting to come to life! We brainstorm ideas and discuss her writing an additional chapter so that she can dive deeper into the history of Dine’ baskets and the Trading Post entrepreneurship that lead to the Renaissance of Dine’ baskets.

Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff UT

Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff UT

Steve and Barry Simpson, the owners of Twin Rocks Trading Post, have been nothing than supportive of this project and accommodated our wish list of baskets to be displayed and sold at the exhibit. Be ready to be amazed! Needless to say, after 16 years on display in somebody else’s home, the Talking God / Bluebird Basket changed ownership and will serve me as an inspiration throughout the project and beyond.

If you are curious what all the buzz is about – stop by 1Spot Gallery, Phoenix from February 20th – April 17th to see this amazing basket in person!


This weeks Collaboration Artist – Meet Jamison Chas Banks

Jamison Chas Banks

Jamison Chas Banks

Chas’s work distinguishes itself from most of his peers through the fact that he thinks completely outside of the box. He tackles mostly political issues through his ability to tie historical events back to current issues and displays them as installations, paintings and print works in a fashion that requires the viewer to ask questions to reveal the deeper meaning behind them. His art is universal and timeless and not confined to native art venus.  He is one of those artists that you can 100% rely on if he commits to a project, and you know that you will be blown away, when you receive his submission. Therefore it is no surprise that I am already holding his interpretation of the design he picked in my hands.

Design by Damian Jim

“Deco 5”  by Damian Jim

Chas turned an art deco inspired Navajo basket design into a piece that tackles the issue of cultural mis-appropriation utilizing and critiquing logos of companies associated with this behavior. Curiously I followed up with the imagery and came across this design related article that beautifully fits into this blog as we are not only about baskets but also about excellence in design.

Growing up in Germany in the 70ies and 80ies, the only sport wear manufacturer that stood out was Adidas and ever since then they are my brand of choice. Here I am decades later, googling how their signature trifold logo was created after seeing it being integrated into Chas Banks piece. Come to find out that the name of the company owner was Adolf “Adi” Dassler which explains the company’s name (Duh, Katja!) and that the three leaves stand for the continents Europe, Africa and America. I feel like an old dog that just learned new tricks 😉 If you are interested to learn more about one of the development of one of the most successful brand logos in this world, here is a great blogpost :http://www.creativebloq.com/logo-design/how-adidas-logo-earned-its-stripes-11135390

Are you curious about the piece Chas created? It will be on display at the Byting Willows exhibit at 1Spot Gallery in Phoenix from 2/20-4/17/2015.

If you can’t wait until then to familiarize yourself with Chas’s art, I strongly recommend you take a look at his blog (http://chasbanks.blogspot.com)!

Get To Know The Collaboration Artists – Carol Chiago Lujan

Carol Chiago Lujan

Carol Chiago Lujan

With this new series we want to introduce to you one by one to the master artists that will be part of the upcoming Byting Willows Exhibit.

Today: Carol Chiago Lujan (Dine’)

Flashback to August this year, when we visited Santa Fe Indian Market and IFAM with a binder full of basket and rug designs, scouting for master artists that worked in various media, to ask them to collaborate for the upcoming Byting Willows show. In preparation we had brainstormed a wish list of artists to approach.

Passing by the booth of Carol Chiago Lujan who displayed masks and glass objects, some of which looked like “glass rugs”, I stopped and knew, we had found somebody exceptional that would be perfectly suited to turn a rug design into a glass object.
The question remained how to approach her, as neither of us was previously acquainted with her. Carol made the conversation that followed incredibly easy and comfortable, as she was immediately interested in the project and committed to pick a design and bring it to life in glass.
For those of you that don’t know Carols work yet, here is a bit of background: Carol is a clay and glass artists and comes from a long history of Navajo weavers from the Big Water clan. Therefore art and the creative process have always been an important part of her heritage. Her sculpted clay horses and masks are inspired by her Navajo heritage.  The clay masks are usually colorfully painted with acrylics and/or glazed and embellished with parrot feathers.  Her recent work includes fused glass art.  Her glass art incorporates traditional designs into fused glass art pieces including masks, bowls and platters. In addition to her art interests, Carol has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of New Mexico.  She is professor emeritus at Arizona State University (ASU) and is pursuing her art interests full-time working in both New Mexico and Arizona.

Carol enjoys the creative process and continues to expand her knowledge about clay sculpting and glass fusing while incorporating tradition and culture into her pieces. Her inspiration continues to be founded on the beauty, strength, endurance, humor and sovereignty of American Indian nations and peoples.

If you are as anxious to see what Carol created for the Byting Willows exhibit as we are, then visit 1Spot Gallery in Phoenix between February 20th – April 17th 2015 and find out.

How much do you know about Hanis Coos Basketry?

photo by The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians

Example of a Hanis Coos Basket. Photo by The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians

My best guess, as much as I did before we asked contemporary Hanis Coos artist Sara Siestreem to join the roster for the Byting Willows exhibit. What a big surprise when I opened my email two weeks ago and found a picture of her finished basket for the exhibit; together with a wonderful background story about its meaning!

Excited I tried to find more information about Hanis Coos basketry – not an easy task,  I tell you. A google search resulted in a couple of images on the official tribal website as well as entries on a few blogs with either ethnobotanical background  or cultural focus.

The materials used are spruce root, conifers and bear grass which are all local to Oregon. It seems that most baskets have utilitarian use as storage devices for food, like acorns and berries, or traps to fish lampreys. The decoration consists of  many different designs of mostly geometric nature, some of which can be interpreted as part of a story such as the arrow design.

That about sums everything up I could find. Not much, don’t you think?

Sources: http://ctclusi.org/culture; https://ethnobotanywesternoregon.wordpress.com/category/coos/page/2/; http://jaredjestesnorthwestcoastindians.wordpress.com

Building A Solid Foundation


The natural selection of design dictates that designs build on our current knowledge of art history and cultures that we have come in contact with while growing up.  There was a period in my life that I would equate to an awakening in all forms seen and unseen, of legends neither seen nor heard.  My knowledge of my culture had been a few bits and pieces, including winter Coyote stories, string games, several ceremonies witnessed and as a participant.  It was in these ceremonies that I encountered the raw artistry in creating a sand painting. It was through my grandmother, who was a weaver, that I started noticing the differences in regional styles of a woven rug. It was through my grandparents that I could now see all aspects of my culture in a totally different light.  This, this art, was our legacy in coming in contact with early settlers and explorers!  This brush with early traders and explorers started producing artwork never conceived of before, a legacy that continues today with the current generation of native artists.

The ability to create, interpret and give light to new forms of art is inherent in us, in our genes, and it is a part of what drives us forward.  To keep discovering and to create new mash-ups in art.  For me, 1995 will be the year I found my tribe, the year I started learning and working at the Blue Mountain Trading Post.  I read and absorbed different chants and learned the structure of the Navajo world with fresh eyes, and I also learned the history of our people.  Along the way, I started reading and researching other cultures and their stories and beliefs, which led me to research the artwork of these cultures and see how designs played a role in shaping their view of reality.

Everyone is an artist at heart, but we all follow a pattern, a water faucet looks more or less the same, an automobile has pretty much the same function, the outside determines the beauty, as does the engine that powers it. At the heart of it all are designers and engineers who came together and solved a problem.  Marketing and advertising surround us with brand names, and we welcome new items into our lives and our houses.  An iPhone would not have the same impact it did with our culture, were it not wrapped in beautiful skin, a sandwich would not look good unless its photo/film shoot presents it as the star of the show. From the stove you cook on, to the toilet that you sit on, to the room that you’re currently in, it was designed with a purpose, and it has a name stamped on it.  You can tell from the logo on the product, the amount of pride companies take in bringing you its finished design.  This dedication is built upon years of experience and the only way you can get good at product design is to study and view different sources of design and design theory.

principlesGraphic Design taught me the skills I need to professionally produce art in many forms for clients and myself.  However, I’ve always used references in creating my tool set, and I thought I would share one of those today.  “Principles of Two-Dimensional Design“, by Wucius Wong was a book I found during this time, and it helped me to visualize geometric patterns on baskets and rugs. The book is a great primer into two-dimensional design and helps any artist or designer to create well balanced compositions.  The ideas presented apply to many facets of the art world, from printing, jewelry making, to graphic design; this book will help you in creating well balanced art. To illustrate the theories presented, student exercises are used extensively to show the book principles. These examples show different forms of repetition and form, while maintaining the simplicity and beauty of good design.  While current software easily allows you to duplicate the examples presented, by drawing and painting the examples presented, you gain a better understanding on creating a piece with harmony in both negative and positive space.

Space is important in a well-designed product, a balanced product of our society, whether that be commercial or home brewed is hard to achieve but possible. The brand and identity we create, shape our surroundings and lend to the graphic experience that we call life.  That next logo that you see, that killer t-shirt, a great website, or a painting?  It’s your brand name, because you’re proud of the way your product looks.


It takes 90 days to establish a routine or habit…..

thats what I teach customers day in day out, implementing changes in their facilities. Easier said than done I have to admit but absolutely necessary.

Still debating if we will be able to get a contract with a “niche publisher” for the Byting Willows Book or if we will publish it ourselves, I attended a writers and publishers conference in Camarillo CA last week to find answers to all the questions buzzing around in my head. SPAWN (Small Publishers And Writers Network) sponsored the event and the panels and speakers were fantastic. I now have a “how to” guide when it comes to self publishing as well as learned some nice tricks of the trade and was able to network.

Newly focused, energized and motivated, it is time to find space in my life to write and create. Working from home, sitting at the same desk switching from the PC to the MAC doesn’t sound too appealing, hence I found a nice coffee shop to spend a couple of hours after work each day to move this project to the next milestone.

Ask me in 90 days what I have accomplished 🙂

Multifaceted Deities


Sachmet – the Egyptian goddess of war and healing

Business trips are far less glamorous than one might think, especially spending extended time in countries which do not provide a safe environment to venture out and explore.

On a positive note, this leaves ample time to take a deep dive into the project at hand and accomplish some major progress 🙂

As we are finalizing the database part of this project, and having catalogued and categorized nearly 1400 designs (rugs and baskets), it is about time to start breathing life into each catalogue number by providing a brief description of the stories and symbols depicted, as well as other influences that might have led to a certain design.

Hence I am immersing myself into Dine’ legends and stories utilizing the website of the Twin Rocks Trading Post as my main anchor, as they have a superb section on anything and everything you ever wanted to know on this topic – thank you Damian for compiling and posting all of this on the website back in the day!


Reading up on Coyote, First Woman and Fire God amongst others, makes me realize how multifaceted these deities / beings are. They can be treacherous and at the same time something good might come out of their actions. They can personify good and evil aspects. They make great role models for humans, as it is easy to identify ourselves with them and their actions.

If I compare the Dine’ pantheon, if you so will, with the Greek and Roman pantheon, than it becomes very evident how black and white those gods are described. Very one dimensional, as most of them  personify one human aspect which is heightened similar to a superhero. They do not show much of a character development at all. The human emotions they portrait are greed, warmongery, jealousy etc., mostly character flaws if you ask me.

Looking at the Egyptian pantheon, Sachmet comes to mind, the goddess of war, which at the same time personifies a great healer – duality equal to what I read in the Dine’ legends – but Sachmet is an exception to the rule.

How did I end up sneaking an ancient Egyptian goddess into this blog? No idea – I guess it’s difficult to completely forget ones roots.

until next time…….