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…….






Welcome to the Byting Willows Project!

Welcome friends, collectors, and design aficionados, this blog will update everyone involved with the Byting Willows Project.

For those of you that are new here, a little bit of background information.

The origins of the Byting Willows Project lie in the artwork that Dine’ artist and graphic designer Damian Jim created  in the nineties and early two thousand for the Twin Rocks Trading Post in Bluff Utah. The designs sparked a revolution in contemporary Dine’ basket weaving, and was featured in various basket books and an exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah in 2013.  The story of this revolution has been told from the weavers perspective and showcased examples of the finished baskets in a large design catalog.

This project will – for the first time – tell the story from the perspective of the graphic designer himself as well as publish a complete catalog of his designs in a book and an accompanying App.

The venture will culminate in an exhibit at 1Spot Gallery in Phoenix Arizona, in Spring 2015.  The exhibit will tell the story with examples of the weaving’s and demonstrate how strong the designs are when interpreted by master artists in other materials.

Join us on this exciting journey as well will update you regularly on its progress on this blog!

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