Artist: Agnes Gray

Materials: Sumac (Rhus trilobata)


First Phase Chief Blanket Basket (1995)

The bold stripes and richly colored background in Agnes Gray’s basket pay homage to a uniquely Diné (Navajo) style of rug weaving that started in the 1820s. Known as Chief Blankets, these finely woven textiles were often worn across the shoulders of a prominent person. Rug weavers sometimes took a year to weave them, making these rugs rare as well as beautiful. Duplicating the simple beauty of the Chief Blankets in a basket was more difficult than it seems. “I got frustrated with this basket because it was hard to make,” Agnes explains. Moreover, Agnes notes, “The red color is a natural dye from a berry.” Using a natural vegetal dye added to the time and effort required to weave the basket.