I grew up in a traditional Navajo (Diné) setting, speaking my language and learning from Navajo tradition. I am born for the Totsoni (Big Water) clan and born into the Tachiini (Red Running into Earth) clan. My clans are my identity and they acknowledge that I am Diné.
The inspiration for my weavings comes primarily from my home environment on the Navajo reservation. I grew up on the vast open land of the "middle road" homestead in Tselani, Arizona. In my language Tselani translates as "many rocks." It is a remote community tucked away among white cliffs and with walls sculpted by wind and erosion. The conical shaped cliffs are majestically molded into elongated searing vertical formations, and the tops are capped with mushroom-shaped structures.
I am blessed that I can stand outside my home (hogan) and see far in all four directions. There are formations outlined in stepped patterns painted in bundles of red streaks, subtle shades of pinks, clusters of dusty-ochre, and flickering sand tone colors. At dawn, shoots of pale baby blue awaken the sky, and I sometimes see deep dark indigo, pinks and shades of soft yellows. The sunrise is often my canvas - it seduces my imagination with colors, curiosity, and beauty. These images are replaced at the end of the day by flaming oranges as the sun sets for the evening and night takes on dark, forbidding colors. These daily encounters with light, color, remarkable land formations, and a lifetime of memories are the textures I reflect on, interpret, and explore in my tapestries.
The foundation of my weaving is my family: weaving has been passed down for many generations. I learned to weave at an early age and was involved in raising sheep, shearing, cleaning, carding and spinning. Some of my early weavings conformed to the various Navajo regional or "traditional" patterns. My first rug at age 10, a Ganado style pattern, was quite a challenge. At that age I did not have any knowledge of the many regional styles and colors. I simply incorporated geometric designs and the "Ganado" red that I had seen other women weave. However, I was not totally enamored with this inflexible style and its repetitive motifs. I wanted to invent and explore my own ideas.
My desire and love for weaving resurfaced while I studied at Arizona State University. As part of my art curriculum, I took courses in fiber arts that introduced me to many styles of weaving from around the world. I became engrossed in researching different weaving techniques and materials. I began a new phase of experimentation with my own weaving.
In the 1990s, I began another chapter in my weaving story as I was raising my young son and spending more time at home. Although I continued to use the traditional Navajo weaving techniques, I felt compelled to explore my own style and follow my aspirations for designing and dyeing.
As I learned more about plant dyeing, I recalled my days spent roaming the desert and eroded washes that were deep and endless, with vibrant colored soil and vegetation that cradled colors for dyes. My resources for color are lodged in dried weathered locations, forbidding holes, crevices in canyon walls and tree trunks. The yarns and dyes that I use are intimately related to our sheep and our land. I feel a great connection to the plants that I now gather to produce colors that so appealed to me as a young girl.
My evolution as a weaver has meant allowing myself to drift away from traditional Navajo style, but I adhere to the same weaving techniques that have been passed down for generations. I love exploring ways to express my own style and personal interpretations to capture the soul of Mother Earth. My tapestries have their own designs and style and they demonstrate my ideas as they evolved on the warp.
-- D.Y. Begay, December 2012