Pueblo Embroidery

IARC Seminar

February 15–17, 1996

We are delighted to report that five patrons supported the IAF in 1995-96, enabling the Indian Arts Research Center to embark on the Pueblo Indian Embroidery Project. This project included a convocation and a public market and will result in a publication. Embroidery dates back in time more than a thousand years and graces many Classic-period textiles from the Rio Grande pueblos as well as Acoma, Zuni, and Hopi. Many types of clothing were decorated in this fashion, including women’s white cotton mantas and black wool mantas, and men’s white cotton shirts, breechcloths, and kilts.

There is good reason for the general lack of public knowledge about, and interest in, Pueblo embroidered textiles. They were made to meet the needs of an internal Pueblo market, and the number of people who collect Pueblo embroidery is relatively small. Unlike other types of Pueblo artistic work, traditional embroidered textiles have not changed to meet the demands of a marketplace. Instead they must be appreciated for their historical significance, cultural authenticity, technical proficiency, and the artistic interpretations that they display.

To address these and other Pueblo embroidery issues, in February 1996 the School for Advanced Research hosted a four-day Pueblo Embroidery Convocation that was supported by the IAF. Eleven Pueblo embroiderers participated in discussions at the School’s Indian Arts Research Center and stayed together in the School’s seminar house. The convocation participants represented the villages of Acoma, Laguna, Jemez, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and San Juan and ranged in age from twenty-eight to eighty-six.

Through the Indian Arts Fund, each of the convocation participants was commissioned to produce an embroidered textile to be added to the School’s permanent collections. They used their creations as a basis for extended discussions about the past, present, and future of the tradition. In the words of Isabel Gonzales of San Ildefonso Pueblo, one of the organizers of this project, “The mission of the convocation was to help stimulate more interest in Pueblo embroidery inside and outside the pueblos, especially among Pueblo children, so they can continue to pass it along to the next generation.”

The first-ever Pueblo Embroidery Market, held in conjunction with the annual San Felipe Pueblo Arts Show in October 1996, was a direct outgrowth of the convocation. The market was a means of bringing together a broad cross-section of embroiderers and their works at a time when increased communication and sharing of ideas are crucial to public understanding and appreciation of this unique tradition. More than thirty Pueblo embroiderers exhibited their work and demonstrated their styles and tools for thousands of visitors, many of whom were exposed for the first time to the rich heritage and aesthetic beauty of Pueblo embroidery as works of art.

With the help of the Indian Arts Fund, the IARC acquired seven additional pieces at the market. The IAF-sponsored activities have provided significant information for a book on Pueblo embroidery to be written by research associate Marian E. Rodee. The book will trace the history of this traditional art form, concentrating on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and describe the convocation and market.

Visit the online exhibition which was developed as a result of this seminar: We Dance with Them: Pueblo Indian Embroidery.

Lydia Chinana Jemez
Mabel Fraqua Jemez
Isabel Gonzales San Ildefonso
Lucy Yepa Lowden Acoma
Juana Marie Pecos Jemez
Frances Pino Laguna
Evelyn Bird Quintana San Juan
Ramoncita Sandoval San Juan
Shawn Tafoya Santa Clara
Leonore Toledo Jemez
Phyllis Tosa Jemez

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