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When A Trading Post Becomes A National Park or A Grand Canyon Hotel!

23 Mar

Part of our tour of the Navajo and Hopi reservations were visits to different trading posts and shops along the way.   But nothing prepared me for the wonderful Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado, Arizona.

First you need to know that I love historic homes.  Show me a home museum, and you have shown me the spark of joy!   The Hubbell Trading Post combines the history of trading between the outside world and the Navajo as well as a historic home.

The trading post itself was an important commerce arena for the Navajo.  John Lorenzo Hubbell, his wife, Lina Rubi, and their children were friends to the Navajo people.  Although they made money off of them through the trade of their native art works for goods sold at the trading post, they cared about the people.  This shows in the fact that the Hubbell Trading Post was under the business eye of the Hubbell family from the 1880s until well past Hubbell’s death in 1930.  In fact a member of the Hubbell family ran the trading post until  1967, when his daughter-in-law Dorothy Hubbell sold the post to the National Park Service.

The Trading Post still works as a trading post today along with the US post office at the post.  Today it is managed by the Western National Parks Association, with the profits going to programs of the National Park Service.

But seeing and shopping at the Trading Post is not the only highlight of this visit.  We also had the opportunity to see the Hubbell home, which sits behind the trading post.  The big central room has three doors on each side leading to the bedrooms used by John and Lina and their children.   We did not see the kitchen, which was a separate area.  But we were happy to see the house.  It was a snowy cold day and they allowed us in, with the caveat that we had to take off our shoes!!!  BRRRR.

The original woven rugs are no longer on the floors, but the recreations are also stunning.  The walls filled with painting and art work, the ceilings covered with woven baskets, the giant wooden beams, the high ceilings, the unusual lighting, all create an atmosphere that gave me joy.

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The Visitors’ Center a few steps away from the Trading Post was also a great stop.   Inside you can pick up brochures, learn about the history of the trading post. The display about weaving was wonderful.  The best part was the opportunity to watch a woman weave in the traditional manner.  Well worth the visit!

Seeing the Hubbell Trading Post would have been enough for my trading post desires, but we had an additional bonus. The last night of our trip was spent at the hotel at the Cameron Trading Post. Just over 100 years old, (founded in 1916) it is just one mile from the Grand Canyon and just steps away from the Little Colorado River.

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The enormous store or trading post is filled with items from the Navajo and Hopi.  It was a feast for the eyes, but not for the wallet!!!  We went through the shop many times on our way to the restaurant, and just for entertainment.     The dining hall was a work of art itself with its tin ceiling, wonderful rock fireplace, rug hangings and antique windows.

We enjoyed the night in our spacious hotel room where we could easily go out and see the bridge that spanned the river.

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I was glad that we were able to learn the history of trading posts that were positive for the Navajo and Hopi peoples.  It was exciting to spend time at them and to learn about the importance in the past and their continued importance now.

 

What I learned About Hopi Pottery and Navajo Jewelry

21 Mar

As part of our study of the Hopi and the Navajo cultures, we did not just go to museums, we also learned from people who live on the reservation.   Learning about the crafts of Hopi pottery and Navajo silversmithing increased our knowledge about how these crafts passed from generation to generation forming a bond that helped their families survive harsh times.

On the Hopi reservation we met and watched Dorothy Ami as she taught us the art of Hopi pottery. Although her first interest in pottery was just for enjoyment, she eventually apprenticed herself to her cousin, Mark Tahbo, who was a well-known Hopi potter. Both Dorothy and Mark were descendants of Grace Chapella, who learned her craft from one of the original Hopi women who re-introduced pottery to the Hopi Reservation, Nampeyo of Hano.

Our morning with Dorothy was inspiring as we watched her create a pottery bowl; viewed her finished items, and watched her finish painting another bowl.   She spoke to us as she worked explaining the history of Hopi Pottery, about her family, and the way the clay and sandstone come together to form a pot.

Hopi pottery is not spun on a wheel, instead it is made by free hand. She mixes the clay and sandstone, using different colored clay for different types of pottery. She knows when the mixture is ready by tasting it! To make a pot she first forms the first bowl.  She then makes coils of clay and builds the pot, which she then smooths and then burnishes with a river bed rock.

“I let the clay take over,” she told us.  “I cannot force it into a shape.”  After she burnishes a pot that is formed, she thinks about the design for that pot and draws it on a piece of paper.  She knows what each color clay turns when it is fired.  And what the different natural colors that she uses to paint turn as well.

Her pottery pieces were lovely.  To see them in each stage, being formed, burnishing, painting, painted but not fired and then fired, added to my appreciation of what she does and how her art has helped her family survive in a situation where many are unemployed. Hopi pottery making is a skill and a craft that spans generations.  Her children and grandchildren are also now making pots.  And one of her prized possessions is a pot that her grandmother made that she was able to purchase off of EBay!

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Dorothy’s grandmother’s pot.

Our guide, Azalia Begay, is also an artist.  A member of the Navajo Tribe, Azalia learned the craft of jewelry making from her grandfather who was also a silversmith.  Like those who learn Hopi pottery, the Navajo who learn silversmithing always have an opportunity to have an income in a tight economic situation as exists on the reservations.

For the Navajo people, the art of jewelry making came mainly after they were forced off their lands in the Canyon De Chelly and forced to walk to Fort Sumner in New Mexico.   Many learned the skills of blacksmithing while they were imprisoned for four years at the Fort.  When they returned to Arizona and their Reservation and lands, the skills they learned as blacksmiths became skills that could be used for silversmithing and jewelry making.

The use of turquoise came even later.  The color of turquoise represents the sky to Navajo and it is a symbol of good fortune.  In the late 1800s the Navajo artists combined their silversmithing with the turquoise and an art form was created.  Azalia told us the differences about natural, stabilized, re-constituted and block turquoise.  Don’t ask if it is real.  All of these are real to a degree.  Ask more detailed questions!!!

Azalia uses silver, turquoise and coral to make her lovely designs.  We had the opportunity to watch her make a piece of jewelry as she told us the story of how she learned to make jewelry from her grandfather and the story of the first pendant she made.

After her demonstration, she asked if we would like to see her work.  Of course we did!  There were three pieces that I fell in love with and would like to own.  That was a bit out of reach.  But one piece called my name, and since it was soon to be my wedding anniversary, I thought I needed it.  Azalia makes turquoise and coral into beads.  My necklace is a five-strand turquoise beaded gem!   The other two pieces I loved were also purchased by women on our trip.   We all were delighted with our new original and one of a kind Navajo jewelry.

An added bonus of buying the anniversary necklace was that Azalia helped me search for the perfect pair of earrings to wear with it. We found them from a jewelry vender at the stop in Monument Valley by the John Ford Point, which also has meaning in my life. ( See blog below.)

Learning about a culture includes learning about the crafts that they use to beautify the world around them.  Learning about Hopi pottery and Navajo jewelry enhanced my knowledge about life on the reservations.

 

 https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/16/monument-valley-invokes-images-of-my-dad/

https://www.adobegallery.com/artist/Mark_Tahbo7775040

https://www.adobegallery.com/artist/Dorothy_Ami196281153

http://aroundtherez.blogspot.com/p/navajo-artist-profile-azalea-begay.html

 

Pueblo Grande and the Heard Museum Starts Our Quest into Native Cultures

19 Mar

We recently went on a Road Scholar program to learn about the Hopi Mesas and Navajo Lands of Canyon de Chelly.  Our first stop on this journey was Phoenix, Arizona, where we met up with the group of 34 including our two guides.

Before it started, my husband and I discovered the Pueblo Grande Museum and archeological park.  We arrived hours before our first program was to start, so decided to walk from our hotel to a restaurant nearby.  Right across the street from this museum.  What a delightful accident.

First stop, when entering the museum was a short movie about the Hohokam people and this site. It helped to adjust our minds back in time to the lives of those who lived here.  The museum showed us what was found in the site and explained more the way of life.

After we exited the back door, we walked through the grounds and the 2/3 mile loop around the ancient platform mound, which dates to the 1400.  We saw the evidence of the Hohokam people’s irrigation canals and homes.  We were amazed by the large oval ballcourt that was used, they believe from 750 – 1200 AD.    This court was my favorite part of the archeological site, but for many it was the mound. Later in our trip, after I had been on the tops of the Mesa’s where the Hopi live, I could imagine that this platform was built to imitate the mesas.  I don’t know if this is true, but it is my vision of the site.

This was a wonderful way to learn the history of the Pueblo people, the ancestors of both the Hopi and Navajo.

Later that evening, our official program began.  We would go in the morning to our first stop on the official agenda, the Heard Museum in Phoenix.  I had been there before, but without the help of a museum docent.  Having this knowledge helped us understand what we were looking at during the tour of the arts and history of the Navajo people, which is highlighted at the museum.

We saw the pottery, weaving, baskets, wood carvings and jewelry made and designed by the native peoples of Arizona.  I cannot say one was more beautiful than another because each type of art was magnificent in its own way.

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The walls filled with Kachina/Katsina spirit carvings opened my eyes to how these carvings changed over the centuries. And the history behind them revealed part of the culture, how they were used to teach young girls about the spirits that bring rain and information.

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Seeing the multitude of baskets and pottery and rugs along the walls of the museum, showed me how these home arts went from useful and decorative to now works of art.  The workmanship in the making of these crafts amazes.

Finally, the silver and turquoise and coral jewelry that the Navajo peoples make is stunning.  This is a skill that they learned after the Long Walk, when the people of the Navajo needed to rebuild their community. And the tools and skills they learned in blacksmithing helped them to turn these skills to jewelry design. While the turquoise was considered good fortune as it connected to the blue of the sky.

After our time with the docent, many of us went upstairs to an older section of the museum to view the newly redesigned exhibit on Native peoples and the boarding schools they went to in the late 1800s, early 1900s. These schools were seen as a way to assimilate the children into the Anglo-European culture.   Many still go to boarding schools today, as the people in the reservations are so spread out.  But no longer are they told to not express their own culture.

Day one ended with a long bus ride to the Hopi Reservation and then a two-day stay at the Hopi Indian Cultural Center on the Second Mesa.

Do I Need A Thimble? I Guess So.

23 Oct

When I first started sewing and doing needle work like embroidery, my paternal grandmother gifted me two thimbles. One was hers and well worn, the other was brand new and silver. She told me that I needed a thimble because it would make sewing much easier and would protect my fingers from calluses and cuts.  She was probably right.

I still have these two thimbles, but to be honest, I actually hated using one.  I tried for the longest time to get comfortable having a metal hat on my finger.  I usually did not wear the thimble all the time, rather I just put it on for a moment when I had a tough, stubborn stitch to get through layers of fabric.

My paternal grandparents are the ones who nurtured my interest in the sewing/knitting/crocheting arts.  Grandma taught me how to knit and crochet.  Grandpa was a tailor who helped me with the intricate details of sewing like the best way to match plaids, especially around pockets.

He also taught me how to cut/design a pattern to fit a specific person.   This came in handy as my maternal grandmother had scoliosis, so when I made her dresses, I had to make one side of the dress two to three inches shorter than the other side without it looking weird. Thanks to my grandfather, I was able to accomplish these designs. I have written about my grandfather’s tailor shop on Delancey Street.  See blog below.)

The gifts of the two thimbles were part of that nurturing and encouragement.  I kept them close in my sewing basket for those times when I did need them.  But after a while, I put them in a safe place, because I did not want to lose them.

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My printer’s box and almost all my thimbles.

Eventually the two thimbles became the start of my thimble collection.  It is not large, about 60 thimbles in all.  Although I have not purchased a thimble in years, I still have them on display in my kitchen’s printer’s box – the perfect spot for tiny collections.

Printer’s boxes were popular about 35 years ago, when printers went from hot type to computer generated type.  As a journalism student, I actually learned to set type and had to memorize where the different letters and spacers and numbers were kept in this box.  I still remember some.  My first cousin gave me my printer’s box as a gift.  It was the perfect for me for my journalism background and for my thimbles.

Most of my thimbles came from places I visited.  They were the perfect item to remember a trip, as they did not cost too much and were convenient to carry.  I have thimbles with Disney characters; others showing famous sites like Golden Gate Bridge or the Alamo or Mount Vernon; some depict cities like New Orleans.  Most are from different states in the USA that I visited, but others come from other countries like Budapest, Hungary; Dominica; Spain.  I even have three thimbles from NASA! Two depict the space shuttle, and one shows an astronaut floating in Space.

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A close up of my printer’s box, you can see my three Nasa thimbles and the top left is my limoges one.

Some thimbles are so lovely with hand painted landscapes or designs.  One is made of cloisonné, another is from Limoges.  I actually have a little sewing machine from Limoges in my printer’s box. I am sure my Mom got them for me as they are pink and red.  I would have purchased blue!  But my Mom often got me items in the warm tones.

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The case holding my Spanish scissors and thimble.

I do have one other special thimble purchased for me by my parents.  It is housed in a red leather box with a pair of scissors. Inside the box is marked with the words, Artes De Toledo.  I believe my parents purchased this set for me when they went to Spain about 30 years ago. Toledo has a history of making both swords and damascene metal inlay.

My scissors and thimble are definitely Spanish!  They have the look of damascene metal inlaying, but with colored inlay.  I know that Toledo is famous for its steel work. But I  have never seen anything else like it, so I googled Spanish scissors and found scissors very similar to mine.  They were labeled “Toledo antique embroidery scissors”.  Makes sense, as I used my set for embroidering as well.  I will say that  mine is in much better shape than the ones shown on Pinterest!  There were even four cases with matching scissors and thimbles, similar to mine!  All from the 1920s and 1930s.  Which makes me wonder, where exactly this set came from!

I have not looked at my thimble collection for years.  I see them in the printer’s box, but I don’t really look at them and remember when I purchased them.  The special case from Toledo, I keep up in my sewing room, closed and put away.  Thus, I must say thank you to AtticSister and her blog post about a thimble case, which sparked my search for my red leather box and to look more closely at my thimbles.  You can read her blog here:  https://atticsister.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/antique-walnut-thimble-case/

Earlier blogs I wrote about sewing.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/29/my-birthday-sewing-machines/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/27/why-i-gave-away-a-bit-of-my-moms-memory/

 

Puzzle Mania After Visiting the Springbok Puzzle Factory

25 Sep

It finally happened!  My husband got to visit the Springbok Puzzle Factory in Kansas City.  A member of our congregation owns it and was kind enough to let my husband come for a tour. (See previous blog below.)

It surpassed all of his expectations.

For days there was the build-up of excitement as my husband counted down to the actual visit.  When the day arrived, he was almost impatient to go to work, because he knew that afternoon was puzzle factory time.

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Puzzles resting before being cut.

But the build-up was nothing compared to his joy in actually going and seeing how jigsaw puzzles are made!  He took photos of the process; he took videos; he took photos of himself and his kind host.  The visit was beyond what he imagined.  His host went around with him for a private tour!  So kind!  To be honest, I think he enjoyed my husband’s enthusiastic excitement.

I actually told the owner that when my husband retired, I hoped that they could hire him to work in the factory, since that was all I heard about for days.  I suggested that he be hired as a tester!  Just to put puzzles together each and every day.

From that point on, my husband wanted one thing only, a 2000-piece puzzle.  Up to then he thought that 1,000-piece puzzles were the best. But while at the factory he saw much larger puzzles.  And the size that tempted him the most was 2000.

When he got home that day and for the next few days, he spoke continually about the puzzles. He watched puzzle videos of people putting together large puzzles, including some guy who used his entire basement floor to do an 18,000-piece puzzle.  That was out of the question for our house.  Although he did ask if he could order it.  I think he was joking, but I said ‘NO’ emphatically.

When my daughter and her husband were in town in June, she and I went to a store where she purchased a 2000-piece Springbok puzzle for my husband’s Fathers’ Day gift.  It was a grand success.  He could not wait to get going on it!  But had to wait for a few days as we had an out of town wedding to attend.

Our usual puzzle table was not big enough for this monster puzzle, so I allowed him to use our dining room table with the caveat that he had to be done by early September.  Every evening after work and on weekends, he worked on it.  I sat with him and worked part of it as well. I like the blue pieces.

Labor Day weekend was a puzzle feast.  We had company who helped as well.  But my deadline was not fulfilled even with all the help.  Those white pieces were impossible.  They even stumped an engineer!

I needed my table. But we could not take the puzzle apart.  It was a stressful situation!  I even posted our dilemma on Facebook.  Thank goodness I did.  A friend had the answer in the genius idea of us putting our table pads over the puzzle!  It was an excellent idea, saving the puzzle, my holiday meal, and probably our marriage!

The puzzle kept him busy for three entire months, till mid-September.  It is now packed away in two one-gallon ziplock bags to go to the home of another puzzle addict.  I plan to let him work on his 1000-piece puzzles for a few months before I surprise him with another giant Springbok jigsaw puzzle to feed his mania.

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One piece left. He always leaves the last piece for me.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/01/13/jigsaw-puzzles-and-true-love/

The Art of Kintsugi is Changing How I View The River of My Life

12 Mar

I recently learned about the Japanese way of repairing broken ceramics through a process called kintsugi.  When a beloved pot or plate or mug or bowl or vase breaks, we usually throw it away.  There is not good repair for these items. But the Japanese developed a way to bond them together and make them more beautiful.   After a resin used to bond the broken pieces together and the edges are smoothed, the repair is completed with gold (kintsugi) or silver (gintsugi) painted into the mended areas.  They form golden veins.  This ‘Golden repair” makes the object more beautiful than before.

When I first read about kintsugi, I had one of those moments of epiphany that occurs when two totally different areas of my life combine.   I was going to be facilitating an evening class with my friend.  We had 19 women signed up to do a project called “the River of Life,’ which is part of the Wise Aging program designed by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

My friend and I participated in a two-day workshop to become instructors several years ago.  We had taught a full class on the topic of Wise Aging, but this was our first class in a while.  We were only going to touch on this one area where participants look back through their life, remembering the stories that were important to them, while seeing the threads and trends that impacted how they journeyed through life.

Sometimes people have a difficult time looking back on their lives. Events occurred that bring them distress because they have been unable to overcome the emotions that those memories bring to them.  They cannot get past and cannot move forward.  They see this as a broken thread; an unresolved flaw in their river.

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Although not Kintsugi, the turquoise embedded in the bowl’s cracks and flaws makes it more beautiful

It was while I was preparing for this class that I was reading a book for my job called, “The Growth Mindset Playbook, A Teacher’s Guide to Promoting Student Success.”  In Chapter 5, subtitled as “Failure As A path to Success,” the authors ended the chapter with information about kintsugi. In the book the authors wrote, “These restorations are not seen as a flaw in the piece, but as part of its history and something that makes it uniquely beautiful, and more interesting and valuable than before.”

YES!  The journeys we take in our lives are like the rivers with bends and falls and excitement, thrilling moments followed by peaceful floats.  Events occur that we cannot control.  We can only control our reactions to these events.  We have some control of the boat and the steering, but oftentimes events shatter our world.  We feel broken.  But we, like items repaired through kintsugi, are actually more beautiful and interesting because of our experiences.  We learn through each event we see and experience.  We become wiser and we can provide so much guidance.

Through failure we learn.   But is it really failure?  I think not.  Each episode or event in our life enriches our understanding of ourselves and of others. Empathy and compassion for others is increased when we can see the world in their place.

I am feel emotional attachment to those who suffer from infertility, because I too suffered though this.  I also underwent procedures and surgeries in an effort to have a family.  I feel what they feel.  But the golden veins of repair have helped me be a compassionate friend.

I saw kintsugi as the perfect way to explain this philosophy to the class.

The important aim, for me, is to always keep positive.  I want to see my life’s journey completed by golden and silver streams of repairs. Each one making me stronger and more lovely.  My outlook on the world might be different then before I needed the repair. When I look back at my life I want no regrets.  I want to believe that all that happened made me stronger, just as the repairs increase the strength of the broken ceramics

I believe, like kintsugi, each of our journeys through the river of our lives is uniquely beautiful.  It just takes us opening our eyes and seeing the best and not focusing on the hardships that will get us through.

We Toured An Exbibit of Judith Lieber Handbags in Memory of Our Mom

27 Jul

I am a very sentimental person, I admit it. My sister is as well. So when I saw there would be an exhibit  of Judith Lieber handbags at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC when I was there this summer, I knew we had to go.


Our Mom loved pocketbooks, as we call them back East. She had a large collection of stunning bags, which we divided among her granddaughters, daughters and daughter in law when she passed away. Each purse was a beloved friend kept safe in its cloth covering.

Mom loved to shop for pocketbooks and shoes. Every shopping adventure ended up at a shoe store. In her closet were dozens of pairs of shoes stored in neat see-through boxes, along with the carefully stored purses.

My daughter, brought up in the Midwest, learned her love of purses from my Mom. In the Midwest we call them purses, while in New Jersey the same item was a pocketbook. My daughter came up with a new word, a ‘pocket purse’, to describe the carryall held by almost all women.  As a child she would proudly walk with my Mom, each holding their own ‘pocket purse.’

One of my favorites at the exhibit.

So going to see Judith Lieber’s designs seemed apropos. As we walked through the exhibit, delighted to see the crystal evening minaudieres, the leather creations, and letters from former First Ladies, we remembered buying purses that were inspired by Lieber designs. We wished we could have owned an original. I wished my Mom could have had at least one. She would have cherished it.

Reading a time line of Lieber’s life in Hungary before and during the Second World War, we were impressed at how she found a career she loved and was able to flourish a bit even in times of terror.  I was glad that her love of an American soldier brought her safety and that he too was an artist.

Each piece in the exhibit made us pause and remember our Mom, while thinking of the creativity and imagination of Lieber.  We had a wonderful imagining owning one of these and choosing which ones were our favorites.

 

Update:  In November I was able to purchase a pair of Judith Lieber sunglasses at a charity auction.   In April, she and her husband Gerson died hours apart.  May their names be a blessing.