Monday, June 13, 2016

Sold to the lady in the front row doing a happy dance

On the second Friday of every month, weavers from across the Navajo nation 
bring their rugs to the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction in Crownpoint, New Mexico, 
to be sold. I went to the auction in June 1999, regrettably without my checkbook, 
and have been wanting to go back ever since. Since Ethel is always up for a shopping trip,
she and I made the long drive to last Friday's auction. 
This time, I made sure to take my checkbook.

The rugs are on display for a few hours prior to the bidding. 
Each one is tagged with a number and the name and location of the weaver. 
Prospective buyers can inspect them and try to decide which ones to bid on.
They were all uniquely beautiful, and I wanted to bid on almost all of them.

The atmosphere was very friendly, and I joked with every person who picked up this one,
#4051, that it already had my name on it and please move along. 

The auction started promptly at 7 p.m. when the auctioneers – 
or, as the auction lady called them, "the boys who make the noise" – 
began the bidding for this rug, which I believe was made by a weaver from Two Grey Hills.
The rugs from this area seemed to be among the most popular, and this one sold for $1,350.

At the Crownpoint auction, you are buying rugs directly from the weavers, 
without a middleman's markup, so the prices are much less expensive 
than buying from a gallery. (This gallery shows a very large collection of Navajo rugs 
and has a lot of background information, if you're interested.) 
The weaver sets the minimum price she will accept,
and the auctioneer starts the bidding a little bit higher than that.
This rug sold for $1,100. A lot of things factor into the price of the rug, but generally,
the price increases with size, the number of colors, the intricacy of the pattern,
the quality of the weaving, and the renown of the weaver.

Amazingly to me, this rug was a "no sale." No one wanted to pay the $900 minimum bid.
The rugs go through the auction only once, and any rug that does not sell is set aside.
At the end of the auction, buyers can negotiate directly with the weavers 
to purchase a rug that hasn't sold.  

It broke my heart every time there was a "no sale" – and there were many – 
knowing that the weaver had worked long and hard and likely traveled
very far from the corners of the reservation, only to go home without any money,
which would likely have been used to provide for her family.
This rug did sell, for $550.

I loved this one but didn't bid on it because the size
and pattern intricacy would push it beyond my budget.
It sold for $900.

There seemed to be more "no sales" among the larger rugs. 
Most of the very small rugs sold quickly and in the range of $50 - $150.

When this rug came up for bid, I was immediately discouraged.
I thought it might be from the same region (Teec Nos Pos) as the one I'd had my heart set on,
and it sold for $1,600. It was larger than "mine," though, so I still held out hope.

Finally, #4051, came up for bid. The auctioneer started the bidding at $450. arbitrary limit was $500. I raised my number and jumped into the fray.
Then the lady two seats away from me bid against me! The nerve.
The bidding went back and forth for a few rounds, but I was determined.
The other bidder finally dropped out and I got it for $600.
I was ecstatic and did a happy dance right there in my chair.

After I paid for it and picked it up, I walked over to the line
where the weavers were waiting for their checks, hoping to meet the artist
who created my rug. I think she must have been watching the buyer's line,
hoping to see who had bought her rug, because our eyes connected at the same time.

Happy buyer, happy weaver (Stella Rockbridge), beautiful rug.

Ethel helped me hang the rug in the living room,
where I can see it from my favorite chair.

Something tells me I'll be spending
more time looking at the rug than the TV.


  1. Wow, what a beautiful rug, and interesting story about this auction!

  2. What a great experience and congrats on getting just the rug you wanted.

  3. Way to go Carson. It looks beautiful in your place. You've waited a long time for this rug. Glad it came your way.

  4. yours is beautiful and that is the perfect place for it. right over that wonderful lighted horseshoe lamp which is what i would be staring at.. enjoyed the story. i wonder if the red that did not sell had to do with the long and narrow size..

  5. All of them are beautiful, but yours is definitely my favorite. You got pick of the litter! Wonderful that you got to meet the weaver.

  6. Great choice! And you can watch TV and the rug at the same time. Did the weaver say how long it takes to make a rug like that? SO much tedious creative work!

  7. Beautiful rug! And how cool to meet the creator of it :)

  8. Gorgeous Teec Nos Poc ! I'm so glad that the other bidder dropped out.
    My checkbook would have been in big trouble if I had been at the auction. How did you stay away for all these years?

    I may not be from the southwest, but I do appreciate all the work and EXPERTISE it takes to create such a rug. I will probably never get to the auction, however some years ago I did find an Albuquerque store that sells a number of crafts, including cross stitch designs online.

    I may have over-indulged (ha ha). I haven't checked their designs lately, but included a few links below.

    Needle crafts link :

    Teec Nos Poc design: (I'm started working this one on canvas with DMC cotton)

    M in NC

  9. Michelle from Vancouver6/13/16, 6:37 AM

    So jealous! I'm glad I do not live close to a rug auction .... I'd be in big trouble. So many beautiful rugs.
    Your rug is amazing and to meet the artist, very cool.

  10. Beautiful rug and great photos. I own a Two Gray Hills rug from years back when we didn't have a lot of money but they were cheaper then... although maybe factoring in inflation not so much. I later bought one with the wonderful red but not a lot of it. Mine is just on the cornstalks. We also bought Hopi, Pueblo, Zuni, etc. pottery back then but they're one of those things I have to be very careful where I put them as they are fragile. I love the photos of the women weaving those rugs. The whole process is inspiring.

  11. Beautiful! So glad you were able to enhance your home and help an artist continue to produce her amazing work.

  12. Oh my, I would have to seriously restrain myself at that auction. The rugs are beautiful. Congrats on getting the one you wanted without too badly breaking the budget.

  13. I can certainly see how someone could get into trouble at the auction. Beautiful pieces! Lucky girl!

  14. Beautiful rug. And the weaver got to enjoy the bidding war too. Smooch says that she thought you said it was a rug. She would like to roll around on it on the floor and decorate it with dog hair, but Mom knows best.

  15. Beautiful rugs! I really liked yours and the one that sold for $1100. A lot of talent there.

  16. I love it! I would have picked it over all the others you posted, too. The colors are gorgeous.

  17. Beautiful rug and beautiful weaver. I wish I could go to that auction, but I 'd probably overdraw my account.

  18. It's really great to read, on a popular blog, that someone understands the time in effort put into the weaving. It's so easy and cheap to go out and purchase imported, machine or worse sweat shop made replica.

    Thanks for sharing this story and respecting the culture.

    Enjoy your rug and the spirit it carries!

  19. Beautiful rug! The auction sounds like something I would make a trip for. Great post. Aunt Jean

  20. What a beautiful woman the weaver is! As a metal bender I find that meeting the person who buys my creations is one of the best things about making them. That's one gorgeous piece of weaving, wow!

  21. As a person who earned a BFA in Weaving and spent her whole working life around textiles, I got chills looking at that piece. Her selvedges are spectacular and her interlocking of elements is superb. You have purchased a record of a moment when the art of weaving was practiced by a true artist. Awesome!

  22. Wow, those rugs are amazing art. You're so lucky to have one.

    A change of pace, here's some chicken news you might enjoy.

  23. So many beautiful rugs. It would be hard to choose. Yours is stunning! I spy wine. Happy Monday.

  24. Beautiful rug! It's so cool that you got to meet the weaver! I have two rugs that I purchased here in AZ at the co-op that the Navajos run. They take turns manning the store. Prices are way better than dealers as there is no middleman. Enjoy your rug! :)

  25. An American in Tokyo6/13/16, 5:46 PM

    Beautiful rug! I LOVE the little bit of blue that she used in it!
    I think you and the weaver have the same smile! =D

    1. Ha! That little bit of blue was exactly what drew me to it in the first place.

    2. An American in Tokyo6/15/16, 6:03 PM

      Ha ha!!! It means that rug was meant for you!!!
      It reminds me of the sky for some reason. =D

  26. The rug auction was the highlight of my NM trip years ago. Did you get a Navajo taco too?

    1. Sadly, no. The concession people weren't there this time.

  27. What a beautiful rug and pattern! It is a colorful addition to your wall, for sure! And, how nice to meet the weaver.