Even Our Looms Have History

 

A_Chimayo_weaver_at_his_loom

I really have no idea how many of these postcards were printed up with this loom during the mid twentieth century but it must be a lot, because there seem to be a lot of them still around after all these years.  I have seen them around, mostly in antique stores and the like since I started weaving in 1982.  Nowadays you can easily find them sold on Ebay if you ever want one for yourself.  The photo was taken in Santa Fe, in a shop on the Plaza called Southwest Arts and Crafts.  At one point the image was even painted on the side of the building the shop was in.  Even now, the same image is painted onto the side of the spinning mill in Mora, NM.  Really.

 

Now let’s take a look at the loom my father-in-law, Jake Trujillo built and used throughout most of his life. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is a very similar design to the loom in the postcard.  It’s basically in a big box, not a castle loom like many Chimayo weavers use.  The breast beam sits inside the box,  set in a foot or so from the front of the loom.  The beater is hung from above, and it has it so that the beater can be adjusted within the space between the harnesses and the weaver.  Even the old wooden gear looks the same.  I remember asking about Jake’s loom.  He would say that he built it in 1925 or so, and that he had modeled it on a loom that was in a store in Santa Fe.  The Santa Fe weaver he had learned a lot from was someone named Frank Miera, but I don’t know if what he learned from Mr Miera included loom design.  He had built the loom to weave for his brother-in-law Severo Jaramillo, who I gather at some point before or after he became a dealer here in Chimayo was probably selling to the Southwest Arts and Crafts business on the plaza.  In any case this big loom was Jake’s favorite.  He wove 54″ x 84″ weavings on that loom from the time he built it until World War II.  After the war he married and started a life divided between Los Alamos and La Centinela, and between a job and his family and his land.  I understand that he rarely wove again until Irvin’s sister Pat left home to go to college and vacated a room that accommodated his loom.  That’s when Irvin started to weave.   Jake kept this as his favorite loom until the day he died, weaving countless glorious blankets over a long and productive life.  After he passed away, we were at a loss as to what to do with his loom.  Irvin should have taken it, but it’s a little bit, well, too short for him.  Besides, he already had a couple of wide looms to work on.  So we put it in the garage for a few years.  Eventually it was decided that I, Lisa, could use a big loom, and we pulled it out and set it up where it is in this photo and where it stands to this day.  I found out that it is really a great loom and had little trouble adjusting to the bigger loom.  What I did have to adjust to was the idea that it was really Jake’s loom.  His spirit always seems to me to be there with his loom.  I like to think that he supports what I’m doing on that loom.

 

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Sometime in the mid 90’s or so we had someone offer to sell us a bunch of old looms and equipment.  The stuff had been found in a garage in Santa Fe;  apparently ignored for many decades.  I guess I’m not surprised that when people find stuff like this they think of us.  And we have bought a lot of old looms over the years, and can usually put them to good use.  Irvin was moving his big loom off to another location so that he could weave while the kids were in school in White Rock, so we had a need for another big loom, so we set up the one from the old Santa Fe garage.  He didn’t have to make a lot of modifications to it, except to get it to fit under our low-ceiling workspace.  Irv started producing his great work on that loom.  It took us years to notice that the loom had the same completely inexplicable holes in it’s frame that the loom in the post card had.  In the end we had to conclude that Irvin’s loom was the very same loom.  There are a couple of other clues that led us this conclusion.

OtherChimayoweaverathisloom

This is the other postcard of that loom.  I’m pretty sure that it predates the first postcard in this post by a few years.  But it’s the same loom with some of those same inexplicable holes.  It also has the spool winder in the picture.  Yeah, the think that looks like a spinning wheel probably was never used to spin on, but it is very usefull for preparing spools of wool to weave on.  Whereas I’m sure that that is a nonsensical place to be winding spools, it is kind of picturesque.  And it was one of the pieces of equipment that came with the loom.  As did the madajera that you can see prominently displayed in the later postcard.  I put them to use where I work, in the big display room of the shop, because I much prefer manually winding spools to using an electric motor to do the job.  I leave such manly techniques to my husband.  What is interesting about the winder is that the wheel is a bicycle wheel.   And not just any bicycle wheel, but a wooden one.  I don’t know enough about bicycle history to tell you what that means exactly.  We have been told when the wheel was likely to have been manufactured, but I failed to commit that to memory.  The madajera is of an equally distinctive construction.  There are much simpler ways to build these, and this one is different than any others that I have seen, combining elements that are like an “umbrella swift” with a permanent base.

So I no longer question that the loom Irvin is now weaving on is the loom from Southwest Arts and Crafts that Jake Trujillo based his -now my- loom on.  All these old pieces of weaving equipment require maintenance.  We’ve replaced parts over the years, because stuff really does fall apart just like the rules of physics say they do.  But our equipment is homemade.  We can find or make all the parts we need and we have come up with creative fixes time and time again.  It’s all about keeping them going, and it’s what we love to do.

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