Style by Style Thinking: Rio Grande

We can weave very traditional Rio Grande blankets by just weaving stripes. Which means that we’re just throwing a shuttle back and forth, and changing colors to make the stripes. Shuttle throwing is a chance to do some pretty physical stuff, and get a bit of a workout. I’m pretty ambivalent about workouts. I see the benefit of it, but and am only interested in such exertion for brief periods of time. This isn’t a design consideration per se, but it’s probably a big reason why I rarely weave pieces that are just striped. This is all an explanation as to why I like to take a break from shuttlework and weave some tapestry.

Weaving stripes doesn’t mean I don’t have to expend some energy on creative thought. I have to make decisions about how wide each stripe will be, and what color it is. I can decide on a number of stripes I want in a piece. Traditionally that number is an odd number, meaning that there is a stripe squarely at the center of the piece. I can decide to make stripes stand out on a background, which is what Rio Grande blankets traditionally do, or I can have stripes that are more unified in appearance, without having clear beginnings or ends. I can put tapestry between stripes, or inside of stripes. Essentially, from a design standpoint, Rio Grandes feel like they have rhythm to them. So they can march in an orderly fashion, or they can have some variation, or “syncopation” to make them more interesting to look at. Generally, the blankets that “march ” are easier to weave, and syncopation can be harder to deal with on the second half when you have to copy the first half. Predictability makes it easier to remember what comes next, so you can weave faster. I don’t really like marches a lot, and weaving repetitive stripes doesn’t appeal a lot to me either.

Let’s have a look at some pieces. Let’s start by looking at a few that have Moki-type colors, black, brown and white, and a few greys, so we can focus on some basics.

"Rio Grande Camp Blanket" by Irvin Trujillo
“Rio Grande Camp Blanket” by Irvin Trujillo. This has a very rhythmic stripe. All of the stripes are evenly spaced and the same size. The blue and white stripes are clearly sitting on a dark background.The background seems to have some natural variation in the yarn which gives the piece some visual interest. Its stripes are very sedate and regular.In this piece, the stripes are sitting on background color.
"Wide Band Moki" by Irvin Trujillo
“Wide Band Moki” by Irvin Trujillo In this piece, the stripes are sitting on background color. In this case the blue is the background color. The blue and brown banding is pretty regular, but the stripes that are woven of white and tan are not nearly so homogenous. So this piece has more variation in it’s stripe dimensions and also has a couple more colors, making it a little bit more interesting to look at.
"Moki Mundo" by Lisa Trujillo
“Moki Mundo” by Lisa Trujillo. This piece has very regular Moki stripes of blue and brown that serve as a background for the stripes with designs. There is variation in the width of the designed stripes, variation of the tapestry-woven design elements.
LT 1st spin RG
“First Handspun” by Lisa Trujillo The stripes between the tapestry-woven design stripes here vary much more widely from stripe to stripe. Part of that is the variations in the handspun yarns, but much of it is in the lack of regularity in the pattern of the striping.
RG 2001
“Rio Grande 2001” by Irvin Trujillo Although this piece has much the same colors as the previous pieces had, we have a different emphasis in our coloration here and a definite lack of regularity in pattern. The reds at the center of the piece tend to draw the eye. But there is a lot going one beyond just the center. There are not clear delineations between stripes, no edges to help our mind see a predictable pattern. That adds an energy to the piece that a simple rythmic repetition does not have.

All of what we have visited here is just a few different approaches to striping. The possibilities for the tapestry design within the stripes is a whole different topic of discussion. Tapestry designs in Rio Grande stripes is related to, and almost certainly historically derivative of, the Saltillo design system. When we put tapestry into our Rio Grande stripes, we are bringing knowledge gained from our experience with Saltillo, Vallero, Chimayo, Modern, and even Pictorial weavings that we have done.

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