Emily’s Triforce


Hello, everyone. My name is Emily Trujillo & I am the daughter of Irvin & Lisa Trujillo, and the 24 year-old 8th generation Weaver. It took me so long to start this because I had what I like to call a ’24 year teenage rebellion.’ I grew up being asked if I was a tapestry artist by almost everyone, so out of angst I played around with almost every other art medium: from jewelry to watercolors, tape sculptures to Photoshop. What really helped me change my mind was my college career. One of my majors was ‘Ethnology,’ the study of culture, and it really made me appreciate my own heritage. Even if I decide to go to grad school instead of following my parents’ careers as tapestry artists, I came back to Chimayo to make sure Rio Grande Weaving doesn’t end at 7 generations, and hopefully pass it on to the 9th.

This is my first piece that got named ‘Emily’s Triforce’ by my mom. I sold it before I was even ready to sell it & I wasn’t even sure I wanted to. I showed it to someone before it was even photographed, and they asked to buy it & so I quickly shot a – sadly – warped picture so I at least had something. This piece meant a lot to me, not only because it was my first, but also because at the time I was weaving it I was getting ready for my first figure skating competition. I was skating to the theme of “Legend of Zelda: The Windwalker,” a video game I played with my brother as a kid. Because of this, I was listening to the soundtrack from Windwalker & other various Zelda games during the entire 7 hours it took me to weave this. In other words, it represents a particular slice of my life. The triangle in the center is like a Triforce, but since in the game there are islands & mountains you sail to, it represents the land surrounded by the seas you explore. This story is important to my introduction because I hope to learn the traditional styles & techniques but use them to create my own style, one that represents my generation. I am my own artist with my own personality & life story, and it will reflect in my pieces. I hope to one day create works of art like my parents & not let them down, but only time & hard work will get me there. We shall see.

Emily now has her own page on the CTA website: http://www.chimayoweavers.com/category/ET.html


“Bubbles” – Lisa Trujillo, handspun indigo dyed and undyed wool, 60″ x 90″, 1993

This morning the people who own this piece came to visit us.  They were happy to talk to me about it, telling me about where it lives and what good care they are taking with it.  Clearly it means a lot to them, in part because of the connection it makes between my family and theirs.  They remembered that I had told them that I had woven it when I was pregnant with my daughter Emily, and they have a daughter Emma who is a bit older than my Emily.  The similarities of our daughters’ names and, I’m assuming here, the fact that our daughters mean so much to us, has made this piece something worth revisiting today.  Actually, there’s a lot to be said about this piece.

The background of the piece, as well as the blue patterned diamonds in the border design, are made with ikat-dyed yarn. Ikat is a very specific technique that plays a small part in the Rio Grande tradition but is something that a variety of different weaving traditions around the world use.  Here’s the Wikipedia entry on ikat, in case you have an interest.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikat   I’m sure that one day we’ll write something more about ikat here on the blog.

In our tradition, ikat was used in Rio Grande stripes.  Over the years, Irvin and I have done more ikat in the context of tapestry.  We have yet to find any other weaving tradition that combines ikat and tapestry, but now know of another tapestry weaver who is combining these techniques.  We usually have done ikat with an indigo dye which has the advantage of being easy to sort of reproduce the same color.  So the diamonds in the border and center design were all dyed for an earlier piece called Hyperactive.  I did the background ikat especially for this piece.  It is simply an evenly spaced resist, so that during the weaving process I could line up the resisted areas as I pleased.  And it worked!  But it meant I had to come up with a sort of  randomly blended area towards the white of the border.  I still remember that being an ongoing challenge during the piece, but it certainly looks fine to me with a couple of decades having passed since doing it.

The really important part of this piece is that it was woven while I was going through that huge transformational event in life – pregnancy.  It did not occur to me when I started in on the two-pieces-seamed weaving that my pregnancy would impact the piece, but it did.  As it turned out, my growing belly made it hard to tension the warp the same as I progressed through the piece.  So one side is a bit longer than the other.  I must have figured out how to get the center seam to work out, but clearly didn’t figure out how to make it all square.  Although I would’ve liked to have woven a perfectly flat and rectangular piece, I think it’s a fitting reality that my weaving turned out to be so accommodating to that major life change it happened to coincide with.  I think that the shapes I used look a bit pregnant too.  I named it “Bubbles” more for the background design than anything else, but it turned out to be an adjective that I think many would apply to my daughter, as her spirited, light-hearted personality is perhaps her most prominent feature.  I think she might have earned “Bubbles” as a nickname at one time.

This piece is an important reminder that my work is not separate from the rest of life, but an integral part.








Finishing Pieces



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Spinning is really relaxing.  Weaving can be all kinds of things; exciting, tiring, frustrating, and, at its most fun, an intellectually challenging puzzle.  Because the weaving process is often incredibly long I rarely think about the finishing work that will be necessary when I get through weaving.  But the finishing work brings crucial qualities to the final piece, mainly what it looks like and how it feels to the human touch.  The finishing process is especially challenging with my handspun churro pieces.  Churro pieces, whether handspun or millspun, tend to be fuzzy looking things.  My personal take is that I don’t like a fuzzy looking piece, I want every detail of yarn texture and design to show through.  And fuzz can hide the results of a whole lot of my hard work.

Another aspect of my handspun pieces is that my yarns aren’t spotlessly clean.  They usually have some lanolin, vegetable matter, and even some dirt.  So I need to wash these handspun pieces.  The good thing about washing them is that they also become something more of a unified fabric by going through the process.  But washing the pieces means I have some extra, time-consuming processes to go through before I can have the kind of elegantly finished piece that I really need after all of my work.  I don’t have to do nearly so much work for weavings made from our millspun yarns, but I hope you’ll appreciate the documentation of the finishing work involved in my handspun pieces.


Before anything else happens I have to tie fringes.  But before I can even do that, I have to actually get to the end of the weaving.   First I have to pull the knots off that I used to tie the warp to the apron.  Then I have to remove the extra thick yarn I wove as “header” in preparation for weaving after tying the warp up to the apron. The “header” yarn is woven in only for the purpose of spreading the warp yarns apart, so that they will be distributed evenly, the way the reed distributes them, which is at eight threads per inch.  Once the knots and the header yarn are gone, I’m ready to tie the fringe.  Although there are countless options for tying fringe, most often I opt for a simple overhand knot with four threads in it.

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For all of the reasons mentioned above, I feel obligated to wash any of my handspun pieces as part of my finishing work.  I have been washing my pieces in the bathtub for years and can’t think of anyplace that would work any better for the task.  I alternate washes with soap with just rinsing until the piece rinses clear.  That can take a while.  It’s time spent on my knees, which means it’s not my favorite thing to do.  After the water in the bathtub is looking clear enough I can drain the tub and make a dash out the front door of our house to hang the piece on our ramp’s railing.  This railing is very useful for a lot of things we do in the shop.  It’s conveniently located and has an absolutely fabulous view to the west.

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I know very well that ironing is one of those things that many people do their best to avoid in these modern times.  And, I’m guessing people who have seen my day-to-day attire know that I am one of those people.  But ironing wool is a real skill.  Wool is amazingly manipulate-able, even after it has been woven into a very solid fabric.  Where you apply heat and steam can have a major impact on the finished fabric.   I am a persistent person, and will iron a piece until it is totally and completely flat.  I started the ironing process with both pieces together, hoping that by ironing the upper layer I would help start the lower piece along.  The pink piece turned out to be too big an ironing challenge, so I focused my efforts on the brown piece first.

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Soon it became clear that the pink piece was not going to just iron out to a flat fabric.  Although every yarn in the piece was of churro wool, the fleeces had widely varying characteristics and “pulled in” differently.  It has to do with variations in the “springiness” of the fibers that make up the yarn, and it isn’t the first time I have run into the problem.  The way to correct for the variations in the wool was to block it out, stretching it to it’s widest width.  Simply put, blocking a piece is nailing the thing down, pulling it wherever it needs to be stretched out.  I will iron it while it’s nailed down to get it utterly flat.

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It helps to have the piece flat when you’re shaving it.  We use hair cutters to do this process.  In the second picture you can clearly see the difference that shaving the piece has.  The design is now much more clearly visible.

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We’ve been using the term “sanding” for shaving the piece again, this time with sweater shavers, to get it to be smooth to the touch, like really well finished wood.  We can spend hours and hours doing this.


This is something I’m doing during all of these finishing steps.  I am using tweezers to pull out every single piece of the vegetable matter that was spun into the yarn because it was just part of the fleece.  These things can be almost microscopic, but are important to remove because they will attract moths.  You can also feel the vegetable matter with sensitive fingertips even if you can’t actually see it.

Names, tags, pricing, database, etc.

Lastly, we have to give the piece a name and a price tag.  And all that information goes into our multipurpose database.  Often, naming a piece is a tremendous challenge for me, although sometimes a name can come to me early in the weaving process.  The brown piece was named “Camp Moki” and has already found a home in Santa Fe, and the pink one is named “Rosa Fresca” and is still hanging here in the shop.   You can see it here on our site.

I want to point out that the finishing process on these two pieces took about the same amount of time as weaving them did.  But both Irvin and I really believe that finishing our pieces well is crucial, and add a level of quality that many other weavers don’t strive for in their work.  So we do this stuff.  And we wanted to let you know.



Art from the Fire – 2000

“Flame 2000” by Irvin Trujilllo


In May of 2000, the Cerro Grande fire burned through the Jemez mountains across the Rio Grande Valley from us.  It resulted in a huge column of smoke which would descend on us for days at a time.  The wind blowing incessantly only made things worse.  It burned out a lot of homes in Los Alamos and caused both Los Alamos and White Rock, where our kids went to school at the time, to be evacuated.  For those of us in the valley, it was just extremely frightening to watch the fire destroy so much, so fast.  Here, in case you want to revisit the event, or don’t remember it because it wasn’t traumatizing to you, is the Wikipedia entry on the subject.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerro_Grande_Fire

Both Irvin and I wove pieces after the fire.  It was something that we, and probably every artistic soul around us, had to process in some way, and in our case, we process things via our weavings.  Here is what Irvin wrote about “Flame 2000″, when it went to its buyer.

Irvin’s  weaving was made at the time of the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos, New Mexico May-June 2000. 54” x 54” design is by Irvin . The piece was started two weeks before the fire took place and had to be abandoned due to the evacuation of White Rock, New Mexico during the fire (the piece was woven in a private studio at White Rock).  After residents were allowed back into White Rock, the piece was completed. The design for this piece was from a sketch I drew in the 90’s.  It is a coincidence the the fire happened while I was weaving this piece. The design looked like  a fire in the heart and thus revealed its identity.

The dyes used for color were all natural; cochineal for reds, cota for orange/yellows, chamiso and peach leaves for yellows and yellow/greens, black walnut for tans, madder root/black walnut for orange/brown, indigo for blues, indigo over chamiso for dark greens and blue/greens.. Irvin did the dyeing at the Chimayo studio.”


Consequences Fire
“Consequences Fire” by Lisa Trujillo

I did “Consequences Fire”  a few months later.   It has a lot of stuff buried in it, so I’d like to try to explain it here.

The mountains at the bottom are the Jemez mountains, which I have already mentioned in a previous post is prominently on our western horizon.  So the fire in the mountains on the bottom portion, which are oddly geometrically represented, are the most realistic part of the image.  The fire cloud arises from there.

The shape of the geometric elements of the fire sort of evolve into the geometric shapes of the fire cloud.  The big cloud face idea was not mine.  I had connected, in my mind, the Cerro Grande fire to an album that had come out while I had lived in Los Alamos (actually, White Rock) as a high-schooler.  It was an album by some of my favorite musicians, and it was all about weather destroying the world.  Fire is just one of the methods of destruction.   Just in case you are interested, I want to provide you a link from Wikipedia for it too.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequences_%28Godley_%26_Creme_album%29  You can see the cloud face from the album cover.

From there the cloud shapes evolve into the ashes and “burnt toothpicks”, which is what trees look like after fires.  There is a number 17 in those trees.

Above that there is fire in the desert, that happens to also be a goldfish, and there are pyramids and icebergs.  Those are more important bits from premise of the album, but they also worked to create an aesthetic balance in the piece.

Like all my weavings, the process was very good for getting past that time and its somewhat traumatic affects on my life.  We have watched more terrible and destructive wildfires in our neighboring mountains since then, and they are still terribly frightening, even if they are becoming more familiar to us.  But the Cerro Grande fire inspired art.



La Centinela

Describing where we live is a little easier now that I have woven a piece about it.  I’ve thought this place was beautiful from the first time Irvin took me to this little valley.  And I think it’s important to put some perspective on our location because it seems so ingrained in everything we do.  And it seems like a really good place to start this blog from.

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So we live in a narrow little valley.  It looks like this on Google earth.

La CCentinela Google Earthentinela is a narrow valley between two ridges.  La centinela means, “the sentinel”, and it was named because these ridges were a good place for setting sentinels to watch for Indian raiders that were a threat when Chimayo was begun back in 1776. The town started in a defensive plaza, Plaza del Cerro,  just off to the left a ways from this image.  Plaza del Cerro is just over a mile down the road from us.  However, where we are at the low point in the valley we can’t really see north or south beyond those ridges.  What we do have a clear view of is to the east and the west.

The yellow line is State Road 76, which is the only way to get here by car, and the parallel white line above it is Arroyo del Oso.   The arroyo once served as a road between Chimayo and Cordova.  Living next to an arroyo might not be a great idea, but in 30 years, the water has not come anywhere near our house.  We built a rock wall with a really deep foundation between us and the arroyo.  And we built the shop with a few extra feet of elevation.  Just in case.  In reality the arroyo is dry almost all of the time.  The green parts of the picture are basically the places where irrigation ditches feed water to.  As you can see, the irrigation ditch crosses the arroyo right by us.  I’ll show you that in a moment.

Rio Grande Valley

On a much grander scale, you can see that we live in a large valley, between the Sangre de Cristo mountains, in whose foothills our little valley nestles, and the Jemez Mountains.  The Rio Grande runs roughly in the middle of the valley.  The foothills of the Sangres are hilly.  But the Jemez mountains’ foothills, at least what we can see when looking down our little valley to the west, have eroded into mesas.  My knowledge of a geological explanation for this is seriously limited, but I assume that the  remains of a volcano in the Jemez, the caldera over there, has something to do with it.  A layer of volcanic material is probably not as easily eroded as our otherwise unprotected earth.

The overall idea for this piece was that it was going to follow a traditional Chimayo layout, with two stripes, a center design, and two smaller designs.  But I had lots of subdued colors, the kinds of colors we have in our landscape.  So I thought I would figure out a way to put local imagery into the stripes and into the designs.  The door to the shop faces west.  Our bedroom windows look to the west.  We are very tied to Los Alamos over there in the Jemez Mountains, with a lot of family history there.  The way the mesa tops fade into the mountains is something we have embedded into our memories.   So I’m afraid we are just sort of pointed at the western horizon.  I’m not sure exactly why, but that’s where this piece started.  With the Jemez mountains in the west.


The first design I decided to weave something more like, well, all of Northern New Mexico.  The little adobes are by an irrigated field with the pinon and juniper-covered foothills in the background.  And the “wing” elements are chiles, which I guess would be our favorite food around here.  And chile is what we are known for here in Chimayo.  This image reminds me of the imagery and literature of mid-century New Mexico.  It’s sort of cliched, but still really wonderful.


By the time I started on the center design I decided I should be working from photographs instead of making things up out of my head.  I figured it’d be easier that way.   So the first image I tried out was from right outside the shop.  It’s of the little road that goes into the orchard.  I even added  the little wall that guards the watergates.


For the center design I had to weave two images side by side, at the same time.  Eventually it occurred to me to use the pictures I love to take from the top of the ridge behind us.  I chose to do one looking east and the other looking west.  East looks up towards the Sangres, and west looks down towards the Jemez.  But these focus a lot closer to home.  I was drawing from a few different photographs to compose the drawings.  And, of course, I had to simplify.  A lot.

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The top part of the center design is from one picture, the one I have here taken of the  Canada Ancha irrigation ditch.  Remember I mentioned that the ditch and the arroyo cross paths by our house?  Well this is where that happens.  Here is where it comes out of the culvert that goes under the arroyo.  Here it’s under some big cottonwood trees that keep it shaded.  Further down the ditch it sparkles in the sunshine

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The next design is also from a photograph.  Irvin’s sister Pat has a whole herd of horses and donkeys that live on the land neighboring ours.  They can often be found waiting by the fenceline, watching for the people that come twice a day to bring them food.  The tractor that has been here since the 1960’s has spent a lot of time parked there by the fenceline.  This image caught the horse and the tractor practically side-by-side.  Behind them lies the arroyo, and the irrigation ditch picture above, is behind the arroyo.  I tried to leave the wintery nature of the picture behind in the weaving, so I tried to make it look more like sand than snow.  The burros loaded with firewood serve as “wing” elements here.

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So after weaving all of this, I had to do another stripe.  Since I had started with the Jemez mountains, and had woven so much of the Centinela into the piece, I looked to the other side of the bigger valley we live in, the Sangre de Cristo mountains.  The problem is that we can’t really see those mountains much from our house.  So I had to work from more pictures.  Again, I did an amalgamation of images to weave the Sangres.  And the colors I had to work with for this part of the weaving, plus the fact that it was winter by the time I got to weaving this, meant they had to be snowy mountains.

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So that’s it.  Our little valley from west to east and my little weaving from the bottom to the top.

Since it’s still here in the shop, it’s available for sale.  It needs an appreciative home.

Here is it’s page on our website: http://www.chimayoweavers.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=CW&Product_Code=Centinela&Category_Code=LT and in our Etsy store http://www.etsy.com/listing/176266125/centinela-southwestern-pictorial-48×72?ref=related-6