Last month we were lucky enough to take a trip to the Southwestern USA that included a couple of our bucket list destinations – the Grand Canyon followed by Santa Fe in New Mexico. I was particularly looking forward to learning more about Native American Indian textiles and pottery, and the trip certainly didn’t disappoint.
You can’t go far in New Mexico without coming across vividly patterned Pendleton blankets bearing traditional Native American-inspired designs. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, and looking at the Pendleton website was disappointed to see that these covetable works of textile art weren’t available in the UK. However, coincidence being what it it is, I got an email a few days ago announcing that a selection of Pendleton blankets are now being stocked by UK interiors online retailer Amara – great news!
Above and below: Pendleton Chief Joseph Blanket, designed in the 1920’s and still a best-seller today.
Blankets have historically been a hugely important part of Native American life – not just for warmth and comfort, but as means of artistic expression, playing a significant role in traditional ceremonies and as valuable trading items too.
Oregon-based Pendleton Woolen Mills (originally founded by an English weaver, Thomas Kay) have a long history of working with the Native American population to produce their much-prized blankets, and you can read more of the history of the Pendleton-made Indian Trading Blanket here.
As with traditional textiles the world over, the motifs and colours of the Native American inspired blankets have great symbolic significance and represent the stories, myths and legends of the various tribes and populations.
Above is the Return of the Sun blanket, inspired by the Iñupiat – an Inuit, Alaska Native people. The Pendleton website tells its story:
The traditions and activities of the Iñupiat, today, as in the past, revolve around the changing of the seasons. This blanket, inspired by the artwork of Larry Ahvakana, celebrates the arrival of the sun back to the Arctic and the start of hunting season. The Iñupiat mark this special time with the Messenger Feast—a ceremony where the spirits of the past season’s harvest are ushered back into the spirit world. Today, the celebration fosters cultural pride and the regeneration of traditional values.
This blanket is a collaboration between Pendleton Woolen Mills and the American Indian College Fund to honor and reawaken a vital part of Native history. A portion of the proceeds will help provide scholarships for students attending tribal colleges.
Inspired by the Art Deco design elements of some of New York City’s iconic skyscrapers, it is a salute to the skilled Native American steel workers who built some of the city’s most beautiful and famous landmarks.
Beginning in the 1920s, these daring men raised and riveted steel at dizzying heights above the city to make such iconic landmarks as the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge.
Pendleton blankets are incredibly thick, beautifully woven and finished and designed and crafted to last a lifetime. As well as the Native American-inspired designs they also produce plaid and striped blankets, including a range of bold contemporary striped designs named after US National Parks – below are Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
You can find more blankets plus information about the designs at www.amara.com.