Navajo Beadwork (Hardcover)

Architectures of Light

By Ellen K. Moore

University of Arizona Press, 9780816522866, 272pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2003

List Price: 35.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Sunset. Fire. Rainbow. Drawing on such common occurrences of light, Navajo artists have crafted an uncommon array of design in colored glass beads. Beadwork is an art form introduced to the Navajos through other Indian and Euro-American contacts, but it is one that they have truly made their own. More than simple crafts, Navajo beaded designs are architectures of light.

Ellen Moore has written the first history of Navajo beadwork—belts and hatbands, baskets and necklaces—in a book that examines both the influence of Navajo beliefs in the creation of this art and the primacy of light and color in Navajo culture. Navajo Beadwork: Architectures of Light traces the evolution of the art as explained by traders, Navajo consultants, and Navajo beadworkers themselves. It also shares the visions, words, and art of 23 individual artists to reveal the influences on their creativity and show how they go about creating their designs.

As Moore reveals, Navajo beadwork is based on an aggregate of beliefs, categories, and symbols that are individually interpreted and transposed into beaded designs. Most designs are generated from close observation of light in the natural world, then structured according to either Navajo tradition or the newer spirituality of the Native American Church. For many beadworkers, creating designs taps deeply embedded beliefs so that beaded objects reflect their thoughts and prayers, their aesthetic sensibilities, and their sense of being Navajo—but above all, their attention to light and its properties.

No other book offers such an intimate view of this creative process, and its striking color plates attest to the wondrous results. Navajo Beadwork: Architectures of Light is a valuable record of ethnographic research and a rich source of artistic insight for lovers of beadwork and Native American art.

About the Author

Ellen Moore is Curator of Education at the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Praise For Navajo Beadwork: Architectures of Light

"Much more than a milestone first book about Navajo beadwork. Moore's insight and sensitivity to Navajo culture, a gift for writing, excellent use of the thirty-eight color plates and twelve halftones to illustrate key issues, and solid anthropological research combine to shed light on Navajo beadworkers' thoughts, beliefs, sensitivities and attitudes toward the art they create."—American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"The narrative tacks back and forth from ethnographer's rigor to conversations recorded while drinking coffee in a warm kitchen in a way that allows us to enjoy learning about beadwork—posing questions as well as offering information."—The (Santa Fe) New Mexican

"A timely, indeed crucual, contribution to southwestern material culture studies. . . . [Moore's] book provides a refreshing and welcoming change."—New Mexico Historical Review

"The best book on the subject . . . [Moore's] description of how the artists see and explain their work is excellent."—Harry Walters, Director, Ned A. Hatathli Museum, Diné College

"Even more important than the actual beading is the analysis of the philosophy behind it. Moore has provided a clear synthesis of what the artist thinks about his or her creation."—Robert McPherson, author of Navajo Land, Navajo Culture