Culture and the environment are the two main topics I address in my textile art. I have been working in textiles for more than forty years as a maker and later as a textile historian. My background in textile history and museum anthropology allows me to bring a deep cultural engagement to everything I produce. I don’t just dye fabric in an indigo blue dyepot, I look in the dyepot and see world history, science, fashion, medicine, ritual and your latest pair of jeans! It’s an entire world to explore and share.
I have been a weaver, spinner, and dyer since the 1970s and I now concentrate on tapestry weaving and weavings that reinterpret textiles from different cultures by using a technique particular to the culture, but adding my own twist and perspective. My textile research is focused on archaeological textiles and what can be learned from the structure and technical aspects of weaving.
Design, motif and iconography can be interpreted many ways, but the structure of a textile is there in front of you waiting to be analyzed through thread count, twist, and density, fiber analysis, weaving structures, edge finishes, seams, and dyes. In addition, I am particularly interested in studying indigo production and cultural practices around the world and find myself returning again and again to the textile traditions of the Southwest.
If you’d like to learn more about story and why I continue to spin, weave, dye and teach about textiles, watch my video, Threads Through Time. It honors my mentor, Edith Marsh, who shared all she knew about textiles with loving hands
~ Judy “Blues” Newland
I have a special interest in Navajo weaving, and have studied with several wonderful Navajo teachers who allowed me a glimpse of their culture and creativity. I use textiles to gain an understanding of cultures worldwide, and have applied this to my teaching and to my own weaving.
The tapestry you see here contains multiple threads—literally. The black wool background is from Burnham’s Trading Post, which has long supported Navajo weavers. The multicolored threads were dyed using plants gathered around the mesas of the Window Rock area, and all were spun on a Navajo hip spindle.
The design was influenced by my favorite Amish quilt pattern, “Chinese Coins.” This textile is a mixture of cultural inspirations and is a new teaching tool for my classes. It is dedicated to the Navajo weavers and artists I am honored to call my friends.