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Nepenthes New York is proud to announce the arrival of a selection of handwoven Chimayo vests, blankets, and pouches.

These items are rich with the heritage of the American Southwest, highlighting the region's unique history, design, and manufacturing processes. Available for purchase in-store at Nepenthes New York.

The village of Chimayo lies in the high desert of New Mexico, under the vast expanse of turquoise sky and swept by winds from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Here, time-honored traditions weave through the fabric of everyday life. The past speaks through every thread of the renowned Chimayo blankets, a legacy carried forward with pride and precision.

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History of Chimayo

The story of Chimayo weaving begins in the 16th century when Francisco Vázquez de Coronado's expedition brought churro sheep to the New World. Prized for their resilient wool, these animals found a new home in the arid terrain of northern New Mexico. The settlers and local Native American tribes blended Spanish weaving techniques with indigenous designs, crafting unique woolen blankets.

Settlers continued arriving from old Mexico to New Mexico, bringing horses, sheep, missionary priests, and soldiers, building homes and fortifications, shepherding flocks, and plowing fields. Among these families were the Trujillos, who settled in Chimayo. Weaving was a necessity, providing clothing, blankets, and rugs. The wool came from their flocks, and although white, black, and grey wool was at their fingertips, vegetable dyes using local plants soon brightened the weavings.

The 19th century was a time of upheaval for the territory as control shifted from New Spain to the newly established Federal Republic of Mexico in 1823, then to independent Texas before transitioning to an American Territory in 1850. The United States government finally granted New Mexico statehood on January 6, 1912.

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Each blanket was a testament to the weaver's artistry, a symphony of color and design that told stories of heritage and home. Residents bartered woven goods in a local economy that remained largely non-monetary until the mid-1800s when tourists brought by the railroads began coming through. In 1878, the railroad brought American tourists and technology to the isolated villages, transforming weaving from cultural expression to a means of survival, as tens of thousands were produced and sold as their livelihood. However, as the Industrial Revolution brought mechanized looms and synthetic dyes, the demand for handwoven blankets waned. The once-thriving industry faced an uncertain future.

Despite the decline, the art of weaving never vanished from Chimayo. Families like the Trujillos continued to pass down their skills, weaving for personal use and preserving their cultural heritage. In the early 20th century, a revival of Chimayo weaving began. Weavers in Santa Fe introduced a new style, characterized by two simple stripes and a central design, known as the Chimayo design. This modern adaptation breathed new life into the tradition, attracting tourists and collectors eager to own a piece of New Mexico's rich history.

The Art of Chimayo Weaving

The weavers of Chimayo employ a technique known as plain weave, using two harnesses to pass the weft yarn over one warp thread and under the next. This plain weave is also described as "weft-faced," meaning that the visible surface of the textile is entirely composed of weft yarn. The warp threads, which structure the textile, are hidden beneath the weft.

A distinctive characteristic of Chimayo weaving is that there is no front or back; both sides look the same. Combining shuttle weaving and tapestry weaving limits the types of joins or color transitions the weavers can use. In many global tapestry traditions, loops, lumps, or long floats and tails appear on the back of the textile. But in Chimayo weaving, which descends from a blanket tradition, the aim is to avoid a messy side, ensuring that both sides of the blanket are equally beautiful and functional.

Many early blankets featured "candlestick" shapes positioned a few inches apart to create a side-border effect. The central designs often incorporated small chevron patterns, and most traditional Chimayo blankets included striped borders at the top and bottom. These features bridge the Rio Grande Saltillos' design elements and the Chimayo style's later development.

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The Legacy Continues: Irvin, Lisa, and Emily Trujillo

Irvin Trujillo, a seventh-generation weaver, started weaving at a young age under the guidance of his father, Jake Trujillo. Despite studying and working as a civil engineer, Irvin's passion for weaving brought him back to Chimayo, where he and his wife, Lisa, still reside. Irvin's work, known for blending traditional techniques with contemporary designs, has garnered prestigious awards and is featured in numerous museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Lisa Trujillo, also a master weaver, focuses on spinning churro wool into yarn for her textured tapestries and blankets. Her innovative approach to color and texture has made her an influential figure in the weaving community, encouraging other artists to explore their creativity.

Their daughter, Emily, continues the family tradition, bringing a fresh perspective to the craft. Emily incorporates modern and contemporary designs into her work, attracting collectors and weaving enthusiasts alike. The Trujillo family's dedication to their craft ensures that the rich legacy of Chimayo weaving will continue to thrive for generations to come.

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At Nepenthes New York, customers can witness the timeless artistry of the Trujillos, purchase exquisite pieces, and connect with a profound part of New Mexico's cultural heritage. These pieces remain a living testament to the enduring beauty and cultural significance of Chimayo weaving.