Geneva Shabi has lived most of her life in the Wide Ruins area (of the Navaho reservation), and the art of weaving in her family is multi-generational. She follows in the footsteps of her mother, Marjorie Spencer, and late grandmother, Mamie Burnside… She was taught to weave by them and is proud that her “rugs are always Wide Ruins style, [although] I’ve worked with many different patterns in my designs. The colors I work with are vegetal dyed. I use rich earth tone colors, like brown, beige, different shades of green, orange, yellow, and grey. My weaving is traditional… The wool I use is the thinnest pre-spun wool, and I dye some of [it]. I also do some spinning. My rugs are more intricate than my grandmother’s.”
Her interest in weaving began one summer during a break from school. “I decided to weave. I asked my mother and grandmother to help me put a loom together. Grandmother helped, but they weren’t too sure I would finish the rug. The rug was two feet by three feet, and I was determined to weave and finish it—and I did! I sold it and bought some school clothes. Thereafter, I wove a rug every summer break until I finished high school.” Ms. Shabi raised four boys and one girl and supported them through her weaving and employment with the U.S. Postal Service.
The significance of the Wide Ruins rugs made by Ms. Shabi and her family transcends simple artistic expression. Through the creative as well as spiritual aspects of weaving, Ms. Shabi beautifies her world and integrates her art into the Navajo “web of life.” Navajo people believe the cultural hero Spider Woman taught them to weave and create with patience, understanding, and sensitivity.