We are glad to announce that the GATHER blanket is back in stock. This beautiful blanket was designed by Emma Robbins, who is also the program’s director (you see her in the video above). When we unveiled the blanket in January, it sold out quickly. A portion of the sales from this blanket go to the DigDeep Navajo Water Project, a nonprofit that works to bring clean running water to the one in three Navajo families without it.
Like the piñon tree, members of the Navajo Nation gather resources to survive an increasingly precarious water supply. Diné artist Emma Robbins has gathered symbols of endurance for this design; a sáanii (maternal grandmother) scarf crossed by traditional sash belts used in ceremonies and childbirth. At the center, a young woman’s bracelet of silver is set with turquoise, a stone formed by rare rains flowing through arid layers of rock. A portion of blanket sales will support DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project.
Learn more about DIGDEEP here: The DIGDEEP Navajo Water Project
Details of the design components
Ms. Robbins shared photos of her inspirations with us.
First, the floral ground of the blanket is inspired by a sáanii scarf, as worn here by a sáanii (maternal grandmother in Navajo).
Sáanii scarves have traditionally been worn by grandmothers, and are a symbol of wisdom and nurturing. Recently they have made their way into modern Navajo and Native fashion, and are worn to honor grandmothers and strong female teachers and role models. Both of Ms. Robbins’ grandmothers were strong matriarchs of their families, and played important roles in her upbringing. She remembers making art with Ann, her maternal grandmother, and harvesting piñons with Nora, her paternal grandmother, while sitting on a blanket. Piñons are also the namesake of her daughter.
Learn more about the history and meaning of the Sáanii scarf here: The Saanii scarf
Learn more about the piñon tree and its nut here: The piñon tree
Two Navajo Sash belts traverse the floral ground.
These traditional belts are woven in a specific color set of red or green, and worn by both men and women, depending on the ceremony. These belts are also an important birthing tool.
Learn more about sash belts here: The Navajo sash
At the center of the blanket design is a squash blossom bracelet gifted to Ms. Robbins at her Kinaaldá, a Navajo girl’s coming of age ceremony.
This bracelet made of turquoise, the sacred stone of the south to the Diné or Navajo. Known as dootlizh, it is considered to be a living and breathing being because it changes color as it ages. Turquoise also refers to water, as this stone is formed when water flows through rock, leaving behind specific minerals such as copper and aluminum. The minerals form veins of turquoise, flowing through rock in colors that range from deep green to palest blue. Turquoise is part of the Navajo creation story, and to this day Dootlizhii Ashkii (the Turquoise Boy) carries the sun across the sky each day. Turquoise brings long life and happiness to the wearer, as well as a means to restore good health; as Ms. Robbins says, “We come from water, and it is part of all human survival.”
Learn more about turquoise here: Turquoise
When Ms. Robbins designed the blanket, she combined these representations of survival and renewal in a watercolor; here is her original design for the GATHER blanket.
More about Emma Robbins
Emma Robbins is a Diné artist, activist, and community organizer. As Executive Director of the Navajo Water Project, part of the human rights nonprofit DigDeep Water, she is working to create infrastructure that brings clean running water to the one in three Navajo families without it. In addition, she is the creator of The Chapter House, an Indigenous women-led community arts space, designed for Natives and welcoming all.
Read the Chapter House blog here: Chapter House
See works on Instagram here: Chapter House Instagram
Through her artwork, Robbins strives to raise awareness about the lack of clean water on Native Nations and educate viewers about issues such as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis, representations and misrepresentations of Native people, and the environmental impact of abandoned uranium mines. She explores these themes through photography, installations, and use of found materials foraged on her trips across the United States and abroad.
Her artist website is here: Emma Robbins
Ms. Robbins completed her BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art History in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has been featured in The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, NPR, and on Erin Brockovich’s podcast, and has lectured at Yale, Brown, MIT and Skoll. She is an Aspen Institute Healthy Communities Fellow, serves on the Advisory Committee to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and is a recipient of an Environmental Leader Award. Robbins is a mom, has two dogs, and splits her time on Tongvaland (Los Angeles) and the Navajo Nation.
Many thanks to Ms. Robbins for these biographical notes, which were adapted from her website and from program notes for her various speaking engagements (with permission).
Photo courtesy Emma Robbins. Emma and her daughter Piñon on the Gather blanket
Learn more about the Gather blanket here: Gather