Crystal

Crystal

The Crystal Trading Post (established 1896; now closed) was located on the Navajo Reservation in far western New Mexico, high up in the Chuska Mountains. Due to its remote location, trading post proprietor J.B. Moore had to be resourceful to sell the Navajo rugs he purchased from the local weavers. He published a mail-order catalog in 1903 and 1911, selling Navajo rugs to people in the eastern United States. These catalogs would allow a buyer to choose specific designs and wool quality. Printed images of the rug designs - called plates - appeared in the catalogs, and the weavings that resulted from them are now known as plate rugs and are highly collectible. Plate #28 in the first catalog is the best-known plate rug, the storm pattern.

Early Navajo Crystal rugs (1900-1910) often were made from natural brown handspun wool yarn and featured simple designs - an aesthetic that works well in today’s modern homes. Later Crystal rugs are reminiscent of Oriental rug patterns. They feature geometric motifs such as hooks, “waterbugs,” frets, and chevrons, as well as bright aniline-dyed wools - though Crystal rugs are still often woven in natural colors even today.

Navajo Crystal storm pattern rugs have a distinctive design that emerged from the now-defunct Crystal Trading Post starting at the turn of the 20th century. The trading post’s proprietor, J.B. Moore, marketed Navajo rugs to buyers in the eastern part of the United States with mail-order catalogs (one in 1903 and one in 1911). The storm pattern was one of the rug designs that could be ordered and quickly became popular with collectors. Navajo storm pattern rugs are still made to this day.

Storm patterns are characterized by a large central rectangle with four smaller rectangles in each corner. The small rectangles are connected to the central rectangle with zig-zag lines. While the precise origin of the Navajo storm rug pattern is unknown, it was the weavers at Crystal that made this pattern the sought-after Navajo rugs that they are today.

 

J.B. Moore, the proprietor of the Crystal trading post from 1896 to 1911, was highly influential in the style of rugs woven by Navajo rug weavers who lived in the area of his trading post. Moore liked the aesthetic of Oriental rugs and encouraged the local weavers to incorporate similar design motifs into their own rugs.

The Crystal trading post (now closed) was remotely located on the New Mexico side of the Chuska Mountains, at an altitude of about 7000 feet. Since he lacked heavy tourist trade at his trading post, Moore created a mail-order catalog in 1903 and again in 1911, selling Navajo rugs to people back east. Buyers could choose their desired design and yarn quality; Moore would then have the rug made.

The illustrations in the catalogs (known as plates) were numbered for ease of ordering. Vintage Navajo rugs that are exact or near-exact copies of specific plates are known as plate rugs today and are highly desired by collectors.

Navajo rug weavers from the Crystal region didn’t just weave plate rugs, however. These artisans would use elements from the plates in their own designs, producing unique weavings but still distinctive as Crystal rugs.

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