Storm Pattern

Storm Pattern

The storm pattern rug is one of the most popular Navajo rug designs and was popularized at the Crystal Trading Post at the turn of the last century. The pattern was one of several marketed by J.B. Moore, proprietor of the trading post, to Navajo rug buyers back east. The design is recognizable by its large central rectangle, four smaller rectangles - one in each corner - that are connected to the large rectangle by zig-zag lines. The precise origin of the pattern is unknown, but it was the weavers at Crystal that made the rugs with this pattern the sought-after collectors items that they are today.

Navajo storm pattern rugs are a distinctive design that emerged from the Crystal Trading Post under the ownership of trader J.B. Moore from 1897 to 1911. The Crystal region is in the far eastern portion of the Navajo Nation, in New Mexico’s McKinley and San Juan counties.

J.B. Moore actively marketed Navajo rugs to buyers in the eastern part of the United States. He even released two catalogs, one in 1903 and one in 1911. The storm pattern was one of several designs of rugs that you could order.

The exact origin of the storm pattern is not known. However, it is commonly believed that weavers on the Navajo reservation’s western side developed the design then the Crystal-area weavers expanded and popularized the rug pattern.

The beautiful, ornate storm pattern became a collector favorite. Weavers in the area still make storm patterns to this day.

Authentic storm pattern rugs are bold, ornate textiles that are beloved by collectors. All storm patterns have a similar structure to their design: They are characterized by a large, central rectangle connected to smaller rectangles in each corner by zig-zag lines. Other motifs that are often incorporated into the weavings are the water bug and the whirling log.

J.B. Moore, the Crystal Trading Post's proprietor from 1897 to 1911, marketed rugs to east-coast buyers through mail-order catalogs. The storm pattern was one of the available designs and early rugs often conform to the exact designs from these early catalogs.

The meanings ascribed to the pattern vary and were likely concocted initially by the collectors and traders, not the Navajo themselves. For example, different interpretations of the four corner rectangles are that they symbolize the four directions, the four winds, or the Navajo's four sacred mountains. The zig-zag lines are often associated with lightning.

After the J.B. Moore era, weavers in the Crystal area continued to make and innovate the storm pattern - you can find a wide variety of geometric motifs added to the basic storm design and occasionally even pictorial elements such as airplanes. Navajo weavers in the Crystal region continue making exquisite storm pattern rugs today.


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Interested in learning more about authentic Navajo storm pattern rugs? Check out this video by Medicine Man Gallery owner, Dr. J. Mark Sublette.


Read more about authentic Navajo storm pattern rugs in these articles from Medicine Man Gallery

Navajo Rugs and Blankets at Medicine Man Gallery

Navajo Rugs-Part 1, originally published in Western Art Collector magazine

In this article, Dr. J. Mark Sublette, CEO of Tucson’s Medicine Man Gallery, provides an overview of Navajo weaving. Read about the history of the Crystal Trading Post and the popular storm pattern rug that hails from this region. Read more...

Regional styles of Navajo rugs

Collecting Navajo Rugs

In this article, originally published in Native American Art magazine, Dr. J. Mark Sublette discusses the intricate and diverse styles of Navajo rugs, including those from the Crystal Trading Post region. Read more...


For 30 years, Dr. J. Mark Sublette has been a leading authority on Navajo rugs and blankets. Medicine Man Gallery, located in Tucson, Arizona, has one of the largest collections of authentic Navajo textiles, including a large collection of storm pattern rugs.

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