You know, sometimes we need to slow down, and they [Navajos] teach me
that all the time--that we run by the clock. I love the saying--Eugene
Joe one day came in to me, and I was running around the store frantically,
and he said, "Hey," he tugged my sleeve and he said, "don't run with the
clock, walk with the sun." That is kind of a Navajo-ism or an Indian-ism,
you might say, but it's true. We are so geared and so fast, and
as we get in this world today with all the conveniences we have, the Internet
and everything else, the pace gets greater. We fill our lives full,
but when it's all through, is that important? Do we learn from it?
I think we learn more from people than we do from things. They've
taught me that.
It's always wonderful when a weaver will bring in a rug, and a weaver maybe that you don't know so well. When she walks in, most of these weavers take great pride in the things that they have done. And they'll, a lot of times, dampen it and iron it, prior to bringing it in. Then they will roll it, and let's say if it's a substantially-sized thing, they'll roll it in a bed sheet. So when they come in, you don't see the rug, but it's rolled up, and so as you come into a room like this and unroll the rug, and you're seeing a gorgeous piece, your heart just absolutely jumps, and you are delighted to have that weaver bring it in...
It's interesting to me, in trading or buying from somebody on this type
of thing, so many times the buyer will try to get an upper edge by kind
of pointing out maybe a little flaw or a defect in the piece. Well,
I've always felt like that weaver on a big piece has lived with that piece
for six to nine months and she knows every flaw in it, so I don't really
need to point it out to her--that's kind of negative. If I had spent
nine months making something... I really try not to make it a negative
experience for her or for me, but a positive one.
We worked on a very interesting project with Ruth Tiller and Roseann Lee who are sisters to Sam Tiller, that I've talked to you about, from Two Grey Hills. One day, Rose was coming in here with these very small tapestries. And the tapestry was selling from $2,000 to $3,000 for this size of rug. And it was counting close to 100-110 weft to an inch. And Rose was frustrated because I had three of her rugs that I hadn't been able to sell, and she came in with a fourth, and I said, "Rose, I can't give you a lot of money for it, because I've already got three, and I can't sell 'em at the price I've been selling." So I just told her what I could pay for it, and I said, "Rose, try somewhere else. If you can sell it for more, fine." And she came back in late in the afternoon and sold me the rug and had come down about $1,500 in price. I think we probably gave her around $2,000. I'd been paying her $3,500 to $4,000 for that rug.
She said, "What can I do?" I said, "Well, Rose, no one's done a great big tapestry or a large tapestry. Why don't you do a large tapestry?" And she said, "Well, what do you mean 'large'?" And I said, "Four by six or four by seven." And so she said, "I'll think about it." Well, she came in a little while later and she was laughing and happy--and this was about two weeks later. She said, "I've talked to my sister, and we're gonna start a large tapestry." Well, this went on, and she came in about a month later, and she said, "Now, Ed, this rug's gonna be on the loom for some time. You're gonna have to lend me money kind of as we go along, because this is gonna take quite a while." And at that time I didn't realize how long it was going to take.
So when the rug was somewhat along, I guess it had been on [the loom] about nine months, Bill Bob and his wife came over from Cristof's, the store in Santa Fe, and they had heard about the rug and wanted to do some picture-taking of it, so I took Bill Bob, and we went out to Roseann Lee's mother's place where the rug was on the loom. And I have never seen anything like it in my life, in that it was about seven foot wide. And that means the loom was wider than that, and it was on substantial metal pipes about this big around, the bottom and the top of it, and they had about twelve big tie-downs, chain tie-downs, pulling that pipe down to where that warp was so tight it was more like a harp--you could almost play it, but it was so fine.
Well, the girls would sit side-by-side weaving on that rug. And so you could not see if they had somewhat an inconsistency that their sister didn't have, about every hour they'd change seats, so they would weave on both sides, so there would be no disparity or no difference. Along in that rug, Roseann Lee found that they had made a mistake, and she backed up about three months' work, undoing, unraveling, getting down to that mistake to take it out. The mistake was so small--and I am fussy--but I said, "Roseann, it's not worth taking out." It wasn't that big a thing, I couldn't hardly detect it, but it bothered her, and so she took it out.
The girls worked on that fairly steadily--and this was a Two Grey Hill tapestry that counted over a hundred weft to the inch, and they worked, I don't know, for about a year-and-a-half on that. They had what I would call a family disagreement, and the two sisters weren't getting along at all, and so they did not weave on that rug for about four or five months. One day their mother came into the store and I said, "Ruth, I'm worried about that rug. It's pulled so tight, that when you release those tie-downs, is it going to just accordion and come together like an accordion?" And she got that twinkle in her eye, and her eyebrow went up and she says, "Ed, you know me well. Anything I had anything to do with is not going to be anywhere [near] that. You don't have to worry about that rug, it's going to be perfect."
Now, I forgot to tell you why I was worrying about that rug. Up to that time, they had been getting money from me on it, and I said it had been about a year-and-a-half. Well, as I checked one day on what they'd picked up so far, they'd picked up about $4,000-$5,000 in cash on that rug. Well, that was a lot of money for me on any rug. I just wasn't used to something this large, this length of time.
That rug took them four years to complete. Now, they didn't weave totally all the time on that, but I remember finally, as we got a call, I got a call... and Roseann Lee--and I could hear the excitement in her voice--said, "We've completed the rug." And I said, "Well, fine, I'll be down here. Why don't you bring it down?"
Well, her and her sister, Barbara Ornelas [phonetic spelling], came down with the rug to Phoenix. Well, they were just ecstatic. They were bubbly and bouncing and they were so excited about the rug. And we rolled the rug out in my room, and I don't know that I've ever had quite anything like that take me, in that it was absolutely perfect, and yet it was almost six by nine--perfect Two Grey Hills. The pattern was so intricate and busy, because she lays her pattern out on graph paper. And so it's not just a rug, it is the most intricate thing you've ever seen. Here was this gorgeous masterpiece, and she rolled it out, and she said, "What do you think?" And I really couldn't.... I just sat and I just absolutely looked at the rug and took it in for some time, because I really couldn't answer for a while. And finally I said, "Rose, I have never seen anything like it." And she said, "What do you think we can sell it for?"
I said, "I don't know. Rose, I think probably $20,000-$28,000, something up in there, is wholesale on that, or we can sell it for. But before I tell you that, I need to get a reading from somebody that might know. I'll go up to Dan Garland and take it to a couple of places and kind of get feedback on what they feel like they could sell it retail for." Roseann said, "That's great."
And then she looked at me and she basically said an interesting thing that I so understood. She said, "Ed, you're family, you're like my brother. Do you know, I don't want something to happen. If you buy that rug from me, and you pay me $30,000 or whatever you pay me, and I hear afterward that you've got a lot more money out of it, I don't know that I would ever be able to forgive you or feel the same about you." Well, I thought for a minute, and I totally understood that. I said, "Rose, I understand that. I totally do. Maybe we just better work out something that's a little unique or different on this rug."
So we decided to partnership the rug. Her and her sister would [each] own a third; I, because of the money and it was up to $15,000, $16,000 by that time that I had in it, would own a third of it; and we'd partnership it with her and her sister being able to overrule me on anything they wanted to, because they had two-thirds of the rug. That fit okay with them, and so that's what we decided to do.
I took it out to Dan Garland and let him take a look at it. He had never seen anything like it, and we decided maybe the rug would be worth around $30,000-$38,000. Well, Rose came back and I told her that, and at that time it was in August, and she said, "How about letting me take the rug to the Santa Fe Market and see what we can do with it?" So her and Barbara Ornelas took a booth over at the Santa Fe Market and took it over there to the show. It's a judged show, and it's a big show. Well, the next day she called and she was laughing and she said, "Turn on your TV tonight, we're gonna be on TV." And I said, "What do you mean you're gonna be on TV?!"
She said, "We won the Best of Class, which is the best rug over here. Then they put all the best of the classes together and we took the Best of Show."
That was really an accomplishment for a Navajo rug to beat out the pottery and the jewelry and everything else, and they were gonna be on TV. And they were in the headlines of the paper and everything else.
Well, the next day, they'd picked up the rug from the judging where it's on show that night, and the next morning they get to pick 'em up and then they go back to their booth to sell things. Well, they picked up the rug the next morning about six o'clock, they walked back to their booth, and at seven o'clock this couple came by and asked a couple of questions. And then Mr. Marcus from Neiman-Marcus came by and he and his family furnished the money for the ribbons, and they usually end up buying the best of class over there, because they furnish the ribbon and they also buy it. And he came by and looked at the rug, and he said, "Well, I'll be by later in the afternoon and make you an offer."
Well, this couple came by and wanted to know something about the rug a short time later, asked a few questions about it, and asked Rose what she was asking for it. Rose, not knowing quite what to say, said $60,000. They took a look at each other and kind of said, "What do you think?" and they said, "Okay, we'll take it." So they went ahead and bought the rug at $60,000. I guess Mr. Marcus came by some time later, about two hours later, to see if he could buy the rug, and Roseann Lee was elated when she could say, "Well, I'm sorry, but it's already sold."
The gentleman that bought the rug invited Rose and Barbara to come to
Texas, to bring the rug down, and to see where it was going to be in their
home, and to pick up their money, and to just spend a couple of days with
them. Well, Rose called me up and of course she was ecstatic.
And she said, "How do I take the money?" I said, "Well, usually
Rose, when you're dealing with somebody at that level, it's fine to take
a personal check. But if you're nervous about that, ask for a cashier's
check or a money order or something similar to that--it's fine."
So I didn't hear anything more from her
I can remember Roseann Lee took her purse and dumped it up like this, and $60,000 in 100-dollar bills come spilling out, right down here, all over the floor. And I said, "Rose! Sixty thousand dollars in cash?!" She said, "Ed, when he asked me how I wanted the money, I forgot what you told me, and the only thing I could think about was cash. He kinda got a funny look on his face, but he said, 'Well, fine, give me a little time. This afternoon I guess I can have your cash for you.'“
So I guess he'd had to go to his bank (laughs) and withdraw $60,000 in 100-dollar bills, but here it was, and they spilled it out here.
[That was] probably one of the funnest things I've been involved with, because they were just so special, and it was such a special thing for them and their whole family to work with, and Rose, I guess that was maybe five or six years, and she was killed in a car wreck--Roseann Lee was killed in a car wreck with one of her grandsons not long ago on [Highway] 66. Barbara Ornelas still is very close to the Heard Museum. I think her husband's a pharmacist in Tucson. And she has sold several tapestries since then, but never quite that rug, which was to me one of the most perfect rugs I've ever seen woven.