Navajo Weaving Combs of the 19th Century
- by Jamie Compton
- in New Gallery Item
- posted April 22, 2021
A Group of Early Navajo Weaving Combs
Navajo weaving combs are wonderful examples of a functional tool that has lasting beauty and typically gets better with age. This group of 13 combs came into my gallery not too long ago. They are all from one collection by a person in Santa Fe. Each comb has its own distinctive personality, some regal, others sweet and humble. These are particularly decorative as a group of fine objects, to be laid on a table top or mounted on a wall.
It’s wonderful to see the variations in sizes, shapes, colors, types of wood and patina. These combs go from small (7.5 x 1.7 x .35 inches) to large 9 (12.4 x 1.75 x .5 inches). Most of the handles go to a graduated point at the end, but some have more detailed development with hearts or diamond shapes in the handle just below the comb portion. Some of the combs have been finished to a smooth surface, where as others can be more rough and a bit on the crude side. The crude ones have just as much charm, in that they have an individual look that is unique and appealing.
A good, strong wood is desired to make a comb. While I’m not clear on all the types of wood used, most common are juniper, oak, and maple along with other deciduous desert type of trees. It’s interesting to look carefully and see the different techniques to cutting and shaping the combs. Some of these combs have been used a long time. When this happens, the oil from both the hands of the weaver as well as the oils from the wool turn the comb into a glossy finish almost as if it were varnished. Well it has been, but slowly, and naturally, over time.
Modern and contemporary combs are still made today by Navajo weavers. Many weavers hand make their combs, but some buy them already made by weaving companies that supply ready to go combs.
This group of 13 combs is being sold as a set for $1600. Please reach out if you have any questions or interest.