‘Painting with yarn’

Young weaver makes bold move toward full-time craftsman

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
Kevin Aspaas, of Shiprock, talks about his wool dyeing process at the Sheep Is Life conference in Tsaile on Friday, June 15, 2018.

TSAILE, Ariz.

At the young age of 19, Kevin Aspaas decided to leave Northern Arizona University. “I had been at NAU for two years and I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want to go into something I didn’t like,” Aspaas said. “So I just took a break, and weaving was always in the back of my mind.”

So he talked with his parents about deciding to weave full time. Aspaas told them he would give weaving four years and if he couldn’t make a living off of it he would do something else. “Which is a really scary thing to think about — within four years you have to make this amount of money,” Aspaas said. “They were just like, ‘OK, we’ll support you. We know you want to do this.’”

Four years later, Aspaas has learned techniques from famed Navajo master weaver Roy Kady. He has been to the Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market and other shows. At the Heard Museum, he won best of class in weaving and textiles and best of division in 19th century/revival this year.

He joined Diné Be Iina and is the vice president of the board of directors. Diné Be Iina is the sponsor of the Sheep is Life festival that happens every summer in Tsaile on the Diné College campus.

Aspaas has also learned to clean, spin, and dye wool. During this year’s spin off competition at Sheep is Life, he was one of the top two spinners, out-spinning two other competitors and too close to call with another weaver. At his booth, he had wool that was every color of the rainbow from a neon pink to Navajo black. Aspaas works primarily with natural dyes.


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Categories: Arts

About Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah