Pendleton | First of August Webshop Fall/Winter
A new brand came in for the FoA webshop, named ‘Pendleton’. Some of you may be familiar with this brand, well known from his native pattern blankets. I thought a little ‘history class’ would be nice to share about this interesting, over 140 years old brand Pendleton and in particular the ‘native patterned designs’ they are using in their products.
Native Pattern Design
Many of today’s ‘native’ patterns are drawn from Navajo blankets. In the twentieth century, white Americans entered the conversation: Pendleton Woolen Mills, which was founded in Oregon around the turn of the twentieth century, sent its head loom artisan, a man named Joe Rawnsley, to live with native Americans so that he could design blankets specifically for the native American market. He interpreted the ideas gleaned from the native peoples into blanket designs using modern technologies that could express pattern ideas in much greater detail and in more vivid coloration’s than could be expressed by traditional weaving methods. With the success of these first designs, Mr. Rawnsley spent six months in the native Southwest developing ideas for designs which might specifically appeal to the tribes of this region. (Navajo, Zuni and Hopi tribes).
In pre-Columbus North America, blankets were made from hides or pelts of smaller animals which had been sewn together or woven from wool, feathers, down, bark and cotton and, in some areas, shredded cedar bark. When the Europeans came to this country and bartered with the native peoples, wool blankets had great value in trading and the brighter the better. Pendleton Indian blankets with their brilliant colors and sharp details became very popular after their introduction into what was known as the “Indian trade”. Pendleton sold them to native tribes, which began to incorporate them into religious and cultural life, even using them in ceremonies. At the same time, it sold them to collectors back East, who thought of them as ‘traditional’ native blankets — which, in a sense, they had become. One of the reasons for the popularity of these products is the care taken by the pattern designers to learn about the native mythologies and design preferences of their customers.
Chief Joseph Blanket
One example is the ‘Chief Joseph Blanket’ (available in the FoA webshop). When the U.S. government ordered the Nez Perce onto reservations in Idaho, Chief Joseph resisted, leading his band toward Canada. Considered a brilliant strategist, he won many battles against great odds. In 1877 he surrendered to save his people from a harsh winter with little food and no blankets. The Chief Joseph design includes Native American symbols of strength and bravery, attributes of this great chief whose courage and determination won him respect in times of peace and war.
Today, many of the extremely colorful and fanciful patterns, like the ones used in Pendleton products are drawn from that twentieth-century interchange between white and native weavers. The patterns are beautiful and, yes, authentic — but they authentically reflect a complicated, shared history.