2018 Best of Show winner Irvin Trujillo, master weaver and multiple award winner By Arnold Vigil
It’s hard to believe today, but master weaver Irvin L. Trujillo admits that while growing up in Chimayó, he felt little enthusiasm for the hundreds of weavings his father, relatives and other villagers produced. The 2018 Spanish Market Best of Show winner says that in the 1950s and ’60s, most weaving accolades were bestowed on traditional Navajo weavers and their famous creations, while his ancestors’ Río Grande-style weavings went mostly unrecognized as works of art. Time seemed to have left them in the dust.
But in the 1970s and ’80s, scholars began to seriously study and publish reports on the illustrious, centuries-old history of the Río Grande style, whose weaving products served everyday practical uses in the rural Hispanic life of the past. And fortunately for the rest of us, Trujillo, now 65, persevered in the creation of the style and took it to new levels, which today he generously shares with other weavers.
“When I was young, I was ashamed of the Río Grande tradition,” says Trujillo, whose 2018 Best of Show win at Spanish Market was his record fifth — he also took the honor in 1984, 1999, 2008 and 2012. “Now I know that weaving was brought here by my ancestors, from 1706 on my Grandma Ortega’s side and 1750 on the Trujillo side, and I have grown to respect the old-school Chimayó weavers.”
His father, Jacobo Ortega Trujillo, set up a loom in his daughter’s room after she moved away and began to resurrect the weaving skills he had put on hiatus, Irvin remembers. The bold move was enough to get the grade-schooler away from the television for a while to watch his father work and to ask questions. Soon the youth was participating in the creative process, which began long before the spun wool ever reached the loom. Irvin says that his father prepared the material by shearing the family sheep, spinning the wool and dyeing it with pigments from indigenous plants before finally designing and weaving his pieces. He says he still has some of Jacobo’s creations and values them as irreplaceable art heirlooms rather than as the tourist curios he deemed them in his youth.
After high school, Trujillo went on to earn two associate’s degrees at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, then a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the University of New Mexico. He then worked as a draftsman at Sandia Laboratories for a short while before he realized that he wasn’t suited for a confined urban office. He longed to move back to the expansive Río Arriba County village where he grew up, and that’s just what he did. He and his newlywed bride, Lisa, returned to Chimayó, where they used savings and some money from his father to found Centinela Traditional Arts in 1982.
“From then on, I had to weave for a living,” he notes. Since then, the business has grown to showcase works by other area weavers, his wife and one of their two grown daughters. He weaves in one room of the shop, dyes in another and helps with sales. He is also in the process of documenting historic pieces owned by relatives of area weavers.
His 2018 award-winning weaving, titled Thinking Inside the Box, took him 1,200 hours to create. It was sold to an Eastern New Mexico University professor, who will hang it in a restored Spanish hacienda.
To learn more about Trujillo and his many awards and honors, or to visit his family weaving shop and studio, visit chimayoweavers.com.