A Young Diné Weaver Channels Her Family’s Heritage
A seventh-generation Native American textile artist is designing her future, one piece at a time.
By Sara Crocker | Photography by Tyler Glasses
Naiomi Glasses didn’t plan on becoming a weaver. But at age 25, the budding artist has already made a name for herself in the realm of textiles.
Growing up in Avondale, the prospect of carrying on the family tradition seemed out of reach. But when the 2008 recession hit and her family returned to Navajo Nation, Glasses had an opportunity to learn from her paternal grandmother, or “nalí adzaan,” Nellie, until her passing in 2019.
“I spent literally every day for a decade with her,” Glasses says. “I’m very grateful she was able to teach me and my brother, Tyler. It’s a way of honoring her and continuing that legacy of weaving within our family.”
As she learned by observation, Glasses began completing rugs for her grandmother and brother. By high school graduation, she could weave on her own. “They just set up a loom for me and said, all right, you’ve seen us do the motions; you’re on your own,” she states, laughing.
Social media began to take notice of Glasses’ brightly hued rugs, purses and blankets, which she often photographs against the stunning Sonoran desert landscape where her sheep graze. The artist uses the exposure to showcase her life as a modern Diné (the preferred term to describe the Navajo community) woman, from sharing videos and photos caring for animals on the reservation to taking meetings in New York City with textile brands and fashion designers. “I feel like every day is something new,” she says.
Glasses finds inspiration while out on the land—not only from the terrain itself but in how the colors of the desert coalesce. She also studies turn-of-the-century Navajo weavings, punctuating her pieces with traditional techniques and motifs such as wedge weave, Saltillo diamonds and the four directional crosses.
“I love the story in each piece,” says Wendy Crabb, a Colorado-based curator of Native American jewelry who has collected several of Glasses’ textiles. “I love to know how things evolve. Naiomi has amazing vision, and it comes so naturally to her.”
When she is not weaving, Glasses indulges her other two passions—skateboarding and raising awareness about children born with facial clefts.
“I was bullied as a kid for having a bilateral cleft lip and palate,” Glasses says. That isolation sparked her interest in skateboarding, giving her time to decompress after tough days at school. Today, she offers resources to others. “I feel that advocating is very important because there are a lot of kids who deal with this, and they may not feel seen.”
Whatever Glasses chooses to do, her fans and collectors are looking forward to seeing what’s next. “She’s doing it all, and I think it’s wonderful to watch,” Crabb says. “She shows so much grace and gratitude, and that comes from believing in who you are and what you do.”
Naiomi Glasses, naiomiglasses.net, @naiomiglasses.