Textile artist Naiomi Glasses brings Gen Z visibility to the Navajo Nation
While Navajo textile artist Naiomi Glasses has been weaving carpets since she was a teenager – and already had a serious business under her traditional Diné belt at the age of 24 – it was her skateboarding skills that brought her to Gen Z TikTok fame.
The viral post of glasses in Slo-Mo walking across the red sandstone that covers their Rock Point, Arizona home has had more than 1.8 million views since it went live in October 2020. She conceived it as a funny homage to the original dreams Post from @ 420doggface208, but instead of a bottle of cranberry juice, Glasses holds a small juice box. And instead of a hoodie and trousers, Glasses wears a traditional Diné skirt and its characteristic turquoise.
“I had just finished a photoshoot and I was very chic,” Glasses told In The Know. “So I was out there and decided, ‘Okay, you skate down the sandstone and see how it goes.’ And then it just started. “
And thanks to this video, Gen Z TikTokers across the country get a glimpse into life on the Navajo Nation, seeing both the traditional and the modern mixed together. You’ll also get an important reminder that Native American people are still here.
“I think it’s important to know that we’re not something that is a thing of the past,” Glasses told In The Know. “Some of us live in the Navajo Nation and there are many Navajos who have moved away. You can find us in many modern places. “
This diversity also applies to fashion.
“While I like to dress the way I dress, not every Diné person you encounter will be fully dressed in traditional Navajo attire,” she added. “There are many who do great things. We are multifaceted individuals and we are just like everyone else. “
One way to fight bullying
Eyeglasses began skateboarding before she even started weaving, at just 5 years old, to combat the bullying she encountered due to her cleft lip and palate. Skateboarding not only gave her a sense of freedom, it also looked cool.
“It would distract me from the bullying,” she said. “It would really help me relax after a long day at school, for example if I am tense or worried that someone might bully me.”
And this hobby, which started out as a stress reliever, inadvertently led to a boom in social media followers, as well as a boom in business.
“The carpet orders have increased,” said Glasses. “A lot of people ask when I’ll be bringing out more wallets.”
Glasses has also worked with other companies on several carpet and ceiling collections, and other projects are in the works.
The 24-year-old recently teamed up with Sackcloth & Ashes on a blanket collection sponsoring Chizh For Cheii (Wood For Grandpa), an organization that helps elders in the Navajo nation. She also designed a line of carpets for American Dakota that are not only beautifully designed, but also durable and withstand both splashes and, of course, skateboarding.
“It was a great experience, especially seeing how differently weaving has opened up so many possibilities for me,” said Glasses.
The young textile artist learned to weave from her late grandmother Nellie, who also introduced her to the beauty of turquoise.
“My grandma always told me that weaving could be a life for me, and I didn’t fully understand that until recently,” she said.
Native American Representation
As Glasses ponders how her sudden fame affects Native American children across the country, she shared how positive the experience was.
“It just makes me excited to see where the local child advocacy service can go further,” said Glasses. “And I think it’s very important because if I had seen someone who looks like me as a native and does great things, I think I would have completely changed my self-image for a long time.”
For the young social media star, representation even goes beyond ethnicity.
“I also have to look at it from the perspective of being someone with a cleft lip and palate on both sides,” she said. “Because right now I can’t name a single person I see in mainstream media who has a cleft lip and palate on both sides. And that’s even more groundbreaking for me. “
While Glasses admits that she had a “great” support system in her own family, including her brother Tyler, who takes many of her photos, she said that support could extend beyond her inner circle to what she sees in the media overall have seen.
“I think it would have helped tremendously if more aboriginal people were represented and more people with craniofacial differences had been brought out,” she said
And with more Indians in the spotlight these days, she sees this happening, albeit slowly.
“I might not be Chanel’s target audience, but when I see Quannah Chasinghorse modeling for them, I think, ‘Oh my god.’ She is such a sweetheart. I’m so happy that she does such great things. “
And with TV shows like Rutherford Falls and Reservation dogs, which features and attracts a lot of attention, Native American actors, writers, and directors, the mainstream audience is seeing more Native Americans in modern roles.
“I think it’s an important turning point right now when we see the representation of ourselves, but in the modern age and letting people know, ‘Hey, we’re still in the 21st of what some of our lives are like. It may not be everyone because I know the reservation is very different, ”said Glasses. “But it’s nice to see that some light shines on us in a modern way.”
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Post-textile artist Naiomi Glasses brings Gen Z visibility to the Navajo Nation and first appeared on In The Know.
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