Agoyo Talachy-Duran of the Laboratory’s network and infrastructure engineering division takes a wooden spindle and hand spins various skeins, loosely coiled and knotted lengths of brightly colored yarns. Once Agoyo has assembled these yarns, she sits back, clasps a length of monk’s cloth—an evenweave fabric ideal for embroidery—and begins to work on a pattern.
From Nambe Owingeh (Tewa meaning “rounded Earth village”) and Ohkay Owingeh (Tewa meaning “place of the strong people”), Agoyo learned the art of embroidery from her mother, Pearl, who had been taught by Agoyo’s grandmother and her great-aunt of Ohkay Owingeh. Agoyo and her family reside in Nambe Pueblo, which is about 20 miles north of Santa Fe.
“I come from a line of pueblo embroiderers, “Agoyo says. “My grandmother Crucita Talachy and her sister Lorencita Bird, both of San Juan Pueblo, made beautiful textiles. They taught my mom their skills, and my mom tried to teach me when I was a teenager. But I didn’t have the interest or patience to sit with her and learn. It wasn’t until my mom in 2019 taught a class at Nambe Pueblo, where I started and finished my first kilt.”
Clothing for native dances
“In the pueblos, embroidery is done by both men and women,” Agoyo says. “People make shirts, vests and traditional dresses and kilts used for dances. I was inspired to create these kilts by my son’s coming of age and taking part in our traditional dances. These pieces will be used and kept in our family and handed down to my grandsons. It took a lot of heart, perseverance and prayer. I started the process in early April 2020 and completed it in late September 2020.”
Although embroidery is a relatively straightforward process, the results are filled with meaning.
“The cloth has a woven square pattern throughout the material, so when you design, you’re working in blocks,” Agoyo explains. “I draft my design on graph paper in sections. The main design is repeated five times throughout the ‘Segah’ design. The diamonds I wove into each section were inspired by my children. The ram I chose for its beauty, strength and its ability to survive and adapt to extremes.”
This craft takes time
“The most satisfying part of embroidery is to stand back and look at my work in amazement, that I was able to complete a piece like this—I didn’t know I had it in me.”
While creating her son’s kilt, Agoyo learned quickly that embroidery takes plenty of patience.
“There were times I missed a count and had to rip what I sewed and start over,” Agoyo says. “The most challenging design for me was the ram. Every time I wanted to stop or felt it was completed, my husband pushed me more and more until it was perfect. I am thankful for him doing that. He saw more in me than I saw in myself.”
When it comes to embroidery, Agoyo offers the following advice: “Start with a clear mind and heart. Don’t get overwhelmed and be in a rush. That’s when mistakes happen—well, at least that was the case for me. You need to be diligent, have patience and don’t give up. You will be happy with the end result. And that is a beautiful feeling.”