In a fast-paced world, the R.B. Burnham & Company trading post maintains a semblance of an older world. The post, which has been in business for five generations, is located in the small town of Sanders, Arizona, and features an all-Navajo staff. If you ever make your way to the Post, you will see Navajo weavers working at one the oldest and culturally-rich craft of rug weaving.
This weekend, thanks to the Eiteljorg Museum, you won't have to make a cross-country trek to own one of these hand-made artworks. Saturday, the museum will be hosting their fourth annual Navajo Rug Auction featuring rugs from R. B. Burnham & Company.
R.B. Burnham & Company is well-known for dealing high-quality Navajo rugs. They hold auctions throughout the country, in addition to continually selling the rugs at their trading post.
"They are highly respected in the Navajo rug industry," says Mary Ann Clifford, the merchandising operations assistant at the Eiteljorg. "They have been doing this for several generations and they have wonderful access to not only vintage rugs but also new rugs being created by new artists."
The rugs are made on pipe looms and dyed using both synthetic and plant-based dyes. Because they are made by hand, each rug takes a long time to craft.
"A 3x5' rug that is fairly intricate is going to take a month to make," says Sheri Burnham, the daughter of Bruce Burnham, who runs the trading post.
The Burnham's will be bringing over 200 rugs for the auction, which translates out to at least sixteen years of work based on that math. A wide range of sizes and prices will be represented.
"They are in all price ranges. You can buy a rug for as little as $100 or spend multiple thousands," says Clifford. "People should come because they can learn an awful lot about a true art form of the Navajo Tribe. The amount of work that goes into a rug is absolutely incredible."
The most expensive rug at this year's auction will cost nearly $10,000.
"The reason that one is so much more is that it is from the 1900's," Burnham explains. "People inherit rugs that are very valuable, and don't know what to do with them, that is how we got that one."
In addition to the Burnham's, a couple of weavers will be making the trip east to the auction. Patrons will have a chance to meet the weavers and ask questions about the rug making process.
Even those who don't plan on purchasing a rug are encouraged to come and take in the art and culture.
"My advice to people is to not be afraid," says Burnham. "It is free to come and there is a lot to learn. It has entertainment and education value. There is time in between to talk about each item. Even if you don't plan on buying, come just to see."