Rita Padilla Haufmann is from Tesuque, New Mexico. A self-taught spinner, dyer and weaver, she trained in the craft as she transitioned out of a 26-year career in education. As a child, Haufmann watched her grandmother wash and card the wool for colchones, or mattresses, made from bags of raw fleece. She now places a small stocking in the lower right hand corner of each woven piece to honor her great-grandmothers who were stocking knitters recorded on the 1823 Rio Tesuque census almost 200 years ago.
Churro sheep were first brought to New Mexico by the Spanish colonists, as a source of food and fiber in the New World. The strength, luster, and modest natural grease of the fiber led Churro wool to become the main source of the fine Navajo and Rio Grande textiles so prized today. Padilla Haufmann works exclusively with Churro wool, which she washes, cards, spins, dyes and weaves by hand. She primarily utilizes the natural colors of the fleece, but also works with natural dyes made from medicinal plants, wood, and insects in use from colonial times.
Her weavings are based on the traditional Banded Rio Grande style, including the five band pattern and use of three or sometimes seven panels. Each band consists of narrow shuttle-work within the larger piece in ticking, wavy lines and beading. Frequently, a tapestry design consisting of angular shapes in diamonds or triangles – called Saltillo design elements – breaks up the bands. Padilla Haufmann has received numerous accolades and awards for the fine quality of her workmanship. Her pieces are held in museum collections across New Mexico and Colorado. Each weaving is special and unique and cannot be reproduced.
IFAM thanks the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art for nominating Rita to join the 2021 Santa Fe Market.