The Navajo are most known for their plaques. No longer just reserved for 'wedding baskets', today's baskets are highly stylized and detailed. Pictorials are typically used. Whether it is a landscape, a reservation scene (hogan, sheep herding, dances, horses, etc.), or even a quasi-ceremonial painting (Yeii Bicheii), it is easily identifiable.
It was thought that the Navajo stopped making baskets. Instead, it was thought they would trade with the Paiutes, Apaches, and Hopis. However, given the remoteness, it is probably unlikely and just became less of a craft. This changed with the help of the Black family. The Black family, led by Mary Holiday Black, have created some beautifully crafted, technically savvy, geometric baskets for the market. In 1995, Mary was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for her leadership and work. Other members include Sally Black, Lorraine Black, and Elsie Holiday.
Typically the Navajo use the coil method. The smaller the coils, the finer the work, as you can create more detailed patterns and pictures. Some plaques can reach 30 inches in diameter! If a 12" plaque was laid out in a straight line, with just a normal coil, not a fine one, the coil would extend out probably four feet. They are used as containers for ritual tools, drums, and currency (payment to singers, etc.).
The designs vary, but are typically of two type: a whirl or helix that starts at the center and spirals out to the ends or a piece that has four quadrants, usually symbolizing the four peaks. The two 'structures' are typically embellished with pictorials, geometric patterns, or ritually important symbols/structures. The design is rarely perfect. It is common to leave an 'error' so the piece is not ever really finished or perfect.
Motifs include inspiration from nature, such as landscape, living things, and/or reservation scenes.