Grand-daughters Simone and Amelie Haas always made a daily check-up on the status of the hanging slip knots; it’s good to allow the little people to come visit and “play” with the yarns (under supervision of course). Clarissa’s Chilkat weaving teacher and mentor, Jennie Thlunaut had told Clarissa the story about how when she was 5 years old, she would “play” with her mother’s warp and weft as it hung on the loom. Whatever children play with and enjoy when they are young is most likely what they will do for a living when they are adults
A month ago, I finally began weaving the borders that will frame the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail robe. I did not wait for all the 5×5 squares to arrive, though I had received more than half of the 54 committed donations then. The following is a photo essay of the process:
Using the traditional warp stick (fashioned after Jennie Thlunaut’s), Clarissa measures out the length of the strands for the side borders
Clarissa uses the length of a book that measures (close to the) exact length she needs for the top border of the robe
Inspired by Teahonna James’ 5×5, here is the first color combo of the top border of the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat and Ravenstail ceremonial robe
The top border of the ‘Weavers Across the Waters’ Chilkat/Ravenstail robe
The beginning of the yellow border (Traditionally, a black border was woven and the a yellow border; Clarissa took the liberty of “jazzing up” the black and yellow borders. Notice there are no horizontal braids between the yellow and black borders. Clarissa plans on replacing the horizontal braids with a row of white Mother-of-Pearl buttons instead
Prepared slip knotted strands hang from the lightly-stablizing cross bar; instead of using your good weaving hours to make slip knots, it’s always best to prepare the strands while visiting with folks, or while taking a bath, and choose a discreet seat when you make slip knots at a funeral
Notice the laptop close at hand, along with the basket of yarns and of course when you need to remind yourself of certain tasks, or you have an idea of another project or you just remembered your grocery list, keep your notebooks (daily planner, sketch book, pocket notebook, etc.) at hand at all times near your weaving loom
Three generations of weavers begin weaving the side borders of the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat and Ravenstail robe: Ursala demonstrates her innovative fingering techniques to her daughter, Amelie and her mother, Clarissa.
The borders of the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat and Ravenstail robe; the small white diamonds were a suggestion by my daughter, weaver Lily Hope
Clarissa and Ursala weave the side borders of the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail robe
Teahonna James weaves the last couple of inches of the side borders
The side borders required hours of commitment. Clarissa measured her length of time to the inch; it takes her 1 hour to weave 1 inch. This translates to an estimate of 1-1/2” hours per inch for Ursala and/or Teahonna to achieve. In the foreground are all the squares being sewn together by Clarissa
For the initial project launch, invite, purpose, design specs and who are the ‘weavers across the waters’ who have volunteered to be a part of this project, please visit previous blog posts on my website, at:
Click here for Recent update before this current blog post
Click here for the launch, invite, design specs
Lily checks the measurement of the warp to make sure the length is correct — June 2016
Staying up till 3 this morning, Lily Hope, Deanna Lampe, Miah Lager and Ursala Hudson worked on making the 5×5 weaver kits to be made available for the class later on this morning starting at 9; these are for those who want an easier start for their contribution to the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail Community Canoe Robe. (For info on this project, see previous blog entry by clicking here)
These 5×5 kits include: 12 yards of Chilkat warp measured to correct length and width already attached to the “head board” (the ruler), the weft yarns including an ounce of black, an ounce of white, half-ounce of yellow and/or blue, a large-eye tapestry needle, and a 5×5 project instruction sheet.
Measuring the warp by wrapping it around a book and cutting the warp at one end, our natural-born comedian, Deanna questions Miah of why the photographer would want to take photos of this process — June 2016
Two years ago, Lily created the Northwest Coast Weavers Supply to provide Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers easier access to the weaving materials we need. The merino weft yarns is spun by a company called Louet and not always are they hard to find at any yarn shop; the Chilkat warp is spun by Ricky Tagaban or Alena Mountford and the Ravenstail warp is supplied by Kay Parker.
The precut warp is hung on the weaving loom “header board” made of 12″ wooden rulers
The ingenuity of these kits is this: because of the rubber band “lashing”, these “looms” can be placed around the back of a chair, around a purse (as shown below), the steering wheel of your car (when you are not driving, of course), and the tray table in its upright/locked position on board the jets.
Secured by a couple of heavy duty rubber bands around the back side and a large paper clip, this “weaving loom” can attach to a leather handbag (The COACH bag for example); the small balls of black, yellow, white and blue weft, scissors, tapestry needle and pattern, are or course conveniently placed inside the bag — These are handbags of Deanna Lampe and her niece, Lily Hope — June 2016
With the convenience of these ingenious “weaving looms” there is no excuse for not being able to weave small projects! There shall be no excuse for the lack of time to weave Chilkat and Ravenstail in a weavers’ life.
There’s something about staying up real late making kits for the weavers of this community robe project…!
I am so excited about these little “weaving looms” I might have to buy an upright bag so I can weave while waiting for my food at the restaurant, or in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, or while I am babysitting and the kids are asleep, or sitting at the beach enjoying the sunset, or out on the boat fishing, or on a camp trip, or, or, or….c’mon people use your imagination…!
The line-up of completed weaving kits for the 5×5 “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail Community Robe Project — June 2016
Lily Hope demonstrates to her mother and sister Ursala Hudson, how to weave the “frosting on the cake” side braids of Clarissa Rizal’s latest Chilkat robe “Egyptian Thunderbird” — June 2016
This year, I was determined to learn while teaching side braids to my immediate family of women: my 2 daughters and their Auntie. We wove side braids on my latest Chilkat robe, on my daughter Lily’s Chilkat robe, and my sister’s Chilkat robe. Boom; we gotterdun!
What are the side braids to a Chilkat robe? On the right and left side of most Chilkat robes, there is a woven “netting” that houses the fringe that when a Chilkat robe is worn, lies in the very front. In my experience, weaving the side braids is the funnest part of weaving a Chilkat robe and usually, outside of trimming the robe with fur around the neck, putting in the overlay fringe at the bottom, weaving the side braids is the last finishing touch of a woven robe. And it’s the frosting on the cake, it’s the cream of the crop, it’s the best of the best, and it’s one of the last things we do to complete a Chilkat robe!
If you want to learn about side braids, check out Cheryl Samuel’s book on Chilkat weaving; there are some fine illustrations and instructions on what the side braids are and how to weave them.
Ursala Hudson weaves the side braids of her sister Lily Hope’s Chilkat robe, while Lily tends to her young toddler daughter
My youngest daughter, Ursala learned how to weave the side braids about 3 years ago when I was finishing up my 8th woven robe, the “Diving Whale Lovebirds.” When she was done, she was smiling and exclaimed: “Mamma,…this was so much fun…can we just skip weaving a robe and just weave a sculpture that is made entirely of side braids!?!? Haha! I encourage weavers to learn how to weave Chilkat just so they can know the joy of weaving the side braids of a robe!
Irene Jean Lampe, younger sister to Clarissa Rizal, learns to weave the side braids of her first Chilkat robe — June 2016
Lily and I got my sister Irene to finally learn how to weave the side braids; it took 4 hours of practice, practice and practice before she finally could do it without worry on her own. Learning the side braids takes however long it takes for each individual to getterdun! — Yet once learned by heart, it’s the everlasting song of songs!
Invitational design specifications for the “patchwork quilt” or “Granny Square” Chilkat/Ravenstail Robe Project — Collaborative community design concept by Clarissa Rizal; Canoe Community concept by Suzi Vaara Williams
Dear Northwest Coast Chilkat and Ravenstail Weavers:
We invite you to participate in a very unique project which will provide a Chilkat/Ravenstail ceremonial robe to be worn by a dignitary of a hosting community for NWC Canoe Gatherings and/or also to be worn in ceremony during the maiden launch of a traditional dugout canoe. Imagine this robe will be worn for many generations of canoe gatherings and maiden voyages! When the robe is not traveling, it will be housed in its own private, glass case in the new “Weavers’ Studio” at the Evergreen Longhouse campus in Olympia, Washington State. Longhouse Executive Director Tina Kuckkhan-Miller, and Assistant Director Laura Grabhorn are very excited about this project.
If you are interested in participating and donating your time to weave a 5″ x 5″ square, the above illustration provides you with the visual concept. The information below provides you with clear instructions:
Project: A NWC Weavers’ Invitational to create a collaborative and unique Chilkat/Ravenstail robe for the NWC communities who host Canoe Gatherings and/or are launching the maiden voyage of a traditional dugout canoe in Washington State, British Columbia, Southeast Alaska and Yukon Territory.
Who is Invited: This invitational is open to all Indigenous Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers representing all the distinctive tribes of the Northwest Coast. The invitational is also open to non-Indigenous weavers who are clan members of a NWC tribe via adoption and/or marriage. Weavers of all levels of experience, from beginner to expert, are invited to contribute! There are only 54 sections on this unique, one-of-a-kind, Chilkat/Ravenstail robe; if you want to be a part of this historical event, jump in now while you can and commit via email, text or Facebook to Clarissa Rizal by May 15, 2016! Email address: email@example.com or text her at: (970)903-8386 or Facebook: Clarissa Rizal
Limited number of weavers: There will be 54 5-inch squares which = 54 separate weavers. 45 of the 54 squares will have 1″ fringe at the bottom. 9 of the 54 squares will have 18″ fringe; these 9 squares will be placed at the very bottom edge of the robe. If you want to be one of the 9 squares with the 18″ fringe, let me know. Please refer to the illustration for visual image. The borders of the entire robe will be woven by Clarissa Rizal after she has laid out the entire 54 squares and sewn them together. Total approximately measurements of the robe will be 68″ wide x 56″ high (includes fringe)
The Warp: You will need approximately 12 yards of Chilkat warp. To keep the thickness and body of the robe consistent, use only Chilkat warp (w/bark), natural color and spun to size 10 e.p.i. Please DO NOT USE Ravenstail warp.
The Heading Cord: Instead of a leather cord (like we use in Chilkat weaving), use two strands of your Chilkat warp, this 2-strands of warp instead of leather cord is a technique used in Ravenstail weaving. The Chilkat warp heading cord will then become a part of your weaving so in this way we avoid any tied knots on the top left and right of your heading cord.
The Weft: merino or mountain goat wool, size 2/6 fingering weight, in any shades of the traditional colors of black, natural, yellow and blue
The Design: Weave anything to do with the canoe world; suggestions are to weave symbols of nature, animals, mankind (i.e. mountains, ocean, rivers, lakes, canoes, paddles, faces, claws (though no human hands: Instead of four fingers, weave three fingers and a thumb)
In addition with your weaving, please provide two things: 1) a brief 100-word max Bio in Word Document and, 2) a photo of yourself with your weaving either finished or in progress (200 d.p.i./5″ x 7″) —- I will be providing this information to the Evergreen Longhouse who will be housing this robe when it is not traveling. I also imagine there may be a small publication (of the robe with all the weavers ) someday printed for each one of us; and why not!? It would be fun!
DEADLINE to commit: Extended to May 15, 2016 Email Clarissa with your commitment (suggestions, etc. are welcome too, especially at this time): firstname.lastname@example.org or text her: 970-903-8386 (yes, area code is 970)
DEADLINE for completion: Postmarked by July 15, 2016 Remember: Along with your weaving, please include the brief bio and a photo of you and your weaving. (see specs above) If you complete your weaving by the dates of “Celebration” and you are in Juneau, you may hand-deliver your weaving to Clarissa anytime during the month of June, otherwise mail your weaving insured to Clarissa’s address:
Clarissa Rizal, 40 East Cameron St #207, Tulsa, OK 74103
“TOUR” SCHEDULE (for the robe) 2016:
1). Hoonah, Alaska: Master carver of dugout canoes, Wayne Price from Haines, Alaska is carving two dugout canoes for the Hoonah Indian Association. The opening ceremonies will be the maiden voyage of both canoes from Hoonah to Glacier Bay for the dedication of the recently built longhouse on the shores of Glacier Bay on Wednesday, August 24th.
2). Sitka, Alaska: Master carver Steve Brown and the Gallanin Brothers are carving a dugout in Sitka, Alaska.
3). Vancouver, B.C.: Robe will be part of an exhibit for four months at Sho Sho Esquiro and Clarissa Rizal’s exhibit called “Worth Our Wait In Gold” at the Bill Reid Gallery, Vancouver, B.C., opening Tuesday, October 18th
If you have any information on definite dates for canoe gatherings and maiden voyage of a traditional dugout canoe, please contact Clarissa or Evergreen Longhouse in Olympia, Washington.
NAME OF THIS ROBE: “Weavers Across the Water” — Thank you, Catrina Mitchell…!
THE ROBE’S HOME: As I mentioned above, when the robe is not traveling, it will be housed in its own private, glass case in the new “Weavers’ Studio” at the Evergreen Longhouse campus in Olympia, Washington State. Longhouse Executive Director Tina Kuckkhan-Miller, and Assistant Director Laura Grabhorn will be the travel coordinator’s for this special robe.
COMPENSATION: As of May 2nd, nearly 40 weavers have committed to this project. Not one of them asked about compensation. This is remarkable; it shows the purity of our weavers’ intentions and commitment to our identity and cultural heritage. Though, I am looking into finding a benefactor who is willing to help support this project. I’ll keep everyone posted.
SUGGESTIONS, COMMENTS, IDEAS, ETC.: I encourage and solicit your input. Please be brave and just communicate with me; no worries. AND if you want to partake, this is “our” robe!
How did this idea sprout? Well you gotta know about Suzi and Clarissa chats: This project was an idea which stemmed from a chat between Suzi Vaara Williams and I on March 4th. I mentioned that I kept seeing everything in “Chilkat”; and Suzi was talking about all the knitting and weaving projects she has got going and asked if I remembered the crocheted “Granny Square” blankets from the 60’s. Immediately instead of crocheted colors of yarn, I saw a different kind of “Granny Square” blanket — I saw the Chilkat and Ravenstail woven ceremonial blanket! And when I exclaimed to Suzi my vision, right away she added with glee: “Oh, oh, ohhhh! And the robe will be worn during the canoe gatherings up and down the coast!”
We hope you join us in creating this one-of-a-kind ceremonial robe woven by present-day weavers for our present-day canoe gatherings and traditional dugout canoe maiden launches. This robe will travel for many generations. Please represent your community and be a part of this historical project. We appreciate your time, energy and talent! Truly, Gunalcheesh!
The older Chilkat apron, most likely started by Doris Kyber-Gruber in the early 70s is held in front of the new Chilkat apron started by Doris’ friend, Dodie Gannet in the late 80s — The folks have finished the newer apron! They are (LtoR): Sally Ishikawa, Jodi Zimmerman, Margaret Jeppesen, Margaret Woods, Stephany Anderson and their consultant Ravenstail weaver extraordinaire, John Beard — December 2014
The “Apron Apprentices” (as they call themselves) have completed the Chilkat apron! Congratulations! The dedication is commendable! Here is a video clip showing the removal-of-the-apron-from-the-loom today by Ann Carlson – https://youtu.be/AW5sFVWs8_Q
Here’s an earlier blog post from December 2014 when I helped guide these weavers with a few more tricks of the trade in Chilkat weaving and this post also provides a story about how this apron came into the hands of these fiber artists/weavers in Oregon: http://www.clarissarizal.com/blogblog/the-apron-apprentices-oregon/
Thank you to Deana Dartt, Curator of Native American art at the Portland Art Museum for providing financial support in helping these weavers to complete this apron. The apron will become part of their permanent collection, which is befitting because of the lineage of Chilkat weavings that PAM has in its collection. We believe that there is no other institution that has the lineage of teacher/student/teacher/student, etc. as the following:
* Chilkat robe woven by Jennie Thlunaut’s auntie who taught Jennie how to weave
* Chilkat tunic woven by Jennie
* Chilkat robe woven by Clarissa, apprentice to Jennie
* Chilkat aprons: the older unfinished one woven by Doris (a student of Jennie’s in the late 60s/early 70s); the most recently completed apron started by Doris’ friend Dodie Gannett (who was learning from Doris), eventually completed 30 years later by the “Apron Apprentices.”
* Commissioned Chilkat robe woven by Lily Hope, apprentice to Clarissa — this robe will be completed by January 2017
Nine of the 12 chosen for the inaugural Tulsa Artists Fellowships during a reception at 108 Contemporary in the Brady District in Tulsa, OK, Jan. 8, 2016. (front, from left) Molly Dilworth, Chris Ramsay, Alice Leora Briggs, Nick Vaughan (back, from left) Clarissa Rizal, Eric Sall, Akiko Jackson, Rena Detrixhe and Crystal Z. Campbell. Not pictured are Gary Kachadourian, Monty Little and Nathan Young. Photo courtesy: Michael Wyke/Tulsa World
Now that we have been caught on camera and advertised in the local newspaper “Tulsa World”, everyone can agree that we have officially landed in Tulsa! Click here to read about the inaugural Tulsa Artist Residency 2016
One of the most up-town covered, outdoor fire pit shelter seats approximately 150 people in a cozy, intimate setting
A little over 10 years ago, when Preston and I had been talking about putting together the first gathering of Northwest Coast Artists to be held during Celebration 2006 in Juneau, Alaska, he had mentioned Islandwood retreat learning center on Bainbridge Island, Washington State as a possible location. He felt that the location of this beautiful retreat in a heavily wooded forest would foster a networking of life-long friendships, kindle collaborations, and create a very tight group of artists where we could truly focus on any art and cultural issues in a very real way. 10 years and 2 Northwest Coast Native artists gatherings later, we finally made it a point to visit IslandWood yesterday; it was obvious to me during this site visit why Preston insisted on IslandWood as the place for conducting next year’s gathering of Tlingit artists – the location of this retreat is astounding!
The purpose of this gathering of Tlingit artists is to establish a loose coalition of mentors to consciously create a mentorship “guide” for our younger generations so we continue to endorse our future artists in whatever field they work.
The warmth of solid oak and maple dining room
There are five, dedicated, professional Tlingit artists who are at the helm of helping to organize this retreat. They include: Sue and Israel Shotridge, Donna Beaver Pizzarelli, Preston Singletary and myself.
At this time, Artstream Alaska and the Evergreen Longhouse are two organizations who will help sponsor this gathering.
We will be re-vamping the Artstream Alaska website where we will have information on the gathering. The goal for website completion is by November this year.
In the meantime, although all of us work together on all aspects of organizing this gathering, we each have organically “fallen into our main roles.” Sue and Israel works on cultural values and the administration, Preston works on fundraising, Donna gathers materials to eventually design and create the website, and during my travels, I have been networking and collecting names of Tlingit artists.
Standing at the entry to Islandwood’s main hall, program coordinators L to R: Clarissa Rizal, Preston Singletary, Swil Kanim, Sue Shotridge (missing: Donna Beaver Pizzarelli)
At first we were going to invite any and all Northwest Coast artists from any background and tribe. Then we got to thinking about the differences in some of the values and we thought the gathering will already be challenging enough with the variety of egos, that we would like to keep it simple. We will be inviting only Tlingit artists for this gathering. We envision other tribes will be inspired to create their own mentorship program for their next generations.
The main lobby before the “Great Hall…”
IslandWood is a nationally recognized outdoor learning center located across Puget Sound from Seattle’s urban center. IslandWood’s mission is to provide exceptional learning experiences and to inspire lifelong environmental and community stewardship. Each year, more than 25,000 people participate in IslandWood’s programs on the 225-acre campus and in communities throughout the region. In addition to our school programs, IslandWood offers a graduate program in partnership with the University of Washington, summer camps, and community programs for children and adults. Revenue from conferences and retreats and contributions from the community enable IslandWood to underwrite our outdoor education programs for children from low-income communities.
For more information on IslandWood, you may visit their website at: www.islandwood.org
Islandwood Program Director Christine welcomes the four of us to tour the small portion of the 250-acre landscape
As I mentioned earlier, Artstream Alaska will be our main sponsor for this project. When the re-vamped website is launched by November 1st, we will be inviting selected Tlingit artists to check out all the information to see if they would like to participate. We are inviting Tlingit artists based on their artistic merit, their involvement in the arts and culture and their obvious concern for the health and well-being of our people.
Sue Shotridge and Preston Singletary walk one of the many paths through the woods on the Islandwood Retreat
Currently, the dates for this 3-day Tlingit Mentorship Retreat is set for next year, September 16 through the 18th, 2016. This will be a retreat. We ask that each artist make a clear commitment all 3 days and nights. We encourage artists to book any outside activities (i.e. visit family and friends in the Seattle area, shopping, sightseeing, etc.) before or after the 3 days.
Just outside Islandwood’s “Great Room”
Once the Artstream website is re-vamped and we’ve got our ducks in order (goal is November 1st), we will send out our invites to our Tlingit artists pointing them to read about our mission statement, the confirmed dates and times, the agenda of the mentorship project, the cultural leaders who will be helping to guide this 3-day event, and the list of artists who will be committing to attend this historical event.
Islandwood’s Welcome plaque just before the shed of many hand carts
Our space has a capacity limit of up to 50 artists. The room and board is covered for each artist attending all 3 days. At this time, we are seeking funds to help pay up to $250 (or less) for each artist’s travel expenses. This will be invitation only, though we are open right now to receive names and contact info of anyone who you may know who fits the bill for a Tlingit mentor.
Swil Kanim and Preston Singletary discuss the meaning of being a mentor
Mentorship project coordinators L to R: Swil Kanim, Sue Shotridge, Preston Singletary, Clarissa Rizal
What is an artist gathering without breakfast!? L to R: Teri Rofkar, Diane Douglas-Willard, Delores Churchill, Allison Bremner, David Boxley, Jr., Nathan Jackson, Wayne Price, Jerrod Galanin, Israel Shotridge, Sue Shotridge
What is the purpose of a small group of large egos coming together in a cozy space for two full days have to do with creating art?
L to R: Lily Hope, Sue and Israel Shotridge, Wayne Price, Jeremiah James, Allison Bremner, David Boxley, Jr., Delores Churchill, Gordon Greenwald, Deborah Head, Da-ka-xeen Mehner
The Sealaska Heritage Institute sponsored it’s first Northwest Coast Artist Gathering to seek advice from approximately 26 Sealaska shareholder (or descendants of shareholder) artists for their Native Artist Program. Some of the programs include: the SHI Retail Shop, the Native Artist Market held during the bi-ennial Celebration, the Apprentice/Mentorship Program, and the most recent proposal of the Dugout Canoe Project.
L to R: Allison Bremner, Crystal Worl, David Boxley, Jr., Wayne Price, Nathan Jackson, Da-ka-xeen Mehner, Clarissa Rizal, Steven Jackson, Jeremiah James, Preston Singletary
I think that I can speak for most if not all of us, that it was an honor for all of us to be in the presence of one another while we touched upon a number of subjects having to do with the creation of art, the passing on of the knowledge, and the marketing of our work while still maintaining a sense of balance in our lives within the basis of our Native spirituality. I think all of us had a good time getting to know one another since we come from many different backgrounds and communities along the Northwest Coast of this continent. I know that all of us felt that natural high of being in the same room with one another and having the opportunity to share ideas and inspire one another during our breakfasts and lunches together. Thank you to Sealaska Heritage Institute for putting together a fine Gathering.
Wayne Price explains the method to his madness of his adz work in the new Walter Soboleff Center to: Steve and Nathan Jackson, David Boxley, Jr., and Da-ka-xeen Mehner
Back in 1981, I was hired (as the 5th employee) of Sealaska Heritage Institute as their Scholarship Coordinator. There was Executive Director David Katzeek, Secretary Lisa Sarabia, Scholarship Coordinator Mary McNeil who was training me to take her position, and my Aunt Katherine Mills who was recording our language and many of the Native stories and songs that eventually Dick and Nora Dauenhauer transcribed and translated into written books published by SHI. The Bi-ennial “Celebration” had not even been created yet, though in 1981 there was a gathering of the elders who at that time felt there needed to be an event which provided an opportunity for the sharing of the oratory, the stories, history and legends, and the song and dance. Hence, Celebration began in 1982.
Guest Artist, Aleutique carver Perry Eaton explains the invite to the French exhibit in 2016, L to R Rosita Worl, Preston Singeltary, Holli Churchill, Lily Hope and Rico Worl.
Rosita Worl has been at the helm of Sealaska Heritage Institute for the past 17 years. I have watched SHI grow into the institute that it has become. As I said in my introduction at the gathering, although I don’t agree with some of Rosita’s business tactics, I commend her on the dedication she has towards making things happen at SHI, not to mention her dream of creating the beautiful Walter Soboleff Building that now houses the inner workings of SHI with all of its language, art and culture programs, publications, retail shop, exhibit hall, simulated clan house and archives.
1981 was nearly 35 years ago. I was a kid, really. I was going through the motions of being a responsible young parent, a young artist, a young mind full of ideas, hopes and dreams. I’m still kind of like that, but now I am facing another type of dream which includes more responsibility than I thought I had 35 years ago. I feel a responsibility towards our younger generations. There are many of us who are not going to be around much longer; many of us in our 50s and 60+ are beginning to feel like we have to pass on our knowledge before our time is up! And it’s not just the technique we teach, it is our Native values and our process of being in how we pass on our knowledge. No Westerner is going to be able to teach what we know spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. It is next to impossible because they don’t “have the connection” – that DNA that innately is passed from one generation of a people to the next. For example, it would be impossible for me to teach the African weavers how to weave their style with their ways because I was not born to that bloodline or landscape or culture; nor would I want to take away from their livelihood.
Right side of the room: Closest to furthest away…Sue Shotridge, Israel Shotridge, Wayne Price, David Boxley, Sr., Allison Bremner, David Boxley, Jr., Chuck Smythe, Gordon Greenwald, Konrad Frank, Deborah Head, Nobu Kock (w/camer) and Da-ka-xeen Mehner
So when SHI talks about their “Formline Curriculum” (which was just published at the disappointment of many of our artists), and their idea of partnering with the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau to create the Northwest Coast Art Academy, to inspire and teach our younger generation of artists and scholars, then judging by this most recent past and the fact that the formline curriculum was drafted (by non-Natives with the token Native advisers), printed and distributed, and SHI puts our Non-Native scholars up on a pedestal and is not in the habit of employing our own Native scholars, advisers, teachers and artists, then what makes us believe and think that our own Native teachers will truly be at the helm of the Native Art classes offered at UAS to give the “stamp of approval and credit” that now we have taught and created true “Northwest Coast Native artists?”
Lunch time with Perry Eaton connecting with several of the Northwest Coast artists
The teaching of Northwest Coast Native Art taught in an academic setting by non-Native art instructors is a big concern to some of us Native artists. Big concern, though many of us do not voice our opinions about it for a number of reasons. Why? Fear. There is a possibility we get ousted out by SHI and UAS and ousted by other fellow artists who are “part of the academic circle” — we are accused of being racists, we fear to be ousted out by grant organizations, other art institutions, galleries, cultural centers, etc. etc.
Notice the small binder provided for every artist attending the NWC Artist Gathering: each binder was personalized with the artist’s name. Like how cool is that?
None of us want to be accused of racism, or not have the opportunities that other Native artists have in the art world, or not be able to provide for our families because we fear that eventually there is no support for us, and we find ourselves alone because even our fellow Native artists may shun us. It’s a horrible feeling to THINK about these things. So what do we tend to do? We keep our mouths shut. There are many of us who will not speak up about our disappointments in how the non-Native artists, academics and cultural centers such as SHI have not hired our own people for prominent jobs. Why not? Some of the reasons may be because they feel that the non-Native have more experience at teaching in the academic arena, or are “better” teachers, or that the non-Native is more knowledgeable about the topic(?). Of course, that is how it is going to be. We are not of the western mind-set and do not necessarily teach in the same way that is for sure, however, this is no excuse, because as studies have shown, Native people learn in an entirely different manner than non-Native so therefore, it is only sensible that a Native person teach our own Native students, right?
Two artists of the younger generation: Jerrod Galanin and Crystal Worl
SHI Art Director Kari Groven, Sealaska Chairman of the Board Joe Nelson, basketweaver Delores Churchill and silversmith Chilkat weaver Darlene See share a moment of laughter as they stage their interaction for the camera!
Two buddies, Clarissa Rizal and carver Wayne Price
Weaver Teri Rofkar and carver Wayne Price discuss the politics around mountain goat hunting
Sure we have the Artist Gathering to provide advice and guidance to assist SHI (and other institutions for that matter). And we touched upon all kinds of topics to assist them in assisting us. But truly, how many of us Native artists will directly benefit from donating four days of our precious time to SHI (two days of prep/travel and two days of actual gathering time)? We each gave SHI and our communities 4 days of our time; in a culture where reciprocity is important, how will those four days be reciprocated? And how many of our younger generation of artists will benefit from the advice we gave to influence the actions and decisions of SHI, and eventually UAS and other institutions that say that they are here to help us preserve and perpetuate Native art, language and culture? How much of the advice we provided will these institutions actually use? The answers will remain to be seen.
After breaking out in three working groups, each group presented their advice for the topics at large (some of the comments are written on the large Post-It notes on the wall. Listening are: Preston Singletary, Holli Churchill, Rico Worl, Ronnie Fairbanks, Deborah Frank-McLavey, Diane Douglas-Willard, Nathan Jackson, Steven Jackson, Teri Rofkar, Jerrod Galanin and Crystal Worl
How come the topic of Native indigenous hire as opposed to non-Native hire was not ever brought up during the gathering?
Because all of us know this is a topic of “hot” discussion and no one wanted to rock the boat; this was not the purpose of this gathering, yet the topic is something that many of us are passionate about. No one brought it up because many of us have the same fears and we don’t speak up for reasons named above. And the topic was not discussed because both SHI (and UAS) know that they will not be able to live up to the idea, let alone the promise or written agreement, that no matter what, they will always hire the Native over the non-Native. Bottom line.
Crystal Worl presents her design method concepts to the gathering
If we do not bring these “hot” subjects up at artists’ gatherings, and many of us feel that we are not being “heard” elsewhere, then how do we go about presenting the issue so that those who need to hear it are actually listening without being defensive? How do we propose the concepts of Native hire, and the buying of Native art and product over the overseas-made “art” and “product”? How many times, how many ways, how many places, and how many people need to hear these are really big issues for the Northwest Coast Artists before they BELIEVE us, BELIEVE IN US?
Holli Churchill, Gordon Greenwald and Deborah Head in action…
So with all that I have said here, then you may ask: what was the true purpose of this SHI Artists Gathering? As I mentioned earlier: we came together invited by SHI’s Native Artists Committee to provide advice to SHI for their various projects to help them work out the bugs to advance their offerings to help advance the careers of their Shareholders who are artists. We are all in this together; there is no “us” and “them.” What affects one, affects us all.
Parting: Sue Shotridge, Deborah Frank-McLavey, Diane Douglas-Willard, Teri Rofkar
Gwen Wally from Teslin finished her Ravenstail headband for her uncle just moments before he danced
We were all so happy again to cram ourselves into setting up the “weaver’s cabin” on the shores of Lake Teslin during the bi-ennial “Haa KusTeYea” Celebration. The cabin has wonderful light, natural air conditioning, feels simply rustic and is accommodating to the number of weavers who come from around the territory. During the three days together, it is a good feeling to see weavers who brought projects that had been sitting on the loom that they wanted to finish, OR they started a new project.
Clarissa demonstrates Jennie Thlunaut’s unique fingering to Kassua, a young budding Ravenstail weaver from Carcross
Most of the women who are want to learn to weave are middle-aged or older; they are the ones whose families are all grown up and no longer they have responsibilities of taking care of others to the degree that they had been. Every now and then we will have a youngster in her early 20s who is not yet married nor with children. However, this time, we had a 10-year-old girl named Kassua Dreyer who mother and she enrolled in the class. Mother and daughter students are always a plus in that they can each teach and reinforce one another as they learn both in class and at home.
Vanessa Morgan from Kincolith on the Nass River, B.C. begins weaving a Chilkat “ghost face” bag
Dedicated returning students such as Vanessa Morgan, Alice Tidell, Diane Knopp, Ricky Tagaban and Gwen Wally are always appreciated by us teachers. Every now and then new students’ bravery joins us like Doris and Kassua Dreyer and elders like Mary L. Lekanof. We know that they sacrifice their time, energy, and money to be here learning more each time. It’s inspiring to watch them as I too am reminded of how I once was when pursing the weaving of Chilkat.
Once again the class resumes its natural position in the small cabin at the Teslin Cultural Center on the shores of Lake Teslin, Yukon Territory. For the past three “Haa KusTeYea” Celebrations, we have been gathering And every year there is always a new group of weavers, and sometimes the old diehards return (i.e. Vanessa, Ricky, etc.). L to R: Diane Knopp, Vanessa Morgan, Alice Tidell, Doris and Kassua Dreyer (and Kassua’s friend), and Mary L. Lekanof
From Carcross, Yukon Doris Dreyer figures out the bunch-berry design!
Ravenstail weaver, Alice Tidell from Sitka, Alaska holds the Ravenstail bag she began weaving which we transferred from a borrowed headboard to an alderwood stick whittled by James Crippen
With a Chilkat/Ravenstail robe started in the background for the Teslin Cultural Center, Lanugage instructor and assistant professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, Lance Twitchell is freed for a moment from daddy duties allowing weaver Ricky Tagaban to hold Lance’s newborn babe.
Diana Knopp from Whitehorse, Yukon tries to remember where she is at in her weaving
Clarissa Rizal paints on location at Eagle Beach, Juneau, Alaska during Dominik Modlinski’s plein rein class
Fellow student, Jane Lindsey came across a pile of eagle feathers neatly placed on the beach; she handed them off to me. Just the day before I had said to myself that I needed to go out looking for eagle feathers since I had given them away over the years. I didn’t want them to blow away so I stuck them into the soil in line with the four directions. Now some folks will say that is a spiritual act, and maybe it was, though I was being practical; the eagle feathers did come to me by “accident”…though my intentions to use them this way were no accident…!
Clarissa surrounds her “work space” with eagle feathers
Dominik reminds us to pay attention to the environmental factors when we are painting on site. Pay attention to the amount of wind, the sun and of course the rain. If sand blows into our painting, just wait until the painting is dry, then brush off gently.
Clarissa noticed that most of the Plein Rein students seemed to be coordinated in colors of teal and violets – even Dominik’s shirt was a deep teal…
Dominik usually gives a light wash of warm yellow background which he says provides a nice luminosity. When drafting a composition, Dominik does not use a pencil, rather he mixes a little red, blue and yellow to make a warm brown and “sketches” lightly with his brush. He uses a large brush and builds textures; this helps define space and is easy to mix paints. He says that he “shoves paint around” on the canvas board. Most of the time he starts from light to dark whether he works in oil or acrylic, though he is known for his oil paintings. He works in big strokes of paint first, then smaller strokes.
No, he never uses an umbrella.
With our beloved Chilkat mountains in the back ground, Dominik tells us about his life as a painter
He does not use sable brushes; he uses bristle brushes. Dominik suggests using Holbein acrylics, oils and brushes; excellent pigments that are made in Japan though very expensive. Holbein water-soluable oil paints are called “aqua-duo” vs. Royal Talons Cobra. The Canadian brand “Stevenson’s” is also very good; they are out of Toronto. He likes to order his supplies from Daniel Smith – he gets 15% off their prices and they are really good with prompt shipping.
Click here and read Part 1 and Part 2 of Dominik’s Plein Rein Painting Class in Juneau