Clarissa Receives National Endowment for the Arts Award


Clarissa Rizal with her half-completed Chilkat robe “Egyptian Thunderbird on the loom; the pattern board is on the wall behind her — May 2016 — Photo by Tulsa Photographer, Jeremy Charles

The National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C. announced their Lifetime Achievement Awards today.  I received one of nine selected for 2016!

I thank everyone who helped put me in this position of honor!  (I have to run out the door for grandma duties; will write more later on this!)

Please click here for more info.


Creating Living Legacies


Gusts of wind at Monument Valley, near Kayenta, New Mexico — March 2016 — photo by Rene Sioui Labelle

When we are young, many of us do not think in terms of the legacy we leave behind for our children, friends, family, community and the world.  When we are young we are looking forward to all that life has to offer and we make choices based on our desires; this is natural way to think and be.  Then one day, when we are much older than young (and for each individual that age varies), we reflect upon our lives; all those who we have come to love, the places we have lived, the work we have done, and our basic yet evolving character.  We think about our pending mortality.  We think about what we will do, and where we will be with whatever time we have left.  We think about who we have become and what we have accomplished and the who, what, and where these things will be when we pass.  Yesterday my daughter, Lily wrote me a touching letter of gratitude for showing her the way and life of Chilkat weaving.  The following is my response to her:

My Lily Lalanya:

With each of my children and their children, I leave a part of my legacy; it’s the who and what I am about.

With Kahlil, I leave a variety of my artwork:  painting, collage, weaving

With Ursala, I leave my home, studio, garden

With you, I leave my teachings of spirituality, values and technique of  the spiritual/artistic life in Chilkat weaving

Know and come to understand fully all these things are rooted in love.  Everything I co-create is created from love and the best of these creations are my children; my children are my greatest legacy.   In love you were created and creation continues to create you in love.  Look about you and all that you are and be; look at all that you have co-created as you will never create any of what you are and have by yourself — all of creation is co-created…we never create alone. 

We are a culmination of all that has been before, what is now and the future all at once in one small creation:  the I of who we are in this very moment.  All of us are legacies of everyone who has come before us.

It is well you, my dear Lily, are in the love and power of Chilkat; let it continue to guide you in goodness and wellness for many, many years to come.  

Yo Mamma love

Newly-Remodeled Digs


The apartment is being remodeled; yep, good light creates better work!

It’s been over 4 years since I’ve lived in a place that has running water, sewer and sufficient heat.  It will be luxury living when I work in this space!


The layout of the apartment

I was so excited about having my own home again, even though I had all kinds of other business work of deadlines, I couldn’t think of anything else but to do the layout of my space.  For those of you who know me well, you know I like interior (as well as exterior) design work.  I spent 6 hours measuring all my furniture and equipment, then drawing the pieces to scale (1 square = 1 foot), and then doing the layout.  I did several layouts until I came to this one that I felt good about.

I forgot to label the zigzag as the Japanese soji screen which is seen when walking into the apartment hallway looking towards the livingroom.


close-up of the work space

For a year I am privileged to live in a bright, spacious, warm space with a real kitchen and real bathroom(!)  provided for me by the Tulsa Artist Residency while I work, work, work on many, many projects.  Thank you George Kaiser Foundation and TAR for choosing me for this opportunity.  Truly, Gunalcheesh, ho, ho!




Chilkat Prayer

Using small, self-igniting charcoal burns the natural resins

Small, self-igniting charcoal burns the natural resins on a ceramic plate upon an abalone shell — Bentwood boxes were a gift from Sister Dee

My weaving teacher and mentor, the late Jennie Thlunaut recommended that Chilkat weavers pray every morning before they go to their loom.  She said real prayer is always about “giving thanks for what we got.”  She said give thanks for everything you have in your life, and the gift that was given to you, you were chosen to receive this gift…”(she was referring to the art of Chilkat weaving).  I still listen to her words. Every day before I weave, I always say the Lord’s Prayer.  (It doesn’t matter what belief you have, as long as you give thanks, you invoke the spirit of goodness to be with you and those around you.)  In the past few years I developed a method in which I can focus on giving thanks, a ritual that I learned from growing up in the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church.

Almost every day since my mother’s passing on July 4, 2011, I have burned Russian Orthodox Church resins as part of my morning ritual before I begin my work.  And while I walk about my studio home with the incense burning with the gentle fanning by an Eagle feather, I say the Lord’s Prayer with the addition of my own words of gratitude.  The calmness and peace I feel when I complete this ritual invokes a blessing to begin my day.

The then priest of the St. Nicholas Church in Juneau presided over my mother’s memorial service.  It was one of the last services he had conducted before he relocated to Denver, Colorado.  (He gifted me several bags of incense that I recently used up.)  He was the last priest of the church.  If I am not mistaken, the church is no longer used for services, though I believe the church is open during tourist season.  The church was built in 1895 at the request of the Tlingit people living in Juneau.  Our mother was one of the last active members of the church until her passing.

My favorite incense to burn is the Russian Amber and the Russian Rose, along with other local resins, the dried sap collected from the Pinon tree of the Southwest and the Spruce resin of Southeast Alaska.


William and Irene Lampe model the Eagle and Raven robes by Clarissa Rizal, now displayed in the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) Hall in Juneau, Alaska – Christmas 1988

Today would have been the 60th wedding anniversary of my parents; I salute them with a prayer of gratitude…



Klarissa’s Kool Klean Kanteen Kontainer

Necessary cold or hot drinks Kontained in Klarissa's Kool Klean Kanteen

Necessary Kold or hot drinks Kontained in Klarissa’s Kool Klean Kanteen

When my friend Margie gifted me this thermos last Fall 2014, I thought it was sweet, nifty and thoughtful of her.  Little had I known I would use this precious gem at least once a day every day since!  It’s the perfect size, not too big, not too small.  I’ve traveled the ferry south from Juneau to Bellingham with it in my stateroom, traveled in my Chilkat Mobile along the West Coast down to Los Angelos over the Phoenix, up to Santa Fe and then Colorado.

This thermos keeps your hot drink hot for about 5 or 6 hours; keeps your cold drinks cold for about the same time.

I keep it handy at my side while I am at my desk, my drawing table, my sewing table, coffee table during music and of course my weaving loom.  It’s been my pal, my confidant (yes, sometimes I actually talk to it), and obviously my traveling buddy!  Yep, hot or kold drinks keep me hydrated serving me well…THE Klarissa’s Kool Klean Kanteen…!  Go out and get one for yourself!  Or better yet, maybe somebody will gift one to you…!

Thank you dear Margaret!

Alaskan Salmon Berry Pie

Fresh-picked salmon berries - Auke Bay, Alaska

Fresh-picked salmon berries – Auke Bay, Alaska

A few Juneau Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers gather together for a meal hosted by one of the weavers at their home; then we weave afterwards.  The “Wednesdaynite Weavers” we could call ourselves.  A couple of Wednesdays ago, Nila and Laine Rinehart brought fresh Salmonberry pies for dessert – none of us had had this taste before; not like this!!!

SalmonberryPie Recipe

Recipe for fresh salmonberry pie!

A couple of days ago, my friend Lis and I went out to her secret berry patch in Auke Bay – we picked all we could BUT we had to leave some berries behind because we didn’t have enough time nor any other containers!!!  We picked enough to make about three standard size pies, or as the photo below suggests:  2 large and 3 small pies!  Just in time for Father’s Day!


Instructions for making salmonberry pie!

NOTE:  I suggest you cut the cardamom in half….use only 1 tsp instead of 2 tsp!  In our opinion, 1 tsp of cardamom in the mixture is sufficient!


Additional notes…

Some folks may not like the unique flavor of cardamom which if I am not mistaken is a key ingredient in Chi Tea.  If you are a creative baker, you may experiment with other flavors to enhance the quality of this wonderful-tasting berry pie…!  Salmon berries are unlike any other berry — they are the first of our berry season in Southeast Alaska!


2 large and 3 small Salmon Berry Pies celebrating Father’s Day 2015!


What Moves Me

Clarissa's late afternoon Tai Chi - Colorado

Clarissa’s late afternoon Tai Chi – Colorado

Over the past couple months I’ve gotten back into Tai Chi; it helps my aging bone structure to feel a bit more limber.  Tai Chi is a tool to keep up your physical and spiritual circulation – 20 years ago when I took up Tai Chi, I only did it for about two years then I quit…I got involved in too much of my business life, family and working-on-the-house-and-garden-life,  and although I loved the movement, I didn’t make it a priority to keep it in my life.  Not like now; I do a lot of sitting, so I’ve got to do something that “moves” me…!

Suggested Exercise For Weavers

Tibetan 5 Rites - from Qi Gong class - 1994

Tibetan 5 Rites – from Qi Gong class – 1994 — Suggested number of times for each separate movement is 5

Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers will sit for many hours at a time enjoying ourselves as we watch our weavings come to life; it’s always exciting!  To counterbalance the long hours of sitting, the above simple movements can help keep us flexible.   Our bodies are vehicles, they are a tool to help us enjoy, achieve, create, re-create and live our lives.  More often than not, every one of us abuse and/or ignore our bodies in some form or another and we wonder how come we don’t feel or look good?  If we desire longevity with our current capabilities to be mobile and continue creating our weavings, we need to incorporate good health habits now and always.

Like many of us indigenous folk, there are many ways I had kept fit naturally while maintaining every-day life:  I used to live up three flights of stairs and hauled everything from firewood, to kids, to groceries, musical instruments, costumes and props, weaving looms, pounds of fresh caught fish and lots of 5-gallon buckets of fresh berries, painting and art supplies, furniture, new washer, dryer, refigerator and piano.  I once had a landscape company for 13 years where I specialized in building rock walls and digging up indigenous plants hauling them from the woods or beach and replanting with domestic plants and trees.  Living this way is a wholistic approach to keeping healthy, physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally.   I enjoyed silent pride in the strength of my body, mind and spirit.  And instead of signing up for a gym membership, I got paid to “work out.”

I am no longer that active; haven’t been for the past 20 years since I left Alaska part time, and especially the past 7 years since all the family changes that took place during this time period.   Slowly but surely, I gotta admit, even though I am not overweight per se, my muscles have all gone flabby.  I know it ain’t easy for you to read this, but there you have it; that’s what I get for pushing 60 and no longer living on 3 flights of stairs.

Two weeks ago, when I caught a glimpse of myself jumping down from the attic steps and I saw all that shaking going on in my arms, I was flabbergasted!  Or maybe I ought to say “flabby – gasted…?”  I also found out that I have lost some hearing in my left ear.  When I asked my Left Hand Corner what to do about possibly regaining the hearing or at least not losing any more of it, the answer was:  do the “Tibetan 5 Rites…”   Huh?  Okay, I’m not going to argue.   Like my usual self, when I see or experience something I don’t like, if it’s in my personal power to do something about it, I’ll make a change.

I used to do these 5 Tibetan Rites years ago when I had learned Tai Chi, and they were very easy, no problem.  Two weeks ago on the very first day of doing these rites, I discovered how weak my body was; I could barely hold myself up without shaking, and some of the moves I could only do twice.   I was surprised, yet not.  Today, I do the recommended dosage of moves:  5 of each of the 5 moves.  With my meditative exercise plan, I have integrated a few Qi Gong movements along with a simple version of a Tai Chi movement.  It feels good to feel my body becoming stronger.

God willing, I have every intention of being as healthy as I possibly can while aging into the last 1/4 century of my life.  I’ve got lots of things I still must do before I kick any bucket.  And when I kick that bucket, I would rather avoid any shaking flab!

Another Artist Statement!


Whenever I can, wherever I sleep, I place the foot of the bed at the window, so i awaken to nature and the first crack of dawn — view of Teslin Lake — July 2014

After nearly 40 years of writing my artist statements, and of all the responsibilities I have done in running an artist business, the writing of statements is the most challenging; I’d rather do my IRS taxes or shrinkwrap my prints, or go to the dentist than write an artist statement!  I was even challenged a couple of months ago when at the request of one of my students’ assignments from her art instructor had to choose someone who had influenced her to become an artist, I wrote a brief bio explaining when I began to do my art and why.   Even THAT was a challenge, although when I had completed the bio, I was somewhat pleased.  (Here’s the link to the bio: ).

Even now after writing this artist statement, I asked myself why do I have a difficult time with bios and artist statements?  Answer:  I don’t like WRITING about myself.  (Hey now, for those of you who know me and how much I can TALK about myself, that is very different than WRITING about my self!)  When I talk about myself, it is easier because I am talking about the present or the past, I can express myself with animation, and I generally have human responses and conversation.  When WRITING about self, it’s all about ME.  It’s all about what looks good on paper; how I can (or cannot) articulate my process, articulate my inner sanctions, articulate my inspiration, passions, ideas, and remedies to turmoil and celebrations of achievements.  It’s all about making the time to articulate.  It’s all about how well I can articulate!  And what the heck, I have lots of things I want to DO than spend my time ARTICULATING on paper!!!  Articulating through conversations, classes, lectures and presentations is no problem; I do it all improvisationally anyway and it’s always accompanied by storytelling and animated movements, and I ENJOY MYSELF.  However, writing about myself has yet to become enjoyable.  I repeat, I’d rather do my taxes or even go to the dentist.

Anyway, here’s my latest artist statement.  Let me tell you, it was a challenge to write this.

“When awakened by the first light of dawn, my mind filters itself slowly back to this reality while catching up to a body already shaking its legs with enthusiasm to start another day of creating, though dares not because spirit is still in that “delicate time in the in-between” where visions reveal themselves more clearly as I lay quietly, these things “await in the eaves” yet to be created. Those close to me come to understand it is best to leave me alone for up to a half-hour first thing in the morning; disturbing this fragile state of spirit will disrupt the visions of new weavings, new button robes, and new paintings yet to come. It is also a time of communing with those that have long passed, those that I know presently, and those that I will come to know. The things that return with me upon awakening have been manifesting themselves in this reality since birth. Yes, I keep a pen and small notepad on my bedside table.


Rainbow Glacier at the mouth of the Chilkat River – Haines, Alaska – July 2014

Creating every day on 6 hours of sleep per night is normal; I’ve been this way all my life. I create from the time I wake up to the time I collapse in bed 18 hours later. My normal is defined as having many things going on at once:   there are three weavings on three different looms, a draft for a new Chilkat robe design, a buttonrobe on the sewing table, paintings half complete, and preps for new collages; but wait I still have to respond to an RFP, fish our Alaskan waters and pick the best wild berries in the world to put up for winter, instigate Chilkat gatherings and retreats, conjure up proposals for collaborations with other artists, terrace the driveway, build, draw or sew with my grand-children, draft another artist statement, prepare for storytelling or lectures, rehearse with the band, plant a tree nursery, sew Easter clothing for all the grand-children, etc. These activities “feed” one another, in turn they feed my spirit and I soar. When I soar, it’s contagious; everyone around me soars.


Totemic images in cement, at Svenson’s home in Wrightwood, CA – December 2014

Being a Creator is nothing new; look around at how the Great Creator is in constant state of flux, expansion and chaos. Artists are no different; we are a “chip off the old block.”

Within is a drive where there is no choice but create. If I did not create, little by little I would literally die – ask me how I know. First my spirit would dwindle, then my emotions depressed, subside, and eventually stagnate. Lastly, my body would shrink, the fire light in my eyes would extinguish, and my breath, expire. While in the midst of this decline, we could call this the “walking dead.” Though, as if the drive within would allow this atrocity to happen? No way. I am vision. I am one of millions of visionary vessels from which creation flows, and to add to my blessings, I am born to a landscape, people and culture rich with beauty, diversity, strength and community – gratefully we Tlingit are grounded within the guidance of our ancestral customs, traditions and relations.


Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving class, under the “sun” in the Elder’s Room of the Kwaanlin Dun Cultural Center, Whitehorse, Yukon – June 2014

Chilkat weaving offers a meditative, spiritual practice similar to repetitive movements in Tai Chi. Woven from mountain goat wool and cedar bark, Chilkat weaving allows me to bring order in creative chaos as if the supple, compact twine of the yarns gliding through my fingertips were the pattern of a spider’s web, weaving new paths within the web of the brain, ever expanding to new horizons, new ways of thinking, and new ways of being, which in turn brings internal strength to the weaver; this naturally and gradually affects every relationship she has with others and self in good ways. Ask me how I know. This process and outcome is one of the main reasons why I teach our traditional Chilkat weaving to our women. For nearly 30 years, periodically, I have left my family and the comforts of home to gather, teach and support our generations of weavers. I remind and inspire our women to use their feminine intuition to converge with the realms beyond our seeing eye; in goodness, we help bring the past into the present, and present into future. When our women are healthy and strong, our world within and without, moves towards peace and happiness.


A circle of clan leaders, carved and painted totems just outside the Cape Fox Hotel in Ketchikan, AK – November 201

It is as though the warp yarns that hang down on our looms is our “veil between the worlds.” We understand the weaving of a Chilkat face puts us in touch with our ancestors. In a conversation with my friend and Chilkat weaver, Suzi Williams: “…when we weave the eyebrows, expressions are shared; when we weave the eyes, suddenly, we can see into their world and they can see into our world; when we weave the nose, lives breathe into our own keeping us alive and vice versa; and when we weave the mouth, we are able to finally communicate fully.”  While we are weaving a Chilkat robe, many of us have expressed the uncanny feeling there is a presence standing invisibly behind us, ever supporting us. It is not until a weaver weaves the ultimate, a Chilkat robe, that she understands and feels the spiritual connection and some of our weavers may begin to understand a large aspect of her life’s purpose.

Many, many braids in weaving "Resilience" Chilkat robe by Clarissa Rizal - 2014

The many braids in weaving the “Resilience” Chilkat robe by Clarissa Rizal – April 2014

A Chilkat robe is a year in the making. Most of us no longer have the patience to devote this length of time to anything. We live in an instant-gratification world; we are no longer conditioned to sit quietly for 2000 hours as we contemplate our lives, let alone our livelihood.   Before Chilkat came to me, I had very little patience. I would not create anything unless I knew I could do it in a day. After learning Chilkat, I gained the art of patience, the way of gratitude, and the act of compassion. The universe opened its doors with a flood of information; the kind of information not definable, yet powerfully written in our Native art, in the ways of our people, and in our commune with nature. When a Chilkat robe is completed, a totem pole raised, or a canoe on its virgin sail, new and old songs are sung with a celebration of dancers and a feast to commemorate the story “written” in our art. Our way is an holistic approach to creating art while documenting our history.”— Clarissa Rizal, March 2015

A Sweet Read For Change: “The Intenders”

The "Intenders Handbook" by Tony Burroughs

The “Intenders Handbook” by Tony Burroughs

Quoting author, Tony:  “The Mighty Manifesters — The purpose of this handbook is to help you make your life better.  The Intenders of the Highest Good will show you how to make your dreams come true easily and with the least amount of effort.  We’ve been practicing the ideas that are given in this handbook for several years and have found that the laws of manifestation work very efficiently for us when we do two simple things:  1.  We say our intentions out loud everyday; 2. We meet together with like-minded friends in an Intenders Circle once a week.

This is all that needs to be done for us to start getting everything that we desire out of life.  We must be willing to take a few moments away from our busy routines for these two important things (or something similar that may be called by another name) so that we can consciously turn our deepest desires into real-life experiences.  Otherwise, we will remain unempowered and at the mercy of the every changing world we live in.

To the men and women who can manifest whatever is needed in their lives, it doesn’t matter how scarce things appear to be or what the newspapers and TV are saying.  Self-empowered people simply observe the day-to-day challenges that are going on all around them, while manifesting a world of their own choosing – a world of peace and comfort.  They live happily because that’s what they’ve intended to do.”

You may wonder why I include a number of other things that do not seem to be directly related to the design and production of art (and music) on my blog.  My personal philosophy is that everything in my life affects everything else, no matter the topic, the breadth, the depth, the timing.  Creating art and music is my method of maintaining my self-sanity.  I don’t know about any other artists, but life is not a bowl of cherries all the time.  There are so many ups and downs of which we are not in control, and of course I cannot help but respond.  Art and music helps me to process the negative circumstances.  I also welcome methods of self-help processes.

This book is one of those items that not only validates what I have been naturally working on in my own personal life, the information expands my horizons of thinking and being.  I appreciate this.  I welcome the guidance and forthright words.

I came across this book last week while heading out the door at the doctor’s office; hey what’s that little book about?  The doc replied “…take a copy!”  I enjoyed the read so much, I decided this was something I wanted to share with anyone and everyone, especially my kids and close friends.  I called the number at the back of the book to make an order; it turns out that the author lives in this same little town out here in the mountains of Colorado!  Like what are the chances for that!?

AND when I met up with him to buy more copies of this book, we exchanged business cards and eventually he invited me to the local “Intenders Circle” held every Thursday night starting with a potluck meal…!  Am I going?  Well,…I normally shy away from consistent, organized, on-going “groups.”  I don’t know why I initially shy away from “organizations” but like I mentioned earlier, I intend on making changes in my life and this is one of those opportunities to make a change, right?  If I don’t like the group for whatever reason(s), I don’t have to go anymore!

Tony continues with “Reference Points”:  “From the beginning of the Intenders, we have been guided by three reference points.  A reference point for us is something that we know we can count on.  The courageous mariners of old knew all about using points of reference.  They would pick out certain starts, or a spot on the distant shoreline, and they would refer to these points when they wanted to know where they were and where they were going.  Likewise, we Intenders also want to know where we are going in our lives.

Our three main points of reference are:  1).  Our desires are in us to be fulfilled; 2. Our thoughts create our world; and 3). Our intentions must serve the highest and best good of the Universe, as well as the highest and best good of ourselves and others.”

Tony told a story of someone who had not stated the third intention of “must serve the highest and best good of the Universe…”  That importance of why we must include this 3rd intention in every one of our requests was summarized at the end of the story.   Fetch a copy of this book for yourself and you will understand why!

I will have limited copies of this little handbook available for sale at the Alaska-Juneau Public Market at Centennial Hall during Thanksgiving weekend in Juneau, Alaska.  Come by Booth #P-15 in the main hall !  They are only $4/book.

I will also have these books available for sale during any of my upcoming classes, and art markets coming up within this next year in 2015.

You may also order these little books directly from Tony by giving him a call at his toll-free number: 1-888-422-2420 or visit the website at:   Let go of your shyness; give him a call and order your book(s) – the guy is a warm, caring person… Tell him that Clarissa sent ya!