“Chilkat Storyteller” soft sculpture doll recently completed by Clarissa Rizal — copyright 2016
My “Chilkat Storyteller” is my donation for an exhibit of contemporary Alaska Native art opening in France on June 24th. It was inspired by the pueblo storyteller dolls made of their local clay. The first contemporary storyteller was made by Helen Cordero of the Cochiti Pueblo in 1964 in honor of her grandfather, who was a tribal storyteller. It is basically a figure of a storyteller, usually a man or a woman and always with its mouth open. It is surrounded by figurines of children (and sometimes other things) which represent those who are listening to the storyteller.
back view of “Chilkat Storyteller” wearing miniature Ravenstail/Chilkat robe — by Clarissa Rizal — copyright 2016
My “Chilkat Storyteller” is a self-portrait with my 7 grandchildren. Though instead of clay figurines, the main body of the doll is made with shreds of yellow cedar bark interior with black felted merino wool exterior. She sits approximately 7″ high and wears a miniature Ravenstail/Chilkat robe. All 7 of her grandchildren are felted wool in our traditional colors of black, natural, yellow and blue. Made with lots of love, I laughed while creating each figurine knowing the personality of each child, affectionately I called out my knick names while making each:
* The black one on bottom right is the oldest, SikiKwaan (Lily’s oldest daughter); very thoughtful, protective one
* The blue one on top right is second oldest, Andoopoo (Kahlil’s daughter); the adventurer outdoors gal
* The white one on the bottom left is third oldest, Ashuwa (Ursala’s oldest daughter); kind, caretaking artist
* The yellow one on the left arm is fourth, Ajuju (Lily’s 2nd child; only grandson); the compassionate one
* The white one on top of the head, Wasichu (Lily’s adopted child); spirits rebellious
* The blue one on bottom left, Bulleit (Ursala’s youngest); no fear, dare devil innocence
* The yellow one on bottom right, OneFootOneKnee or Inipi (Lily’s youngest); quiet, independent sweetness
top view looking down at “Chilkat Storyteller” doll by Clarissa Rizal — copyright 2016
Red Ocotillo blossoms amongst Saguaros — all photos by Rene Sioui LaBelle and Clarissa Rizal– copyright 2016 — (photograph hint:: all photos with depth of field are Rene’s)
Even two days ago I did not know I would be amongst these amazing “people”…the Saguaros of Southern Arizona. I was planning on taking my friend, Rene to the Sonoran desert so he can take photos of the flowering desert, alas, but once we arrived here we found out from the Visitor’s Center that the cactus flowers did not bloom as profusely this mid-March because the area had a warm spell back in February. So instead, since we were in the area, we visited the Saguaro National Park. Being amongst these “people” was a happy experience. It’s only obvious these “people” welcome us with open (upward swing) arms! Like what does that say to us: “Welcome to our land…!”
“Welcome to our country! Let us direct you this way…!”
The saguaro has been called monarch of the Sonoran Desert, supreme symbol of the American Southwest, and a plant with personality. It is renowned for the variety of odd, all-too-human shapes it assumes—shapes that inspire wild and fanciful imaginings. Since 1933 this extraordinary giant cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Park. Preserved within it are other members of the Sonoran Desert community: other cacti, desert trees and shrubs, and animals. In lushness and variety of life, the Sonoran Desert far surpasses all other North American deserts. And yet it is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent.
Rene takes a moment to pose for the sunset
Summer midday temperatures commonly climb above 100 degrees, although our visit was a mild 75 degrees in late March. Less than 12 inches of rain falls in a typical year. Between the summer and wintery seasons it’s not unusual for months to pass without a drop of rain. Plants and animals able to survive in this environment, with adaptations specially designed for desert survival, make up one of the most interesting and unusual ecosystems in the United States.
Smokey Blue Tucson Mountains
This world awaits you in the desert plains, mountains and foothills of Saguaro National Park. So what are you waiting for!?!?! After 24 years of living in the Four Corners area of the U.S., how come it has taken me that long to finally visit these people and their land!? Readers, if you are in the Phoenix/Tuscon area, please take a day and get your boost of happiness and peace! Forget paying a shrink for your emotional problems; just get out on the land and run, sit, relax, have a picnic, play music, take photos and hymn with the silence. It is here you can bury any sorrows or unpleasant memories. The Saguaro are a happy and people; allow them to be your compassionate hosts!
First real outing with the CX-90 Volvo
There are two parts to the Saguaro National Park: Saguaro East–Rincon Mountain District and Saguaro West–Tucson Mountain District. We visited the latter with the background of the Tucson Mountains. The park is open daily except Christmas Day. It’s a normal park with its Visitor Center, self-guiding trails, picnic tables, pit toilets, campground and even back-country campsites (only in the East Rincon District). If you are a star gazer such as I, hanging out here during the full moon would be exquisite, however, the park closes their gates directly after sunset (no matter what time of year). Other than your camera(s), make sure you bring plenty of water (for you, your pet, your vehicle, etc.), first aid kit, food, flashlight and a blanket (just in case you break park rules and spend the night under the stars!).
Rene and I spent the day here. I took a few photos upon arrival, but I was compelled to play my flute, sing chants and then run amongst the rock, variety of cactus and the sun to my west, leaving Rene to several hours to himself and his camera. All photos posted are by Rene Sioui LaBelle and myself. Let these images inspire you to visit the famous Saguaro soon; they live no where else on this planet!
Families catch the last rays of the day
Cholla cactus blossoms
More Cholla cactus blossoms
Good night! Buenas Noches! Bon Soir!
In various shades of hand-dyed blues, Clarissa Rizal weaves her most recent Chilkat robe design called “Egyptian Thunderbird” — copyright March 2016 — photo by fellow Tulsa Artist Resident, Chris Ramsay
“The River Robe” — latest button blanket robe by Clarissa Rizal in memory of her mother, father and brother — December 2015
When we were kids fishing with our mother at Fish Creek out North Douglas Highway near Eaglecrest in Juneau, Alaska, (this was back in the late 60’s), our mother recalled a memory from her childhood as she looked upon the shallow creek of a few salmon running upstream, and said: “…In the olden days there were fish so thick we could walk across their backs to the other side…” — This is the name and meaning of this button robe.
Using dark Mother-of-Pearl buttons, antique fishing lures and 100% wool appliqued on wool, Clarissa added Czech crystal beads to the tips of the hooks…for safety purposes!
Back in the mid-90’s, I began collecting antique fishing lures. I bought some from an elderly Swedish man at a garage sale on Saltspring Island, bought some from a garage sale in Juneau, bought some at antique stores wherever I happen to be and whenever I thought of it: in Oregon, Washington State, California and Colorado. I had every intention of designing and creating a series of button robes embellished with the antique lures. In my vision, the button robes were in honor of all our fishermen from any culture out there in the open ocean, big and small rivers and tiny creeks, all fishing for their supper, their families, and for putting up for winter.
The border of Mother-of-Pearl “salmon eggs” and MOP simulated “fishing hooks” and antique fishing lures — copyright 2015, Clarissa Rizal
Finally, 4 weeks later, I completed the robe today! The entire time I worked on this robe, I thought of my father and my two older brothers who all were commercial fisherman and fished for themselves, family, friends and community. And of course, I thought of my mother whose statement she made over 50 years ago was still remembered by her eldest daughter who just had to name a robe in honor of her childhood recollection. Here’s to my Mom, Dad, Brothers, and all who love salmon fishing!
“Underwater Curtain of Life” acrylic on canvas, 8″w x 24″h — by Clarissa Rizal — 2015
This is what happens when you spend a few hours with the granddaughter and daughter on a snowy afternoon with all kinds of other obligations to do but who wants to do them when baby, it’s cold outside!?
(Yes, it is true. Unless otherwise noted, most of my work on my blog is for sale.) Contact me if you are interested.
Clarissa wears her 2015 Halloween costume (all photos by Lis Saya)
It’s been a few years since I went out on the town for Halloween. It was once my favorite “holiday.” A costume designer since I was a little girl, Halloween was at the top in dressing up for any occasion! This costume came together by “accident.”
The pink, pleated cape has an 11-foot “wing span”
I borrowed the headdress from my daughter’s friend, Drie Young, who is a clothing designer and currently sells vintage clothing on eBay at Ghost Rabbit. This fantastic cape was borrowed from my daughter who had recently received it as a gift. The plastic pink necklace was borrowed from my grand-daughter. A few months ago, I was in a second hand store and bought a pair of black, faux leather, hi-top, 8″ platform boots with tons of buckles. All the accessories were from my own personal stock. I put together this costume in 5 minutes. Voile’…when others saw my costume and the dance I did in this cape, I was told that I could have won several Best Costume awards at various venues around town had I known about them…!
Feathered head dress, glittered rhinestone eyelashed mask, beaded Mother-of-Pearl inlay earrings, black lipstick, plastic hot pink necklace, beaded/buttoned black leather fringed belt, a pair of old cashmere gloves worn down to the skin, turquoise beaded cuffs,with purple pink glued-on nails, accessorize the normal “beaded” dress
I even performed wearing this costume during the closing ceremony dance of the “Clan Conference” at Centennial Hall last night. Though I wore my traditional beaded dance tunic over this cotton dress. Elder David Katzeek saw me walk in during the traditional dancing and he immediately motioned me to come up and dance with all the dancers! It was a kick! Nobody knew who I was and that is always the best part of Halloween! Because I was wearing 8″ platform boots, I was 5’10” and nobody realized that I was Clarissa Rizal…hahahaha! So much fun!
Though after I had gone out on the town dancing to various live bands, I realized that I totally enjoyed being taller. I realized that the Western world was made for people who were about 5’7 to 6′ tall. In fact almost everyone is about that height. Alas, I am back to being 5’2″. Sigh…
On a cold, surprisingly dry Halloween night in Juneau, time for some warm seaweed salad!
A very similar version of the original robe of the same name minus the #2 of “Northwest By Southwest II” button robe, recently completed by Clarissa Rizal
This is a photo of the original buttonrobe entitled “Northwest by Southwest” made in 1999. This is my most favorite button robe I’ve ever designed and made. This past summer, my son-in-law gave me some of the same background fabric that he found while searching for blankets on eBay. This same fabric I bought nearly 30 years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico, so I was absolutely thrilled to have enough to make a second “NW x SW” button robe, hence the name “NW x SW II…!”
Catch a close-up of the fabric detail as Clarissa irons “NW x SW II” button robe with her brand new “Rowenta” Steamer Iron
If you are interested in purchasing this robe, just give me a holler! I will have this robe available for sale at the Clan Conference in Juneau next weekend, October 28-November 1st. If a happy buyer does not snatch it up during the conference, I will have it available for viewing and sale at the Haa Shagoon Gallery in Juneau. Remember: Christmas is coming!
The catalogue for the “Chilkat Blankets: Artistic Masterpieces” exhibit of antique Chilkat robes held in private collections in the U.S. recently displayed at the Antique Native American Art Show & Sale at El Museo De Santa Fe this past August 2015
I have a limited 10 copies of these books available for sale at my booth during the Clan Conference held Wednesday, October 28th through Sunday, November 1st at Centennial Hall in Juneau, Alaska. They are excellent study reference, especially since we will not see these robes in museums because they are in private collections. They are $25/each
I interpret this design as the “Diving White Raven Amongst the Bullkelp” image woven in this antique Chilkat robe
In the middle of the night in the countryside of Rigaud, Quebec – 18″ x 24″ charcoal on paper by Clarissa Rizal
Miranda Belarde-Lewis, Sho Sho Esquiro and Clarissa Rizal plan the floor layout of their next year’s October 2016 exhibit at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, B.C.
A year after the initial idea of an exhibit featuring traditional and contemporary Northwest Coast regalia and clothing with Sho Sho Esquiro and Clarissa Rizal, we finally met up at the house of Curator Miranda Belarde-Lewis to review the basics of the exhibit!
The exhibit opens at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, B.C., Canada next year in October and will run for approximately 5 months. We will be featuring a total of 20 to 30 individual ensembles of which during opening night only will be modeled with the accompaniment of traditional songs set to Preston Singletary’s latest jazz funk band called “Ku’eex.” Directly after opening night, the ensembles will be placed on their respective mannequins.
Stay tuned for updates on the progress of our exhibit!
Curator Miranda Belarde-Lewis, Contemporary clothing designer Sho Sho Esquiro, and Ceremonial regalia-maker, Clarissa Rizal