A birthday gift weaving loom from her daughter Lily, Clarissa weaves a Chilkat/Ravenstail neck “scarf” while fishing with friends; a beautiful partly sunny day on the east side of Shelter Island, Juneau, Alaska — June 2016
No matter what size my weaving loom, be it 7ft. wide, 4ft. wide, 3ft, 2 ft. or 1ft., all my looms are portable. They have to be. I am always on the move.
The gallery and the fishing pole are proof, Clarissa is weaving while friends are fishing…a glorious place to weave as long as we keep the fish separate from the weaving!!!
For the past two years, I have been weaving four ensembles for my very first, and most likely my last, exhibit of weavings. I’ve had financial support from several funding organizations that have helped pay nearly all of my personal and business expenses; this support has been a luxury.
The following are the organizations that have provided me grants to do this exhibit:
* 2015 Native Arts and Culture Foundation Fellowship Grant, Vancouver, Washington State
* 2015 1st People’s Fund Creative Capital Grant, Rapid City, South Dakota
* 2016 Tulsa Artist Residency, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Clarissa’s weaving in the hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida — September 2016
I have been traveling a lot this year; all of it has been business-related where I squeeze in family visits when I can. Portable weaving looms and financial support have enabled me to continue doing my other business-related work such as doing a presentation of my work during the NACF Board Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood, Florida, and the following week to attend the annual Las Vegas Souvenir and Gift Show.
With a refreshing treat of a small bowl of cherries, Clarissa gives herself a foot bath while weaving…
I’m teaching myself how to “relax” in the midst of movement, creativity, business and sometimes chaos. Listen up weavers; if I can do it, so can you!
One of three completed woven strips to be a part of an ensemble entitled “Girl Gaucho” — the ensemble is part of an exhibit “Layers of Love” opening at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. Tuesday, October 18th, 2016
I am living proof that we Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers can get our work done in the midst of movement!
Clarissa models her latest Chilkat robe “Egyptian Thunderbird” at Eagle River Beach in Juneau, Alaska (Hmmm…Clarissa’s hair is the same color as the beaver fur trim and don’t you just love her “Raven” ears!) — photo by NEA photographer, Tom Pich
As part of the award ceremonies during the week of September 25-30, 2016, the NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert will be on Friday, September 30, 2016. For those who are not in Washington, D.C. area, the event will be streamed live at arts.gov. If you are in Washington, D.C. area, the Friday night presentations/concert is wide open to the public. Feel free to pass this information along to your family and friends who aren’t able to be in DC that day.
Each of the 9 awardees will be doing an 8-minute presentation of their work. I will be doing a brief presentation on preparing the cedar bark and wool, then spinning, then weaving. Then the last 4 or 5 minutes, Irene Jean Lampe, Donna Beaver Pizzarelli and Darlene See will be joining me on stage to present some of my latest robes (and of course, the Weavers Across the Waters robe will be one of those robes, worn by Donna), along with an historical robe care-taken by my sister Irene. To provide the audience (far and wide) an idea of how the robes are used, the four of us will be singing/dancing a song composed and written many, many years ago by our T’akDeinTaan clan member Kloon’eesh (John K. Smith).
L to R: Marsha Hotch, Michelle Gray, Debra O’Gara, Douglas Gray, Irene J. Lampe, Catrina Mitchell, Karen Taug, Nila Rinehart, Laine Rinehart, Crystal Nelson, Yarrow Vaara, Lily Hope (with her two children, Louis and Eleanor), and Clarissa Rizal (missing: Della Cheney, Vicki Soboleff, Kay Parker, Gabrielle and Shgen George) — August 2016
On Sunday, August 28, all the weavers just in the Juneau area who contributed a 5×5 towards the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail robe gathered together for a picnic at Auke Bay Recreation area. It was the first time everyone was able to see the robe (nearly) completed for the first time since they had submitted their pieces over a month prior. Exciting, rewarding and quite touching, the shear pleasure of being in the presence of the robe with everyone brought so much pride and unity.
Marsha Hotch made an interesting statement, which I most quote here:
“…It’s actually history in the making. In ancient days robes were cut apart and distributed to leaders new items created from the cut pieces or just put away because they felt it was too valuable, or only to later be found tucked in archival in museums or displayed. This robe was put together from many different people, from many walks of life, different tribes, different clans, different communities, but a people who treasure the ancient skill of weaving.
Many of the woven old robes are in museums. The history and story may not be told anymore but we definitely continue to make history, changes. Congratulations to Clarissa and all the weavers. I can’t wait to see what events this robe will be brought out.”
For more information and continued immediate updates on the this robe, we welcome you to please join the “Weavers Across the Waters” Facebook page.
For past updates of this robe on my blog, click the following links:
Clarissa models the “Egyptian Thunderbird” Chilkat robe she recently completed in June 2016 — photo by NEA Photographer Tom Pich at Eagle Beach, Juneau, Alaska, with the southern end of the Chilkat Range in the far distance
This photograph was not tampered with Photoshop. Tom Pich, the professional photographer for the National Endowment for the Arts fellows for the past 25 years, used his camera settings to capture the colors. Tom used no additional lights, no gadgets, nothing. Just his knowledge, talent and keen eye! — Thank you, Tom, for a beautiful rendition of one of my most favorite robes in a beautiful country; it was a great outing!
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:
Master carver of the traditional Tlingit dugout canoe canoe, Wayne Price with his crew at the canoe races during “KusTeYea Celebration” Teslin Lake, Teslin, Yukon Territory, July 2015
The First People’s Fund put a call out for nominations for their Community Spirit Award. They asked: “Do you know a Native artist who has dedicated his or her life and work to sustaining cultural traditions within their commuity? first Peoples Fund has opened nominations for the 2017 Community Spirit Awards, and we want to hear from you by tomorrow, July 15th! — “If your life has been touched by a Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian artist who embodies the Indigenous values of generosity, integrity, humility and wisdom, consider nominating them for the Community Spirit Awards,” said Lori Pourier, president of First Peoples Fund. — the Community Spirit Awards, launched in 1999, are national grants for established Native culture bearers who demonstrate substantial contributions to their communities through their careers as artists. Each year, First Peoples Fund seats a national panel to select four to six Community Spirit honorees from tribes across the country.”
So I thought about all the artists that I have known a long, long time, who would fit this bill. I thought about all the artists that I know who are not just talented in what they do, but are passionate about their lives and sharing their work to the extent that they will leave the comforts of their own home and studio for great lengths of time and share with the younger generations, AND they need money!!! My friend of 36 years came to mind: Wayne Price…he fit the bill…this is what I wrote in the nomination:
Wayne Price stands in front of a portion of a cedar panel he adzed into a “herringbone” pattern; his adzed pattern work is in the entire downstairs of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Walter Soboleff Center in Juneau, Alaska – Grand Opening of the WSC, May 2015
“For 40+ years, Wayne Price is a Tlingit master carver in silver jewelry yet mainly known for his wood carvings of totem poles, masks, and is one of four men who knows how to carve the traditional dugout Tlingit canoes. For the past 10 years he has been on an aggressive mission to educate the general public, mentor and teach the methods of the nearly-extinct dugouts of the Tlingit. Each canoe takes about 5 to 6 months to complete so these carvings are quite the accomplishment and are designed for ocean-going waves. He has led expeditions in the wilderness of Southeast Alaska with the younger generation of men in their traditional dugouts that they had carved. He teaches how to read the ocean, how to hunt and fish, how to survive on the land, and teaches the spiritual laws and ways of being of our people. In 2007, with no other dance group in Haines, he began a dance troupe called “North Tide” which is also the name of his mentor group of young carvers because he also teaches them the stories, song and dance. Wayne is passionate about his work and his life and terribly passionate about teaching the next generations; he wants his students to live a clean life without drugs and alcohol; he feels that training his students from a young age in the cultural arts and lifeways is the way to deter them from even having a wagon to fall from! With his wife Cherri, he owns and operates the Silver Cloud Art Center which is his 16,000 sq. ft. home where he has conducted retreats in weaving, carving, subsistence food hunting and gathering, and dance troupe practices. The front porch of their house always has a large carving of a totem pole or a dugout canoe in progress with the younger generation at his side either working and/or just listening. Wayne has lived and worked in almost every community in Southeast Alaska and Yukon Territory; his name and character is known far and wide. He is a natural born leader (who he himself will admit he is always still learning).”
Wayne Price at the rudder with two young folk going for a canoe ride in his latest dugout canoe “Jibba” on Teslin Lake during the biennial “KusTeYea Celebration” — July 2015
We’ll see what happens, Wayne! If you don’t receive this award this time around, then there’s always a next time. Just make sure you remain safe and happy cuz we need you for the long haul…!
As of June 9th, 2016, these are the very first 5×5 contributions from the following weavers: Stephany Anderson, Kay Parker, Willy White, Alfreda Lang, Sandy Gagnon, and Dolly Garza
Being the creator (or “mastermind as my Mother would have put it) of this community-based project, would I had known that when I have receive each of these priceless 5×5 woven Chilkat and Ravenstail weavings, I would feel such honor and a privilege to hold each one in the palm of my hands!? Would I have known that I would feel such pure and raw power in each simple image!? And would I have known that I would feel such intense protectiveness as I hand-carried these in my carry-on luggage; like worse than when I am transporting a robe that I have designed and made!?!? — In the purity of this power, I feel immense grace and lovingness; I feel such excitement and peace; I feel strength and healing; I feel the connectedness of all beings through the anticipation of connecting all of these weavers’ weavings together. This is already a powerful robe. My goodness, we share in the excitement and most likely all of what I feel too in the completion of this robe!
As of today, July 13, 2016, we have 23 total contributions received from (top to bottom, L to R): Della Cheney, Margaret Woods, Douglas Gray, Lily Hope, Nila Rinehart, Kay Parker, Stephanie Andersen, William White, Karen Taug, Courtney Jensen, Alfreda Lang, Chloe French, Dolly Garza, Georgia Bennett, Rainy Kasko, John Beard, Michelle Gray, Marilee Peterson, Annie Ross, Sandy Gagnon, Pearl Innes, Veronica Ryan and Crystal Nelson
The past couple of nights since my return to Tulsa, which is where I will be working day and night on putting this robe together for the next month, I put a cloth cover over all the little weavings who lay side by side with one another, like the way we cover our weavings for the night. Already these little ones have become dear. —- Thank you to all our present-day weavers who have contributed their talent through a piece of their spirit to become unified as one in this special, ceremonial robe. We look forward to receiving the other 31 pieces due by the extended deadline of July 19th!
Remember to mail your contribution insured to me at: Clarissa Rizal, 40 East Cameron Street #207, Tulsa, OK 74103
In the early 70’s I learned the songs from the Mt. St.Elias Dancers in Yakutat, Alaska via Harry K. Bremner, Sr. who came to my hometown, Juneau, Alaska to teach anyone who wanted to learn the songs and dances. (We must remember that at that time period, there were no such thing as dance groups like there are numbers today, and we never taught our songs to others outside of our clans.) As a teenager, I sang with many of the Mt. St. Elias elders (as there were very few, if any, teenagers or younger involved). At the time, I didn’t know they were singing two and sometimes three-part harmonies. By the early 80’s all those elderly singers were all passed on. Since then, I have always felt all the songs of the Tlingit need to include harmonies. In this way, we can truly hear and feel the meaning of the songs. The many drums in the dance groups of today is okay for those songs that just have vocables, however, the songs that have actual verses with meaning and history, need to be listened to, and what better way than the beauty of harmony. In this way, the beauty leads the way to retention of the story with the tune.
For nearly 15 years, my sister Irene Jean Lampe has taken it upon herself to learn the Tlingit songs of our T’akDeinTaan Clan songs. Like Chilkat weaving has helped carry me through my rough patches in life, I believe her learning the songs is what carried her through some very tough times in her life.
Here’s an example of a song composed by one of our clan relatives John K. Smith. One early evening in a moment of spontaneous combustion, Irene sang the melody and I sang the harmony in the lobby of the Walter Soboleff Building in the presence of our cousin, Miranda Belarde-Lewis.