Clarissa’s Passing

Clarissa, November 2016. Photo by son, Kahlil Hudson.

Clarissa, November 2016. Photo by son, Kahlil Hudson.

This is not Clarissa writing this, but her daughter, Ursala. On October 14th our mother was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer. At that time she was bed-ridden for at least 23 hours per day. On October 19th I flew to her Tulsa studio apartment, packed her up, and we drove back to Pagosa Springs. On November 1st we visited with an oncologist in Durango who told my mother that she might have a few weeks to several months to live. During the month of November my siblings, Lily and Kahlil, took turns caring for our mother with an optimistic, vigorous cancer-fighting health regimen in our family home. On December 2nd her organs truly began to fail, and at 12:30AM on December 7th she left this world.

To read more about her last days you may visit her healing journal at CaringBridge:

To send a message to the family, please email me Ursala, at ursalarose(at)

Clarissa, November 2016. Photo by son, Kahlil Hudson.

Clarissa, November 2016. Photo by son, Kahlil Hudson.

How to Cut Sea Otter Fur

Like most furs, cut sea otter fur from the back side using a very sharp xacto blade or an old-fashioned shaving blade

Like most furs, cut sea otter fur from the back side using a very sharp xacto blade or an old-fashioned shaving blade – Clarissa Rizal 2015

Sea otter, mink and beaver furs are generally used to trim the top edge of Chilkat and Ravenstail robes.  I mark on the back side of the pelt about 1/4″ strips.  Always cut using a sharp, fine blade along your mark.  Try to lift up the pelt as you cut so the blade does not touch the surface of the table; you want to avoid making defined cuts in the fur line.   Like anything it takes practice to cut along your defined lines so be easy on yourself!

Clarissa’s Studio Part 7: The Weaving Space


Grand-daughter Amelie helps her grandmother Rissy Rizal count how many balls of warp prepared for starting the next Chilkat robe – April 2015

“The Weaving Space” is the 7th post of a series of blog entries called “Clarissa’s Studio” – shots of her work/living space that I began sharing in April this year because the general public is always curious to visit artist studios and because I live and work part of the year in the boondocks of Colorado, nobody comes to visit me.  So…blogging about my studio is as pretty close as most of you will ever get to see my work space!   You may see the other posts under the category called “Tools of the Trade.”  There is a total of 9 in this series.


Clarissa's space for Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving

Clarissa’s space for Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving sandwiched between the sewing area and the great white table

And yes, the space is really this cozy all the time,…AND, I am organized and neat.  I have to be, else I’d be distracted with messes that would keep me from accomplishing my goals.  My motto:  “Gotta getterdun!”


The borders are started on Clarissa’s next Chilkat weaving, a dance robe combining concepts from Egypt and of course, the Tlingit people of the Northwest Coast – April 2015


Lifelong Sewing Basket

My 50-year-old antique sewing basket was given to me for my 9th birthday from my Mother, Irene Lampe

My 50-year-old antique sewing basket was given to me for my 9th birthday from my Mother, Irene Lampe

This little sewing basket has sentimental value to my life as a designer and maker of button robes, a costume designer for theatre and a seamstress who sewed all my own clothing for myself, family and friends for many years,… and now my grandchildren.

Today is our mother’s birthday.  She would have been 90 years old.  I don’t know if she remembers giving me this gift for my 9th birthday and I have used this little treasure box for 50 years and will most likely continue to do so until my own passing.  I don’t know if she ever saw this basket at my sewing table; though, for some reason it would be nice for her to know that I have used this little treasure box and have never replaced it with anything else.

Back in March I was online searching for small sewing baskets for each of my oldest grand-daughters and to my delight, I came across some of these baskets for sale — though none of them had the plastic tray!  If any of my readers happen to come across these baskets (that include the plastic tray), I would appreciate it if you would please contact me!

Thank you Mom, for your thoughtfulness.  I have always appreciated your support.

Chilkat Weaving Class 2015


Amongst 6 other weavings on 6 looms, Nila Rinehart sketches out her pattern for a small child-size Chilkat robe

Since 1989, I have taught at least one class per year; and every year since 1992, I have spearheaded an informal group of Chilkat/Ravenstail weavers gathering.  This year, my long-time friend Margie Ramos hosted this class at her vacant apartment.  Cozy and warm, it was the perfect thing to conduct the class!  Thank you, Margie!


All the students eagerly await the cutting of the birthday pie; My long-time friend of 50 years, Margie Ramos (2nd from right), baked me a blueberry/pear torte L to R: Laine Rinehart, Catrina Mitchell, Nila Rinehart, Karen Taug, Margarget Ramos & Crystal Rogers Nelson

This particular class requirements were:  1).  Must have prior experience in weaving chilkat and/or ravenstail, 2) must have a project on the loom ready to begin weaving, 3) weaver is female, must have reverence and gratitude for the style of weaving, etc. 4) must have own pattern or the ability to draft up a pattern (no matter how crude or excellent it can become), 5) Bring sense of humor


Crystal Rogers tries to fix the curve of her Chilkat face’s outer lip

Such a fun class as usual, I am very proud of each weaver’s work and the self-directed project each would like to complete.  That’s what this class is all about:  tapping into your own inner drive, being aware of your goals, and making the necessary steps to complete your goal.


Karen Taug is terribly happy and content about returning to her Chilkat weaving of a headband

Chilkat weaving isn’t for everyone, though for those who enjoy the weaving process; those who have come to know the weaving and it comes to know you, we find it’s truly a spiritual practice.


Lily Hope explains counting the number of warp ends to her inquisitive children Bette and Louis

In 2017, I have every intention of beginning to teach young girls.  My goal is to rent a place in Haines for the a month or two during the Summer 2017 with all three of my kids and their kids (at this time, 7 grandchildren).  The three oldest grand-daughters will be 9 and 7; these are the perfect ages to begin teaching them the discipline and art of Chilkat weaving.  I would like my children/grandchildren to experience a Tlingit holistic approach to weaving which will include not just drawing the design and preparing the wool to spin, but also, berry picking, fishing, putting up foods for winter, etc.   I will have three grand-daughters in this very first children’s class; I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for two more girls around the same age.  If you have any recommendations of any young girls who may be interested, let me know!


Nila Rinehart drafts a second pattern for her child-size Chilkat robe with on-lookers Lily Hope (with daughter Eleanor), Crystal Rogers Nelson and Laine Rinehart


Shgen George (with daughter Elizabeth) nears the completion of her black border of her Chilkat robe.


Shgen George came hours earlier for a couple of days to gain as many hours as she could, beyond the class hours.   Clarissa Rizal’s Chilkat robe hangs to the right; she begins shaping the background in her design field


Alaskan Authors Whale-Watching Cruise


100 audience members on board the Allen Marine whale watching tour included 15 Alaskan authors and 3 illustrators, of which Clarissa was one…

I was born nearly 60 years ago in Juneau and it’s only recently twice in less than two weeks I have been invited on a whale-watching cruise; both trips were something new to me since 1) we weren’t fishing? 2) we didn’t have a port destination, and 3) it didn’t cost me a penny.  And both trips were during the stretch of amazingly fine weather we had the entire month of May so it made whale watching all the more enjoyable!


Leaving the Auke Bay boat harbor on a fine early evening: 6pm. — The Mendenhall Glacier is at the base of the snowcapped mountains…

Every year in conjunction with Allen Marine, Hearthside Books hosts their “Alaskan Authors Whale Watching” tour/sail open to the public.  $59/person you receive all the appetizers you can eat and a chance to hang out with friends you hadn’t seen in awhile.


Lots of appetizers including salmon spread on croissants, fresh fruits and veggies, chocolate eclairs, etc.

Even though Nobu Koch and I are not authors, we were invited guests because we are the co-illustrator’s of Hannah Lindoff’s children’s book “Mary’s Wild Winter Feast” recently published in the Fall 2014.  To order a copy of the book, and check out other blog posts about this book:  Click here to read about “Mary’s Wild Winter Feast.”


Hannah Lindoff, author of children’s book “Mary’s Wild Winter Feast” introduces her illustrators, Clarissa Rizal (left) and Nobu Koch


Alaskan author Heather Lende, introduces her latest book “Find the Good”


Humpback whale


Ishmael Hope reads a requested poem from his book of poetry called “The Courtesans of Flounder Hill”


Chief Editor Jeff Brown introduces his latest edition of “Real Alaskan Magazine” which he publishes annually on April 1st.


Kim Heacox introduces his latest book “Rhythm of the Wild”

Alaskan Whale Watching Cruise - fluke

Alaskan Whale Watching Cruise – fluke


Writer Hannah Lindoff, Illustrator Nobu Koch, writer/poet Ishmael Hope


Hannah Lindoff, Nobu Koch, Clarissa Rizal


Author Mary Lou King introduces her latest “90+ Short Walks Around Juneau”


Authors Peter Metcalfe and Kathy Ruddy introduce “A Dangerous Idea”


Children’s book author Sarah Asper-Smith and her husband, illustrator Mitchell Watley introduce their book “I Would Tuck You In”


Sea lions cluster along a rock slab coastline of Admiralty Island


Many enjoyed the back deck in the second consecutive week of sunshine!


Last but not least, Juneau author Stuart Archer Cohen introduces his 4th novel “This Is How It Really Sounds”


Worth Our Wait in Glass

Preston Singletary

Preston Singletary double-checks the accuracy of the most recent panel installed

Two years ago, when I heard through the grapevine that Sealaska Heritage Institute was planning on building a cultural center where the old Juneau Lyle’s Hardware once was, I got excited and thought of a couple of artist buddies of mine who I felt needed to be represented in the new structure.  So I called up Preston and said he needed to get his foot in the door and make sure SHI has a monumental piece of his work.  He asked what I had in mind.  I asked him what would it take to construct a life-size, glass house screen front.  He chuckled and said that the Seattle Art Museum’s house front was as large as he thought he could do.  I said I thought it needed to be larger; he laughed again.  He agreed that he would check out the engineering logistics with his production crew:  could it be done?  After some research with his production and installation teams, the answer was yes!

The paper pattern of the complete house front design

The paper pattern of the complete house front design

We spent a week or two drafting up a proposal for SHI; it would be a collaborative project since I’ve had some experience in glass work with Preston years prior and I am a fairly good designer (with always room for more improvement!); Preston and I felt pretty good about submitting the concept.  A few months later, though both of us submitted the proposal as a team, he received a letter addressed only to him from SHI stating they liked the concept though they did not want my design concept.  We both thought it weird that SHI made no statement about “working with Clarissa” on what design they wanted on the house front instead.  They simply stated they didn’t want my design (which I interpret as my name) being associated with the glass front.  After reading the letter a couple of times, I knew what “they” were up to.  I knew “they” didn’t want me in the picture; they wanted a close relative instead, and I had an inkling who that particular relative was.

The "clan house" inside of the new Sealaska Heritage Institute's "Walter Soboleff" Cultural Center

The “clan house” inside of the new Sealaska Heritage Institute’s “Walter Soboleff  Cultural Center” (In 2001, I wove the Chilkat robe laying on the bench; Preston recently acquired it from the original owner)

Preston asked me if I felt okay about him going ahead on his own instead of the initial teamwork we had planned.  I told him that initially I wanted him to have a piece of his work represented in the cultural center, so even though he could have told SHI that we were working as a team, I told him to go on without me because I knew SHI would come up with whatever reasons to not have my name associated with any monumental art in the cultural center, and I wanted to avoid any further denials.

Preston sets the next plexiglass plate

The installation of the 17′ x 12′ screen was created in panels — Preston sets the next plexiglass plate

About a year later in the Fall of 2014, SHI sent out an announcement requesting apprentices to work with Preston on the glass panel.  Of course, I did not apply.  I knew SHI already had the person(s) selected, one of them being the young relative to SHI’s president.  The call for apprentices was the legal procedure they had to endure.  Preston was given no say who his apprentices would be though he was very happy Nicholas Galanin was “chosen.”

How many guys does it take to screw in a 17' x 12' screen?

How many guys does it take to screw in a 17′ x 12′ screen?

You, the reader, may interpret this blog entry as a bitter response to being edged out.  You may also think that I write about these kinds of sensitive issues on my blog or elsewhere.  Not so.  This may be the first time (and most likely not the last) I have written about an unjust act on my blog.  I may speak about unpleasant injustice or opinions to others face to face, but I am not one to write about injustice, especially in an art blog.

However, I have made an exception because I realize I made a mistake in the course of this story.  There is no one else to blame about me not being “included.”  When SHI “edged me out” of the art project, and I had told Preston to go on without me; I was not honoring myself as a one-of-a-kind, female, Tlingit, full-time artist of nearly 40 years; this is where I made a big mistake.    There’s no other Tlingit or any other female artist out of all the Northwest Coast tribes, who lives now or  lived before my time, who has ever accomplished all that I have designed and created in a variety of works.   I realized that even now there is no other Native female artist from Alaska who comes close to my caliber of artistry.  As the elder from the western TV film series would say:  “…no brag, just fact…”  How am I to be honored by others if I am not loyal to myself?

4 more panels to install

4 more glass panels to install

This particular story is a big lesson to myself.  My mother always said I was too generous with others and that I always “sell myself short” and when people recognize this, there will always be those who take advantage of people like me without intention of giving back.  This concept did not ride home to me until I saw a few photos of the making of this art installation on Facebook.  I felt a ton of bricks crashing into the core of my being.  I was depressed for a few days; I let myself down, but I looked within myself for my answers.

In white gloves

In white gloves…

So why do I tell this story here?  It’s for me.  First, this story is to remind myself of how I have been all my life; it is to remind myself to forgive myself for not honoring myself, not being loyal to who I am and what I do and what I have become and continue in my human becoming.  Second, I tend to forgive and forget, even this is a lesson I must learn and retain, else I repeat the same pattern, going through the school of hard knocks and never earning any credits.  Why do we need to acknowledge and earn our credits?  So we can “graduate!”  Hello!? — I have always said “Patience Is Worth Waiting For” and this definitely applies to the patience any of us need as we continue to  “grow up!”


Preston with his professional installation crew:  Jeremy Bosworth and Joe Benvenuto

Though this was a big lesson to go through regarding this project, I bear no hard feelings towards SHI nor Preston.  Like anyone else, they have nothing to do with my self-worth.  I had a wake-up call about my lack of self-respect, loyalty to self with honor.   Although SHI has hired me to do small projects like book covers, I have known for awhile where I stand with SHI regarding large projects whether they benefit me and/or others; I have learned to work around them because I just want my ideas put out there and get done.  AND, I am proud of my friend Preston and his great piece of work.  The inclusion of his work was my initial idea; my friend is now represented in the art collection of Sealaska.  What more can I ask for?  I helped  him get there, and I can pat myself on the back for this!

Read more about the details of this art installation online at the Juneau Empire:

“Chilkat Child” 5-Piece Tlingit Dance Ensemble

Amelie dances “Chilkat Child” 5-piece Tlingit woven ensemble woven by Clarissa Rizal – 2015 – all photographs by Jeff Laydon of Pagosa Photography

In the Summer of 2012, I had a couple of weaving apprentices come live with me for a month.  All three of us started child-size Chilkat robes (with the intention that the child robe could also be worn by an adult as a dance apron).  Over the past 2.5 years with all the other projects, a couple of commissions, travel for weaving classes and gatherings, family, etc., I finally completed this ensemble.  I chart my time; it took a total of 5 months to weave this ensemble.  The only way to make myself get a job done is to give myself a deadline, usually the deadline is an art show, a dance performance, etc.  This time the deadline to complete the entire ensemble was by the Heard Museum Indian Art Fair and Market the weekend of March 6th this year.

Back side of Chilkat Child dance robe – Size 3T – woven by Clarissa Rizal 2015

I used four shades of blues, three were hand-dyed by myself, the variegated blue was dyed by a company in Sitka, Alaska.  I used one shade of blue just for the braids.   To distinguish the braids from the weavers, it was Jennie’s trick-of-the-trade to use two different shade of blues, one for the weaving, one for the braids!  Also, I included curlique shapes in the design form; they represent seaweed, yet also I just wanted to see if I could actually weave the tight curls; they are not necessarily easy to weave, so believe me (which I rarely use that phrase), weaving the curliques in the leggings and the apron were a challenge!

Chilkat Apron & Leggings

Close-up of Chilkat dance apron and Chilkat/Ravenstail dance leggings – Size 3T (fot small child) – woven by Clarissa Rizal – 2015

I also used three different shades of golden yellow and two shades each of the white/off-white and black.  The fringe on the apron, headdress and leggings were trimmed with .22 bullet shells, and all the pieces are trimmed with sea otter fur.  Except for the robe, all the pieces were lined with leather with twisted fringe.


“Chilkat Child” torso (hat and upper front part of Chilkat robe – woven by Clarissa Rizal – 2015

Thank you to my 5-year-old grand-daughter, Amelie Soleil Haas for being such a natural-born model.  She was easy to work with, took instruction well, and made my little “Chilkat Child” look better than ever!


Grand-daughter Amelie models “Chilkat Child”, with the weaver of the ensemble, her Grandma “Rissy” Clarissa Rizal – March 2015

Folks wonder how I get so much done:  Most people who see me out there in the world being friendly and cordial and seemingly always traveling, wonder how I have time to work…well, there’s an explanation for that:  when I hole up inside my studio for about 7 months out of the year, I do nothing else but work, work, work–produce, produce, produce.  I have a zilch social life; I don’t watch TV except Netflix movies while I am preparing bark, splitting wool, spinning or grooming warp, and I don’t entertain because I don’t have facilities or room to entertain.  I tend to be goal-oriented.  I like setting goals and achieving them.  And as any of you who know me well, I have always had many, many goals to achieve, all at once; there are things to take care of, things to design and make, places to go, people to connect with and bills to be paid!  My motto:  “Getterdun!”

However, once I am “out of my rabbit hole” and in the world, I am truly out there, but nevertheless doing work, just a different kind of work.  It’s my “social work” which generally involves helping with the grandchildren, spending time with friends, networking, traveling to do shows, or teach classes or apprentices, buying supplies and equipment.  This life is the way I make a living.  It’s been this way for 39 years, it’s too late to get out of it now!



Wayne Price “Adze It All Up…”


Tlingit Carver, Wayne Price holds his hand-made Tlingit-style carving adze inside the Soboleff Cultural Center, Juneau, Alaska

It’s been a long time since a new building has been built in downtown Juneau; most likely since the Sealaska Corporation building was built (1971?) on the waterfront.  Just a little ways behind Sealaska towards the mountainside, the Walter Soboleff Cultural Center is being built.  As the construction crew works daily, so does master Tlingit carver Wayne Price.  He’s chipping away at every exposed cedar plank, beam and column.  Wayne has created many, many patterns in the wood; one of them is the “herring bone pattern” which is one of my favorite.  He’s got his work cut out for him for several months.  And I quote him:  “….it all adze up!”


Wayne’s “work table” is located in what will be the “front stage” platform of the center

Wayne is from the Wooshkeetaan (Shark) Clan from Kake, Alaska; he lives in Haines with his wife, Cherri.  They house the Silver Cloud Art Center in one of the big, white  Ft. Seward (formerly captain quarters) homes on the hill overlooking Lynn Canal.  They have held many classes and retreats in their home including:  traditional dances and drumming, traditional food gathering and prep, carving, silver-smithing, and weaving.  Wayne is one of the few Tlingit carvers who knows how to build the traditional dug-out cedar canoes…I quote him:  “…and may I add that my canoes float, they are sturdy, ocean-going vessels…!”

Visit Wayne’s website at:


Wayne stands amongst yellow cedar planks he still has to adze…He says “…look at all the boards… there so many of them yet to still carve…I’ve got my work cut out for me; it all adze up!”

I first met Wayne on the eve of Halloween 1981.  He had come up to Sealaska Corporation offices to “sell some of his wares…”  I bought a hand-carved and painted “Moon” mask and a silver bracelet.  I remarked to Wayne that he had a resemblance to my younger brother, Tim to which he replied:  “Really?…I look like a family member of YOURS….!?”—  My Lily had just met Wayne then, she was not quite 2 years old.  When I asked Lily if she knew Wayne, to our surprise, she replied:  “Yes,….that’s Uncle Tim…!”


Wayne adzes one of the “long boards”

I would have posted close-up images of Wayne’s variety of adzed patterns, but I leave it up to my reader’s imagination.  I would rather you see his patterns first hand, like I said, in every exposed piece of wood in the building; it’s quite spectacular.  Sealaska Heritage Institute did right to include the talented hands of Wayne Price’s swing—for many generations, his example will spur future generations to expand on his work!



Atlin Music Festival: 2nd Year Weaving Demo

The sandblox at the Atlin Music Festival was the same size as last year, but it seems this year it was the main hot spot occupying young children of toddlers on up to 10 years old

The sandblox at the Atlin Music Festival was the same size as last year, but it seems this year it was the main hot spot at any given part of the day with at least 50 young children of toddlers up to 10 years old

Atlin Tlingit Louise Gordon is a co-founding member of the Atlin Music Festival.  This is the second consecutive year she has invited indigenous Ravenstail and Chilkat weavers to demonstrate our traditional weaving styles at the Atlin Music Festival.  Atlin is located in the upper part of British Columbia, Canada, just on the Northeastern side of the mountains from Juneau, Alaska.  Click here for more info on the annual music festival in beautiful Atlin, B.C.

Sharon Shorty and Marge Baufeld demonstrate Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving in the Artists' Tent at the Atlin Music Festival, Atlin, B.C.

Sharon Shorty and Marge Baufeld demonstrate Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving in the Artists’ Tent at the Atlin Music Festival, Atlin, B.C.

Gunalcheesh, Louise Gordon for inviting us to demonstrate our weaving traditions at the Atlin Music Festival !

The Atlin Music Festival's Campsite Specs has its sense of humor designating the quiet campers to the left of the sign and the noisy campers to the right!

The Atlin Music Festival’s Campsite Specs has its sense of humor designating the quiet campers to the left of the sign and the noisy campers to the right!

I just loved this sign:  “quiet, family, relax, zen, sleep peacefully…camp on the left of this sign” and those of your who are “loud, noisy, party, music, late hours…camp to the right of this sign…!”

There is the place for campers and RVs, then there's the "Tent City" with a fabulous view!

There is the place for campers and RVs, then there’s the “Tent City” with a fabulous view!

I never really appreciated outdoor music festivals until this year…!  Like down in Colorado, we’ve got them everywhere in almost every little town and big towns…it’s the norm; kids grow up with this kind of culture.  I didn’t,…alas, I grew up in a rainforest where we could not count on a sunny day to plan something way ahead of time like an outdoor concert much less a day of picking berries without a raincoat!