In Memory of Walter Porter

“Father Cyril Bulashevich in the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Juneau, Alaska” Chilkat woven wall pouch –  1990 –          16″w x 24″h – Private Collection, Denver, CO

Even though the above Chilkat weaving is in honor of the priest I grew up with, Father Cyril Bulashevich, I use this image here in honor of Walter Porter from Yakutat, Alaska.  In his own way, because he was what I would regard as a spiritual man, Walter Porter was “priestly.”  It’s really the only way I have known him.  (The first time I met his wife, MaryAnn Porter, was at the Chilkat weaving class taught by Jennie Thlunaut in 1985 – MaryAnn and I were fellow students.)  Hearing of Walter’s passing on November 6th was shocking.  Fellow artist, Preston Singletary texted me; I spent the entire week passing tears not able to do much else really.   I know the news hit Preston even harder as both Walter and he were planning on working together again.   The way I see Walter, the entire State of Alaska received a big blow, a big loss to our spiritual/emotional way of being.

Walter Porter explains a design concept at the 2nd Northwest Coast Artists’ Gathering 2008           Juneau, Alaska

Walter was our guest speaker at the 2nd Biennial Northwest Coast Artists’ Gathering in 2008.  His lecture was recorded and is on his website.  Walter was an interpreter, a guide to assist us into thinking differently about the way we saw our world.

Condolences to our MaryAnn, their children and family.  A big hole has been left – We will miss him for the rest of our lives!

To get a glimpse of Walter and his work, please visit Walter’s website at:


Spinning Chilkat in Yakutat

Strips of sap-free cedar bark in the foreground - students braving an adventure of spinning Chilkat warp!

Sunday night, a few hours after the tail end of the 1st Annual Yakutat Tern Festival, 18 women began to learn the art of spinning Chilkat warp of yellow cedar bark and merino wool.  Traditionally, we use mountain goat wool, however, mountain goat wool is a rare find these days and merino wool is the closest fiber to match that of the mountain goat.  The class began at 6pm and was only supposed to be 2 hours, but we didn’t get out of the classroom until 11:30pm that night when Evelyn finally broke the spell and said:  “Gee, I’ve got to go home now…”  Suddenly, all of us realized it was way past our bedtime!  That’s what happens when we’re having too much fun!

A class of 18 students making their first attempts at spinning Chilkat warp - L to R: Carol Pate, MaryAnn Porter, Angel Harry, Evelyn Dierick, Carolyn Donohue, Eva Sensmeier, Victoria Demmert, Lois Dworshak, Yvonne Baker, ,Anne Pollnow, Shirley Cain, Joy Klushkan, (Maka Monture & Alison Bremner obscured), Judy Ramos, Penney James, and Gloria Benson

Some of the students are weavers of Ravenstail learned from Cheryl Samuels who revived the art of Ravenstail weaving back in the late 80’s.  Ravenstail warp is not spun with cedar bark; Chilkat warp is.  Someday, these students want to learn the art of Chilkat weaving, and with the eagerness of learning how to spin their own warp, I can tell these women will be persistent about learning Chilkat weaving.

Thin strips of yellow cedar bark ready to spin with the wool - silky when wet, rough when dry

L to R: Joy Klushkan, Maka Monture, Alison Bremner, Judy Ramos

The youngest student in the class, Angel Harry, organizes her strips of cedar bark and her wool roving to prepare for the next step - the actual spinning on her thigh!

Many thanks to MaryAnn Porter who helped organize this event and brought the class members together, to Carol Pate for the use of her Home Economics classroom and to all the students who braved the adventure of spinning Chilkat warp!

Visiting Yakutat After 36 Years

Harry K. Bremner, Sr. and Clarissa - Yakutat airport - April 1975

For the first time in 1975 upon an invite to see what Native elders called “the land of milk and honey”; I went to Yakutat to visit “Grandpa” Harry K. Bremner, Sr. (In an upcoming blog entry, I will write about the influence of Grandpa Harry in my life).  Take note of the above photograph; the airport road is newly-paved and the trees are so much shorter than what they are today! — for those of you who are wondering where the heck is Yakutat, Alaska, look at a map of Alaska, find Anchorage, then locate Juneau and look about half way in between the two and you will find Yakutat on the coast, right up there with the big Malaspina Glacier.  Pretty awesome!  As most of you know, Alaska is Alyeska, the Great Land! And we Alaskans are proud of our country!

June 2011 – It’s been 36 years since I set foot in Yakutat.  Upon an invite by my friend Jan the traveling accupuncturist, and a reminder from my friend Preston who was guest speaker at the 1st Annual Yakutat Tern Festival this past weekend and, since my children and grand-children all flew south to attend their other grandparent’s family reunion, and I’ve gone through some heavy-duty, non-stop,  life-changing events over the past three years, (golly!) I decided it was high time to take some R&R and visit Yakutat again!  Yet, as usual I had to do something to offset my travel costs, so with the support and assistance of Walter and MaryAnn Porter, I taught a class in spinning Chilkat warp.   (For those interested in the cedar bark class, look for the blog entry recently posted “Spinning Chilkat In Yakutat).

The following photographs are the day trip to the biggest beach I’ve ever seen that runs North/South called Canon Beach:

As we approach Canon Beach, we pass over a waterway of lily pads

As we came across this bridge and saw this view of the pond, I remembered the swans we saw here in 1975 – it was the first time in my life I had ever seen swans.  And since then, every time I see swans, I have thought of this place here in Yakutat.

36 years ago, we had lunch with Grandpa Harry in this spot - it was a good feeling to be here again!

I have a few more photos taken back in 1975 during my visit in Yakutat; I’m not sure where they are, but I’ll have to do some investigating!  I want to include them sometime sooner than later.

Boogie Boarders skim the shore's wild surface of icy cold Yakutat waters - I tell ya, if I were 16 again, I'd be out there boarding - so much fun!

The very first time I had ever seen big waves like these were in Yakutat at this beach in ’75.  Then a few years ago, I had heard that surfers came from around the world to surf this beach.  We’ll yeah, man!

Although there were none today, surfers from around the world ride Yakutat waves

Sand Texture - I remember the beach sands being whiter, hmmm...I'm going to have to find those photos from 36 years ago and compare!

I swear - in Yakutat, there are more eagles riding the rip tides of the wind than there are seagulls!

Laying on the beach and admiring the textures of the sky while a lone comber goes to that place of meditation where water meets shore

Had to go find out what that thing was over there...(?)--Obviously something that didn't make it back afloat!

A rotting barge adds rustic color as tides ebb and flow

"Windows" of the sea

A lone pebble

When the tide goes out, there are thousands of small, polished pebbles on this beach.  It was odd to find one all by its lonesome.

Like I did 36 years ago, I will be taking memories of the land and sea, yet this time, with little pebbles for little grand-daughter hands in Colorado

You are probably wondering where are the photos of the actual village of Yakutat?  Well, when I post the blog entry about Harry K. Bremner, Sr., I will include a few shots of the village.  Stay tuned.