Dominik Modlinski Plein Air Painting Class: Part 2 of 3


Palette Box

Student Carol Baker’s custom-made palette box hook directly onto the tripod as shown made by Coulter 

I am always fascinated by an artist’s equipment, in no matter what the medium the artist works.  Every one of us in this painting class had a different method to their madness.  Before Dominik’s class officially began, I ran around looking at the different types of palette boxes the various students had; there were two that were quite innovative.


Custom-made paint brush holder made of PVC pipe hooks onto the tripod for easy access


From a compact unit, this Palette Box folds out exposing the glass plate palette in the center, drawer for paints and brushes to the left, counter and brush stand holder to the right, and easel on the “lid” — within the easel is a built-in box that can hold approximately 5 to 7 canvas boards


Here’s the paint brush holder


name of the company who creates custom-made the palette box of these last few photos


Dominik Modlinski Plein Air Painting Class: Part 1 of 3

Dominik Modlinski's painting pants

Dominik Modlinski’s painting pants

Retired school principal and one of the lead organizers for the Juneau Plein Rein group, Cristine Crooks sent out an email announcement that world-traveler plein air painter, Dominik Modlinski was coming to Juneau to teach a 3-day class in mid-July.  Intrigued, I checked out his website and very much liked his painting style.  I weighed how much work I already had on my plate with the cost of the class and I decided that no matter what, I had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I jumped in!   Wow!  I learned more in three days with this young man than I did in an entire year of painting class at a college!

The night before the class began, Dominik gave a presentation on his work

The night before the class began, Dominik gave a presentation on his work

Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland in 1970,  Dominik started painting at 6 years old.  He said he always knew he wanted to be a painter.  In Poland’s education system, whatever a child shows is his strongest interest, that is the avenue in which his parents and teachers guide him.  Dominik has painted in the wilderness of South America, Africa, Japan, Quebec, British Columbia, Alaska and Yukon.  He lives in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and during the summers he spends his time in Yukon with a cabin in Atlin.  Check out Dominik’s website at: 

Dominik presents the color wheel and color charts

Dominik presents the color wheel and color charts

Day One:  We worked indoors at the Juneau Arts & Cultural Center (JACC)  learning how to mix our paints and make color charts.  Fascinating!  I have made color charts in high school and again in college courses and I found them totally boring, however, I have NEVER learned how to mix the colors to make these charts the way Dominik taught us; we mixed all day without a drop of boredom!

Dominik suggests using this type of disposable pallete paper

Dominik suggests using this type of disposable pallete paper

We learned Complementary Contrast #1:

Two colors are complementary if their pigments mixed together produce a neutral gray-black.  Physically, light of two complementary colors, mixed together, will yield white.  Two such colors are a strange pair.  They are opposite, they require each other.  They incite each other to maximum vividness when adjacent; and they annihilate each other, to gray-black, when mixed – like fire and water.  There is always but one color complementary to a given color.  In the color circle, complementary colors are diametrically opposite each other.

Examples of complementary pairs are:  yellow-violet, blue-orange, red-green

In analyzing these pairs of complimentaries, all three primaries – yellow, red, blue – are always present:

yellow – violet = yellow, red + blue

blue – orange = blue, yellow + red

red – green = red, yellow + blue

Dominik demonstrates how to mix a beautiful grey using equal amounts of yellow, blue and red

Dominik demonstrates how to mix a beautiful grey using equal amounts of yellow, blue and red

Complimentary Contrast #2:

Each complimentary pair has its own peculiarities:

Yellow – Violet, represents not only complimentary contrast but also extreme dark-light contrast.

Red – Orange – Blue-green is a complementary pair, and at the same time the extreme of cold-warm contrast.

Red – Green are complimentary, and the two saturated colours have the same brilliance.

Many paintings based on complimentary contrast exhibit not only contrasting complementaries themselves but also their graduated mixtures as intermediates and compensating tones.  Being related to the pure colours they unite the two into one family.  In fact, these mixed tones often occupy more space the pure colours.

Dominik demonstrates how he begins most of his paintings starting from the top working down

Notice the focused intent of Dominik’s students!

Simultaneous Contrast #1:

Simultaneous contrast results from teh fact that for any given color, the eye simultaneously requires the complementary color, and generatesit spontaneously if it is not already present.

The simultaneously generated complementary occurs as a sensation int eh eye of beholder, and it is not objectively present.

the simultaneously appearing colour, not being objectively present but genereated in the eye, induces feeling of excitement and lively vibration of ever-changing intensity.

Each of six pure color squares contains a small neutral gray square, matching the background color in brilliance.  Each gray square seems to be tinged with the complementary of the background.  The simultaneous effect becomes more intense, the longer the principal color of a square is viewed.

Three small gray squares, surrounded by orange:

Three grays barely distinct from each other have been used.  The first gray is bluish, and intensifies the simultaneous effect; the second gray is neutral, and suffers simultaneous modification; the third gray contains an admixture of orange, and therefore fails to be modified.

Dominik demonstrates how he begins most of his paintings starting from the top working down

Dominik demonstrates how he begins most of his paintings starting from the top working down

Simultaneous Contrast #2:

The simultaneous effect occurs not only between a gray and a strong chormatic colour, but also between any two colours that are not precisely complementary.  Each of teh two will tend to shift the other towards its own complement, and generally both will loose some of their intrinsic character and become tinged with new effects.

Under these conditions, colours give an appearance of dynamic activity.

Click here for Part 2, 2nd Day of Plein Rein Painting Class with Dominic Modlinski


“Baby Raven Reads” Program — Drum Making


7-year-old Elizabeth Hope reads the step-by-step instructions out loud on how to make a drum

Sealaska Heritage Institute sponsors the “Baby Raven Reads” program which mainly teaches young children how to read yet also conducts other cultural projects for the young minds and bodies.  This past Sunday, Mary Folletti taught the drum making class for children and their families took place for a couple of hours at the Gajaa Hit Building near the ANB Hall in Juneau.  Thank you Davina Cole, project coordinator from SHI…!


Prepared raw hide is soaked in water

The drum making kits were purchased from a supply store in Centralia, Washington State at Centralia Fur and Hide Company (their website is of the same name).  The kits included the pre-bent wood frame, the pre-cut circle of hide and the raw hide threads.


A few tools and supplies needed for drum making:   needle-nose pliers, hammer, scissors, push pins and “Tightbond” wood glue

My grand-daughter Elizabeth and I were one of approximately 20 Juneau families who took this class.  Most of the children were around 4 to 7 years of age, though there were a few younger.


After the raw hide has soaked, place on a flat surface smooth side down with pencil markings facing down; pat with a towel to absorb excess moisture

For many years my friend, Becky Etukeok made drums from local hides such as deer, moose, and caribou.  After taking this class I have a larger admiration towards her dedication to this art form.  I had never seen how drums were made nor had the appreciation of how they were made until doing this simple class where all the hard work was done for us.  Although Beckie now is the program director of arts at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, she is still known as “Beckie Drum-maker.”


Soak spiral-cut, 3/8″ “threads

When threading, pull so there’s no slack, but not too tight as that will make your drum too high pitch.


Instructor Mary Folletti demonstrates how to begin threading

How to include your young child in making a drum:

*  Let your child explore the materials (sinew, frame, hide) while you name them.

*  Talk about how the frame is a circle.  Ask what shape the hide is and why it’s bigger than the frame

*  Ask what the different materials feel like (smooth, wet)

*  Ask or explain where the materials comes from (deer, tree, intestines)

*  Count the holes together, name the tools (hammer, pliers, scissors)

*  They can help pull the sinew through

*  The can help “pull tight”

*  They can help hammer tacks with close supervision


Begin threading through one hole and tie a half hitch knot


Thread through the hole directly across the first hole, and repeat


Clarissa helps her grand-daughter Elizabeth how to create a handle


Most everyone in the class has created their “star” pattern

I had a blast making this drum with my grand-daughter Elizabeth.  I look forward to doing more cultural things with all of my grandchildren as they grow up.


Some drum makers fold rawhide between the threaded areas over the frame and hammer a tack in each section to hold it down.

When you have completed your drum, make sure you take the thumb tacks out and let your drum dry on a clean, flat surface, face up.  Depending on your climate:  it takes about 2 days to dry in Alaska, though at 7000 feet where the climate is a bit drier like the 4-corners area of the United States, the drum may not even take a day to dry!


Directly after creating the handle and pushing the raw edges of the leather to the inside of the drum, with her strong fingers, Elizabeth carefully smoothes the frame removing all the big folds and wrinkles – you must do this step as soon as possible before the hide even starts to dry


Your drum was made out of an animal and a tree and some say the drum is a living being so you want to honor its spirit with love and respect

Store it wrapped in cotton, wool, or a custom drum bag face up or on a wall.  Keep it from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight as heat may cause it to crack.

Water expands and heat constricts.  On sunny days you can mist with a damp cloth or spray bottle.  If your drum is cold you can warm it slowly, using your own skin as a gauge.

Clean with a slightly damp cloth.  You can condition with Shea butter bought from

Careful not to set anything on your drum and remember to play your drum often.  It wants to sing!


Mary Folletti teaches some of the kids how to do various beats with their new drums and drumsticks

How to make a drumstick:

You will need a stick, padding (cotton or wool cloth), sinew, and a piece of buckskin.

1)  Put glue on one end of stick covering 1″ down around the whole stick.

2)  Wrap padding around end of stick that you glued, snuggly not to tight.

3)  Use sinew and wrap around padding a dozen times crisscrossing, then tie off on stick behind padding.

4)  Center Buckskin on end of padded end, pull down stick and hold snug behind padding then wrap sinew very tightly around buckskin and stick 7 to 9 times; tie off using scissors to trim excess buckskin



Learning How to Make Copper T’naa’s


Can never have too many tools....!

Depending on the size of your copper T’naa’s, you will need a variety of tools show above…You Can never have too many tools….!

I would go into defining what a copper T’naa is however, my time is truly booked and I want to post this sooner than later because there are so many additional posts to post right now I am back-logged!  I haven’t been able to keep up with myself!

If you don’t know what Copper T’naa’s are, I suggest you do a little research on line.

Donald Gregory's small copper T'naa patterns with small photos of actual life-size T'naa's

Donald Gregory’s small copper T’naa patterns with small photos of actual life-size T’naa’s

Local Juneau Tlingit artist, Donald Gregory was gracious enough to teach me how to make these small copper “gems!”  So precious are our tiny pieces of metal that I take the learning of making these things to heart.  I asked Donald if he would teach me because I want to someday make a button robe with nothing but T’naa’s adorning the robe…it’s a lot of work, though so worth bringing the vision of what is imagined into this tangible form!


various sizes of hand files, a hole punch and a small hand-drill

As most artists know, having the right equipment and right tools makes the experience of whatever it is you are creating, worth your while!


A variety of hammers for making copper T’naa’s


A variety of cutting devices for making copper T’naa’s


A variety of sizes of (?)…I swear I don’t remember what these are called…!

electric dremel, cutting and guage tools

electric dremel, cutting and guage tools



hahaha! Lol. — I don’t remember what these are called either…but they are used to score the vertical and horizontal lines within each copper

The following are a sequence of photos to demonstrate the process of making the copper T’naa’s.  I envision you will use these images as a tool to help guide your work in making the T’naa’s.  Though as usual, the best way to learn anything is directly from it’s maker!

Choose the right size pattern

Choose the right size pattern

Using Sharpie marker, draw your T'naa directly onto the copper

Using Sharpie marker, draw your T’naa directly onto the copper

With metal cutters, cut the shape of your T'naa

With metal cutters, cut the shape of your T’naa




Bend 1st score before scoring second score

gently pound the copper into a shape using your block

gently pound the copper into a shape using your base block

Using "that" tool begin repouse, lightly tapping to begin making concave top

Using “that” tool begin repouse, lightly tapping to begin making concave top

First use the scoring tool to create the dent where you want your earring loop hole, then use small hand-drill to drill the hole

First use the scoring tool to create the dent where you want your earring loop hole, then use small hand-drill to drill the hole

Using hand file, file down the rough edges of your T'naa

Using hand file, file down the rough edges of your T’naa

Learning Tlingit Form Line Art


Artist, Professor, and Instructor of Tlingit form line art, Lance Twitchell introduces the class first with the spiritual and cultural context

Yes, I took an evening of form line instruction.  Yes, even though I have been drawing formline for nearly 40 years, I felt like I could use some FORM-al  instruction.  I learned a bit from the instructor, Lance Twitchell.  I learned a few techniques that I had never though of using AND I learned that I am not too bad of a designer, and that I could use some more assistance and inspiration.  After all these years, it’s fun taking a class in which you know almost as much as the instructor!  Lol.


Approximately 18 students, many of them just beginners, in the form line class sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute

A few years ago, Sealaska Heritage Institute took it upon themselves to begin teaching form line classes after Haida Artist Robert Davidson told the audience in attendance at the Sealaska Juried Art Competition that “the Tlingit people didn’t have very good artists who mastered the form line art.”  (I had heard complaints from other well-accomplished Tlingit artists about Robert’s statement.  I laughed at the absurdity, though at the same time I know that all of us will continually better ourselves at the formline art.  Even so, did Robert realize his statement was a slap in the face to several Tlingit artists who have been working as long as he or nearly as long, like Nathan Jackson, Preston Singletary, Israel Shotridge, Rick and Mick Beasley, the Chilton brothers, etc.?)


Students were given the task of choosing a design aspect of the carved bentwood box shown on the screen to replicate as best as they could on their drawing paper

I don’t know if Robert realized how he was saying these things may have caused a ruckus for the locals though nevertheless, SHI decided it was high time they do something about educating the Tlingit artists no matter where they were in their careers as designer/artists.


Lance provided a list of the various form line definitions created by Bill Holm and Bill Reid over 40 years ago

Lance Twitchell added some very good aspects to the one-night instruction plan:  the design terms in Tlingit language!  I felt Lance did a fine job of leading the students carefully step-by-step.  Though the part I enjoyed the best about his presentation was his acknowledgement of all the artists who had gone before and the spiritual representation of the art. — Being self-taught in Tlingit form line design, I appreciate the fact that SHI has taken the initiative to conduct classes throughout Southeast Alaska.  If we had these classes 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago, I would have taken them…and that’s why I had the privilege to finally attend one!  Thank you Sealaska Heritage Institute!

Tlingit Names in Formline

Tlingit Names in Formline

Tlingit Words & Chilkat Weaving Origins

"Naaxein" is the Tlingit word for Chilkat weaving

“Naaxein” is the Tlingit word for Chilkat weaving

During the Summer of 2013, a couple of my apprentices and I had volunteered to do Chilkat weaving demonstrations at the Sheldon Museum in Haines, Alaska.  While we were there, of course, they had a nice collection of Chilkat weavings from the area, and to our surprise some weaving terms in the Tlingit language!  So on behalf of the Sheldon Museum, I post some of the Chilkat weaving terms as well as the origin of Chilkat weaving according to an anthropologist from the turn of the century who wrote the book “The Chilkat Blanket, George Emmons.

In addition to the comment in the above photo made about Jennie Thlunaut’s signature, Jennie’s checkerboard “signature” was a pattern of yellow and blue.


Chilkat definitions

Cost of a Chilkat robe back in the mid-1800’s was $30

Jennie had told me that she sold her first robe for $50.  If my memory serves me, it was the robe started by her mother who passed away when she was a young teenager.  She thought $50 was pretty good for a Chilkat robe; she had a confident smile on her face as she spoke.

"Kasek'xu" Tlingit word for dye

“Kasek’xu” Tlingit word for dye

Jennie and Agnes Bellinger (Jennie’s daughter) told me the golden yellow was what weavers strived for and the best way to do this was all in the urine.   The best urine to make the golden yellow was urine from a woman in her last month of pregnancy; second best urine was from a newborn infant.  The way they collected the urine from a newborn was to place the “wolf moss” in the diaper and only collect #1 (as opposed to #2) and put the soaked wolf moss in the dye bath.  The older the baby, or child’s urine, the more pale the golden yellow.  Jennie and Agnes said there is no wolf moss in Southeast Alaska.  The moss was a trade item with the tribes on the other side of the coastal mountains in British Columbia, Canada.  The youth of the urine made the biggest difference in the color achieved and the set of the dye.

"Kakein" is  Tlingit word for yarn

“Kakein” is Tlingit word for yarn

The mountain goat wool and cedar bark spin together as if they were mated for life; they are attracted to one another like bee to a flower!  Mountain goat hides are hard to come by; and even if they were easy to acquire, there are so many Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers on board, we would make the herds run away further up into the high barren mountains!  In the bio on Jennie Thlunaut here on my website under “Tributes,” there is a map showing the places where the men would hunt for mountain goat.  Today there are a couple of guys who hunt mountain goat.  We weavers need to do trades with these guys so we can let go of using the 2nd best wool that has replaced the mountain goat:  merino wool from New Zealand.  This wool is the closest fiber in the world next to the mountain goat.  It spins up okay, but not as fine as the bee and flower of cedar bark and mountain goat wool…!

Teey Woodi Tlingit for Cedar Bark

Teey Woodi Tlingit for Cedar Bark

The Western yellow cedar is best o split because the strands are silky smooth (when wet), they pull out into longer strands than the cedar (which is more brittle), and when you spin the bark and wool (done on the thigh), your hands are not prone to the first layer of skin rubbing off!  Though if red cedar is all there is to collect, or someone gifted me some, then it is only sensible to not look the gift horse in the mouth.  You acquire what you can!  It is best to harvest the red cedar when the first sign of spring shows up with new green growth at the tips of the cedar tree boughs.

Chilkat weaving origins

Chilkat weaving origins

There are several stories of the origin of where Chilkat weaving first began and how it came to and was retained in the Chilkat River Valley in Haines/Klukwan, Alaska.  The Nishga’a in the Nass River area claim the weaving originated in the Nass River and only the Nishga’a inhabitated the area, not the Tsimpshian.  The Tsimpshian from the Skeena River say Chilkat weaving originated there.  The weaving had died out because of western contact in both areas, but fortunately, as one of the stories go, a Chilkat chief married a weaver from the Nass River (or Skeena River?), and then another story says it was the other way around.  No matter what the story, all agree that there were specifically 4 sisters of a Raven Clan in Klukwan who unraveled the Chilkat apron to gain the knowledge of how the weaving was done.

Chilkat weaving origins according to

Traditionally men designed the Chilkat robes because they were the artists of form line; women were the weavers…

Jennie said she finished a Chilkat robe in 6 months; she had pride on her face as she spoke.  I didn’t believe her at first, but after I learned her fingering of speed, accuracy and tension, and I applied her knowledge to my weavings of today, well……?




Learn To Blog From Blogcademy

Blogging can happen anywhere you go as long as you have wifi -- photo from Blogcademy online!

Blogging can happen anywhere you go as long as you have wifi — photo courtesy from Blogcademy online!

Okay,…now who woulda thought there’d be lessons on how to blog!?!?  Never head of such a thing until my daughter Ursala approached me out of the blue and asked me what my intentions were with my blog.  Huh?  And then before I could answer she asked me if I wanted to make money by way of my blog.  Before I could answer she asked if I would like to learn how to be better at blogging.  Really?  Then she asked if I would like to take an online course in blogging by way of the Blogcademy.  Yep, folks.  There are classes on line or in person that you can take to learn how to make a living by way of blogging!  Even though I have very few competitors in my field since there isn’t a middle-aged Tlingit female artist who works in a variety of mediums, I have not figured out how I am going to make an income via my blog.

The three, young, female owners of this academy live in various parts of the world, who each make a living on their own separate blogs.  The come together to teach women how to blog, and how to make money blogging.

So I watched all 17 lessons the Blogcademy offered and took notes in the comforts of my own studio office while I finished spinning the last 100 yards of warp to begin weaving my next Chilkat robe!  I made mental note of all the things I had already been doing in my business of blogging.  And I wrote down the things that I needed to begin doing!  Some of them are:

  • Interesting photographs (I’ve decided when I have enough money, I will invest in a SLR camera; my iPhone just doesn’t hack it)
  • Keep blog post dates consistent (I intend to post 3x/week by midnight on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays)
  • Make a calendar log of the topics you can post date (I’ve got the perfect hard-copy calendar)
  • Create interesting titles for each blog post (Hmmm…this will be a challenge)
  • In your writings, “Talk” to your readers  (Their suggestion confirms the way I have already been talking)
  • Make a list of digital products that I can create and made for sale on my blog and website (In this next year, I am going to take up one of the teacher’s process that she did:  because she did not have the time and money to sit down and write her book which would have taken several months, she decided that she would write one chapter per month – at the end of the year, she was able to create a digital book available via her blog.  I will do the same.  I  will publish my own books through an on line publishing company; customers can buy directly on line and the books published on demand!)

Okay readers, let’s see how I do in the next few months to year!

Chilkat and Ravenstail Weaving Return to Yukon


Yukonian and Alaskan Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving students hold their wooden “warp sticks” along with dancers wearing Chilkat and Ravenstail robes (“Diving Whale” Chilkat robe woven by Clarissa Rizal, “Copper Child” woven by Lily Hope & Clarissa Rizal, “Grandmother’s Time” Ravenstail robe woven by Ann Smith —  Kwaanlin Dun Cultural Center in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – June 2013

Today, as I was doing some research on line about other Native American, Alaskan artists or Ravenstail and Chilkat weavers who may have blogs, I came across this article from Radio Canada International’s website:

Ann Smith and I taught this class nearly two years ago; she taught Ravenstail and I taught Chilkat.  It was a blast.  It feels real good to help inspire the local Yukon weavers to come back to their “woven” selves.  Ann and I met when we were young like most of these gals nearly 30 years ago.  Little did we know then that we would be helping to revive our nearly-lost weaving traditions.  Who woulda known, eh?

Adding Sea Otter Fur Trim to Chilkat Robe


1/4″ strip of sea otter fur being looped through the top edge of a Chilkat robe

Sea otter fur is THE, or close to THE most warmest fur in the world with over 100,000 individual hairs per square inch!  Yes, there are tricks-to-the-trade of working with sea otter fur.

TO CREATE A FULLER-LOOKING BAND OF SEA OTTER FUR TRIM (follow these instructions):  After you have cut your 1/4″ strip to loop through your heading cord of your Chilkat or Ravenstail weaving, place your weaving on its front, with the WRONG SIDE FACING YOU!  Depending on the size of your warp, loop through every 2 to 3 warp ends, using an overhand stitch, from FRONT TO BACK.

With your large-eye tapestry needle, carefully, gently, work the fur out of the looped eye of the warp to distribute the fur evenly and cover up any signs of warp or heading cord.

Good luck following directions!

The Apron Apprentices Weave With Clarissa Rizal


A Chilkat apron started by Dodie Gannett in the 1980s

Two months ago, I received an email from a weaver who wanted my mailing address so she could pay me for copying my “Jennie Weaves An Apprentice — Chilkat Weavers’ Handbook.”   Then she emailed me a couple of photographs of the above apron that was gifted to her and her 4 weaving buddies by John Beard.  Of course, in the weaving world, everyone knows the infamous Ravenstail weaver John Beard, so I was intrigued by the story of this apron and John’s connection!  Even though I do not normally teach non-Native women Chilkat weaving unless they are part of the Native community (i.e. married to a Native man OR adopted into a Clan), because they had already started to learn how to Chilkat weave, I felt right telling them that if they wanted my help, I would be willing to assist in teaching them things they would not learn from any other teacher nor any other book on the subject, and also since I would be up in their neck of the woods in December when I do my public presentation on Chilkat weaving at the Portland Art Museum.  I put my line out there and they bit!

The following is a follow-up report from the five “Apron Apprentices” to their sponsor, the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon:

“December 15-19, 2014, the Apron Apprentices spent five fun and informative days with Clarissa Rizal, a powerful Tlingit woman.  These days were made possible in part due to the generous grant from the Native American Art Council to pay for Clarissa’s teaching fees and Sally Ishikawa’s kindness in providing space in her home for us to meet.  Words alone cannot express our gratitude for these generous gifts.


The Apron Apprentices: Stephany Anderson, Sally Ishikawa, Margaret Woods, Joni Zimmerman, and Margaret Emborg Jeppesen Each with their “Apron Apprentices” bags gifted to each of us by Joni

The Apron Apprentices were first given the opportunity by John Beard to finish a Chilkat Apron started by Dodie Gannett in the 1980s.  After two or three sessions of reading the weaving and slowly beginning to put in the first few twining stitches  of our own, we began wishing for a teacher.  Each of us in our own way began talking to our “left hand corner” looking for guidance in our journey with the apron.  Our requests were answered when Clarissa offered to teach us the finger that Jennie Thlunaut taught her and share her weaving  journey.  She encouraged us to study and understand the spiritual journey of Chilkat weaving.  With this special Apron, we have the opportunity to bring an important ceremonial object full circle back to life.


The weavers at their looms

One mystery associated with our Apron is that when it was brought to John Beard, it was accompanied by an older, also unfinished apron, of the same pattern.  Some of the weavers at Damascus Fiber Arts School had vague memories of this apron, but no one could remember where it came from.  We showed it to Clarissa, and as she held it in her hands she said, “Doris Kyber-Gruber.”  Doris was a weaver who learned Chilkat weaving before she even went to Alaska, and was associated with Chief Lelooska in the 1950’s.  In the 1960’s she went to the Haines area in Alaska, and she knew Jennie Thlunaut.  (Clarissa notes:  “I remember Agnes Bellinger telling me about Doris who learned Chilkat weaving from her mother Jennie.  She said that Doris had written a manuscript on Chilkat weaving, but she decided to never publish it because she realized the sacredness the Tlingit held of this style of weaving.  About 15 years ago, a friend gave me color slides of Doris sitting next to Jennie learning how to weave with a couple of Native women in the late 1960’s  I have to find these slides!)


Stephany shoots a selfie of the 6 of us!

Doris later moved to Portland, and John Beard has been able to confirm with Dodie Gannett’s family that Dodie and Doris knew each other and that they actually went to Kasaan Village in SE Alaska together in 1971 to teach a Chilkat Weaving Class. l We did a little bit of research on Doris, and learned that she passed away just last summer.  This is a link to her obituary:


Margaret Woods models John Beard’s latest Ravenstail robe: equisite!

Our group is in awe over these amazing connections through these aprons.  During our week with Clarissa, besides the cultural and spiritual aspects of the weaving, we learned a lot of technical information.  Clarissa understood and explained notations Dodie had made on her “pattern board” that will enable us to move accurately finish the Apron as Dodie intended.  Also of interest is information on the pattern we are weaving.


Joni Zimmerman

The Field Museum in Chicago, in possession of a very old apron after which our Apron is patterned, has notes that the pattern is “Hoorts, the Bear.”  Internet research of old legends says Hoorts is the grizzly bear.  Clarissa noted, however, that there are flukes on our patter, which would make it the “sea grizzly,” associated with a clan on North Vancouver Island (area).  As part of our weaving journey with this Apron, we will continue to research information on the history and legends associated with the pattern.  Our week with Clarissa brought us closer together as a group and has given us knowledge needed to move forward with this project.  We will not take this privilege lightly.”  — The Apron Apprentices  (Sally Ishikawa, Joni Zimmerman, Stephany Anderson, Margaret Woods and Margaret Emborg Jeppessen)


In the weaving room, the two aprons “meet” – In the foreground, we see the back side of the apron started by Dodie Gannett in 1980’s and facing us, we see the child-size Chilkat robe (also be worn as apron) started by Clarissa Rizal

Margaret Jeppesen

Margaret Woods

Sally Ishikawa

Stephany Anderson

I feel the “Apron Apprentices” need to partake in a ceremony  where they experience the apron(s) being danced amongst our people.  I would like them to experience Haines, the culture and it’s people in full context to Chilkat weaving.  I encourage the Portland Art Museum that they assist all five of these women (and maybe John Beard too!) to attend a two-week weaving class in Haines and then attend Celebration 2016 in Juneau, Alaska.— The story of these aprons is not yet complete; they may be an on-going tale like any human life…!


The older Chilkat apron possibly started by Doris Kyber-Gruber in the early 70s is held before the new Chilkat apron started by Dodie Gannett – Left to Right: Sally Ishikawa, Jodi Zimmerman, Margaret Jeppesen, Margaret Woods, Stephany Anderson and John Beard