Watch Clarissa’s NEA’s Award Performance Livestream

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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

Click on this link to see your open invitation to the general public for the NEA Heritage Fellowship concert:  2016-heritage-ceremony-invitation   

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   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).

“Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail Robe Update

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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

For more information on the mission and purpose of this robe, please visit the initial “invitational” blog post by clicking this link:  

Clarissa’s Interview for New Mexico PBS “Colores”

Clarissa weaves "Copper Man" Ravenstail ceremonial dance robe - 2006

Clarissa weaves “Copper Man” Ravenstail ceremonial dance robe – 2006

The New Mexico PBS “Colores” television series recently posted their youtube video clip on me and my work.  Most of the film clips was shot by my son, Kahlil Hudson, with in-studio interview by KTOO radio station in Juneau, and most of the still shots of my Chilkat and button blanket robes were photographed by Jeff Laydon.   The video clip is about 8 minutes:  

Huna Totem Canoe Jacket


With hecklers from the side line, Ozzie Sheakley sports a “sporty” jacket with the 40-year anniversary design of a canoe with images of the 4 main clans from Hoonah, Alaska. Designed by Clarissa Rizal — photo by Deanna Lampe

I rarely wear these type of sporty jackets made of synthetic materials.  I am spoiled with the wool jackets made by Woolrich or Pendleton.  Remember the halibut jackets that were worn by all the cannery workers here in Alaska?  And later on the Pendleton company started coming out with their fancy, lined Pendleton jackets and coats.  That’s more my style.  However, a jacket that has this cool image on it make me want to spend $250!

Why Ravens’ Scavenge Rifle Ranges

Collected from rifle ranges, these bullet shells just got cleaned...!

Collected from rifle ranges, these .22 bullet shells just got cleaned…!

Born to the Tlingit T’akDeinTaan Raven Clan from Glacier Bay, Alaska, I cannot help be the scavenger, a natural-born trait of ravens.  Last year, Raven weavers Ricky Tagaban and my daughter Lily Hope collected .22 bullet shells from the Juneau rifle range as trim for the warp of their weavings; I had had the same idea when I saw bullet shells at a friend’s house.  So what was the first thing I did when I returned to Juneau!?

Mariella models the 5-piece Chilkat woven ensemble "Chilkat Child" -- the apron, headdress and leggings are all trimmed with .22 bullet shells

Mariella models the 5-piece Chilkat woven ensemble “Chilkat Child” — the apron, headdress and leggings are all trimmed with .22 bullet shells (photo courtesy of Yukon News)


Attended Teslin’s 4th “Kus Te Yea Celebration”


Wayne Carlick and his wife Debra Michel from Atlin, B.C.  enjoy berry dessert after a fabulous dinner

2015 is the 4th bi-ennial “Kus Te Yea” Celebration held at the Teslin Cultural Center, Teslin, Yukon every odd year from Juneau’s Celebration held on even years.  Most of the audience is from out of town since Teslin is only a community of less than 500(?) people.  People come from Atlin, Whitehorse, Carcross, and of course Teslin.  Then there are the Alaskan communities who are beginning to catch on to this special event which is free to the public; no one pays for the event, not even the dancers or the non-Natives.


Lieutenant Governor of Alaska Byron Mallott dances for the people of Teslin for acknowledging and honoring him and his family

I have been to every Celebration in Teslin since the first one in 2009.  Every year there are a few more new attendees and there are those who return every year no matter what.  That’s how I am too:  I return every year no matter what.  Why?


Nahaan FastFromEnglish from Seattle enjoys the company of many locals and vice versa!

I return because the people and landscape of Yukon Territory are “raw” and down to earth; there are no pretenses, no game-playing, no trying to be somebody you aren’t.  Like the landscape, the people of Yukon are very real…they have to be.  The environment and weather makes you be so.

I remember my long-time friend, musician singer/songwriter, Buddy Tabor making his annual trek to Yukon every year in the late Summer.  He was always eager to visit his friends and make the drive through the raw territory.  He said that he needed his fix; a fix that reminded him of the Alaska that once was before the oil money made things different.  Buddy passed away in 2012.  I never got to share my experiences and feelings about Yukon though I share them whenever I meet those who knew him and whenever I make that sojourn drive like he did.


Marieh and Lance Twitchell and family from Juneau enjoy the feast

Unlike the Celebrations in Juneau, Alaska (held on the even years), the “KusTeYea” Celebration is free; even the dinners are free.  No one pays anything except when they take one of the workshops and pay for the materials and supplies.  Some of those workshops include paddle carving, bentwood box making, snow shoe making, cedar bark weaving and Chilkat or Ravenstail weaving.  Demonstrations include brain-tanned moosehide, preparing and smoking fish, and the infamous salmon fillet contest…not to mention the canoe rides and canoe races.


William Wasden from Alert Bay, B.C. enjoys the company of the beauitful women of Yukon

The event is held in the cultural center and on the shores of Lake Teslin.  There are not enough motels/hotels in Teslin (only 2).  Visitors camp out in the designated areas with full-fledged campsites including elaborate outdoor kitchens, or they have a happy RV camper or a small dome tent suffices.


The canoes from various local communities (including Wayne Price’s dugout from Haines, Alaska), take a rest for the evening before another day of canoe races and canoe rides on Lake Teslin

There are several dance groups that perform each night; one from Carcross, another from Atlin, Whitehorse and of course, Teslin.  Each night the group will do the invitational dance calling out all the various tribes and nationalities called “Gusuu Wa Eh!?”  Translation:  “Where Are You?”  The name of the tribe (or nationality) is called out and if you are from that tribe or nationality, you come on out and show your stuff and drop money onto the “money blanket” which is placed on the floor in front of the stage.  It’s fun; and of course there is always a clown who has to make everyone laugh about him and themselves!


Oh yeah, that’s a nice beaded leather jacket we got going on during the invitational dance!

I prepare for this Celebration every year.  I look forward with happy anticipation knowing fully well that I become more comfortable with our Inland Tlingit relatives and vice versa, I believe they have become more comfortable with me.  Much like the Celebration in Juneau, it’s like a family reunion.


Every night for the 3 days of Celebration, a feast is prepared by 3 different communities: Teslin, Carcross and Atlin


Who is that man staring into the camera? He’s the head hauncho who runs the Teslin Cultural Center; he’s the big Kahuna — yes he does have a name: Kip! Thank you Kip for leading your staff to another great Celebration


Pam Craig (Seattle) with her mother Carol (Juneau) and son, Keet


The Tsimpshian “Git Hoan” Dancers from Metlakatla led by carver David Boxley, Sr. were the special guests during Celebration


The up and coming generation: Yeil Yadi (Sitka), ?, and Ricky Tagaban (Juneau)




Raven Buttonrobe Travels Russia

Raven Button robe is a collaboration of  designer Preston Singletary and sewer Clarissa Rizal

Raven Button robe is a collaboration of designer Preston Singletary and sewer Clarissa Rizal

A couple of years ago, I wanted to make some button robes, but I didn’t feel like designing them.  I guess I was just feeling lazy!  So I did what I’ve never done before – I asked another artist for designs!   I called up my friend Preston Singletary and asked him if he had any designs on hand that were suitable for button robes. He sent me two; one of the robes is now owned by Crystal Rogers Nelson and the other one is this one:  Raven.   Made with black and red wool melton cloth and some of the thousands of antique mother-of-pearl buttons I have been collecting for a good 25 years.  Little does Preston know that we are 2 of 11 Native American artists invited to submit something for an exhibit that is traveling Russia for over a year.

“Woven Together” is an exhibit intended to share a small part of Native American culture with Russians in the Urals. This will likely be the first exposure to Native American culture for many who visit the exhibit. Typically, the Consulate supports such artistic exchanges in order to encourage contact between Russians and Americans and to promote interest in the diverse people that inhabit the U.S.

Clarissa Rizal sorts  antique mother-of-pearl buttons for the Raven button -- a collaboration between designer Preston Singletary and button robe maker Clarissa Rizal

Clarissa Rizal sorts antique mother-of-pearl buttons for the Raven button — a collaboration between designer Preston Singletary and button robe maker Clarissa Rizal

The exhibit will travel to three cities in Russia – Yekaterinburg, Orenburg and Surgut. In all three cities there will be opportunities to show objects in display cases as well as on the walls.

Yekaterinburg is an industrial city and the capital of the Urals. Previously, they have hosted an exhibit of Native American photography.

Orenburg is a remote city in the south of the Urals that is simply interested in learning more about other cultures. This will be their first time hosting an exhibit the American consulate and they are very enthusiastic.

Surgut is a city located in a region that is home to the Khanti and Mansi peoples. The region is committed to preserving and honoring the cultural heritage and traditions of the Khanti and Mani peoples, and they are particularly interested in the Woven Together exhibit to learn more about Native peoples in the U.S.

Corners of "Raven" button blanket made by Clarissa Rizal designed by Preston Singletary 2015

Corners of “Raven” button blanket made by Clarissa Rizal designed by Preston Singletary 2015



A Chilkat Lineage at Portland Art Museum


The Curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum, Deana Dartt with her unique staff Mike Murawski,  Alex Mar, Todd Clark – They stand next to Clarissa’s recently completed Chilkat robe “Resilience” now part of the permanent collection of Portland Art Museum – December 2014

Surprises come in all sizes and shapes, some pleasant and unpleasant.  Learning how to keep the emotions in check is, I have discovered during my mid-life “learning curve”,  the best way to stay off the emotional roller coaster.  I used to respond fully at everything, whether positive or negative; I have come to realize that was a lot of energy to expend especially now as I am getting older, it is best for me to conserve that energy for myself, to myself, as I am needing to keep any energy I have if I want to continue doing what I do and all the things yet that I intend to do before I go.  So,…the surprise of seeing the Chilkat weavings collection at the Portland Art Museum was indeed pleasant that will last the rest of my lifetime.  Why?


The double-headed Raven “Two Door” Chilkat dance tunic and its wooden pattern board – the tunic was woven by my weaver teacher/mentor Jennie Thlunaut

Though there were a couple of other weavings and button blankets etc., I focused on these two tunics I show herein:  one is a “Grizzly Bear” tunic woven by Mrs. Benson, the paternal aunt and weaving teacher to my teacher/mentor Jennie Thlunaut, and the other tunic, the double-headed Raven “Two Door” tunic was woven by Jennie Thlunaut.  Mrs. Benson was born in the mid-1800s and died in the early 1900’s; Jennie was born in 1895 and died in 1986.  Jennie’s mother died when Jennie was 12; her mother had just started weaving another robe.  With the help of Jennie’s 4 paternal aunts, Jennie completed the Chilkat robe her mother started.  Mrs. Benson was one of those aunties.


Full view of the double-headed Raven “Two Door” Chilkat dance tunic by Jennie Thlunaut

The Portland Art Museum has in its collection a “weavers lineage” most likely, unlike any other museum anywhere else in the world.  How is that possible?  The “Grizzly Bear”  tunic was woven my Mrs. Benson, the “Two Door” tunic woven by Jennie Thlunaut, and now the “Resilience” Chilkat robe woven by me!  There is no other museum or cultural institution that owns a Chilkat weaving by me, so in this case,  P.A.M.  owns a weaving lineage of three generations! — Now how cool is THAT!?

Jennie wove two of the double raven “Two Door” tunics.  Long time ago, I was told the story of why she ended up weaving two identical tunics,  but now I don’t remember.  And like anything, if I don’t TELL the story enough times, either verbally or at least written down, the story gets lost, so let this be a lesson to us!  However, the Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia owns the other identical tunic and I KNOW they have the story!


Full view of the double headed Raven “Two Door” tunic pattern board

This hand-painted pattern board hosts two designs; on one side is the “Two Door” double raven, on the other side is the “Grizzly Bear”.  Of course, It be sensible that this large piece of wood, which is cut the width of the tree, be used efficiently!


Close up of a Chilkat tunic neckline and sleeve woven by Jennie Thlunaut’s auntie “Mrs. Benson”

This particular Chilkat weaving tunic woven by Mrs. Benson is my ALL TIME FAVORITE woven piece since I first laid eyes on Chilkat weavings nearly 40 years ago!  The design, the workmanship, and the colors which have yet to fade terribly are all fabulous – such an inspiration.  In fact, back in 2000 I did a limited edition of only 40  silkscreened prints using a photograph of this tunic as my inspiration to portray Jennie Thlunaut’s lineage of weavers titled “ShaaxSaaniKeek Weavers Circle.”


“Bear” wooden pattern board for the Chilkat tunic woven by “Mrs. Benson”

Traditionally, because men were the artists who carved and painted the form line art of the Northwest Coast, they were the ones who designed the Chilkat.  The form line of Chilkat is “translated” from the traditional form line so that the weaver can more easily weave the shapes.  So in order to create a successful Chilkat pattern, the designer must understand how the weaving process is done.  Very few artists know how the weaving process is done; in fact, there are many of our people who have never seen the weaving process, and when they do, they are shocked at the intricate amount of work and the numerous hours to create even a small weaving.  They then understand why the Chilkat weavings are “expensive.”


The “Bear” Chilkat tunic woven by Jennie Thlunaut’s auntie, Mrs. Benson – trimmed with sea otter fur on neckline, cuffs and the sides


“Resilience” Has New Home

"Resilience" Chilkat robe - Clarissa Rizal

“Resilience” Chilkat robe – Clarissa Rizal – June 4, 2014 -photo  by Jeff Laydon, Pagosa Photography

After 3 months of preparing the bark and wool then spinning the warp and dyeing the weft, and then 5 months of weaving the robe with at least 8 up to 12 hours per day of daily weaving time, I finished the robe on my 58th birthday, June 4, 2014!  You may read the design description of the robe in an earlier blog post from last year at by clicking:  (You may also find additional blog posts about the progression of this robe under the category “Latest Art Projects” in the left hand column of this blog page.)

0ResiliencePatternThe initial drawing of “Resilience”  Chilkat robe copyright 2013 by Clarissa Rizal

1MaterialsReadyMaterials ready to go:  Full-size pattern, basket of warp, basket of yellow, black, white weft, and basket of blue weft

14ClarissaFinishANBANSClarissa Rizal completes weaving the logos of Sealaska Corporation, Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood and prepares to weave the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s logo

14SHILogoBeginThe beginning of SHI’s logo (bottom center)…

15SHILogo1Of all the parts of the robe that I was not looking forward to was the weaving of the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s logo!  However, once I got it started, I had so much fun and i felt such an affection as if the “human body” was actually a real entity, a real person!  —  You are probably wondering why the figure is upside down…it’s because this logo is the actual “tail” of the shared body of the Eagle and Raven clan.  The tails of the main figure(s) is always drawn upside down.

20Almost5.21.14On May 5th, I had a bike accident causing big bruises everywhere, especially my hands.  And though my hands took a long time to heal and I was in pain, I had to get the robe done by June 11th because I SAID I WOULD and there was an institution that had commissioned this from me and by golly I was gonna “getterdun!”    So I swathed my hands several times daily with the famous healing skunk cabbage ointment “Skookum” made by Harlena Warford out of Hoonah, Alaska,…and I used the three fingers on each of my hands to get the job done come hell or high water!  (And because I know that I AM the “hell and high water” there was nothing of which to be afraid!!)

26RobeDancedClarissa Rizal completes and dances her robe on her 58th birthday, June 4, 2014…!

11DeanaWayneClarissaAt the Canoe Gathering in Juneau, Alaska during Sealaska Heritage Institute’s biennial “Celebration”, Carver Wayne Price is flanked by Portland Art Museum’s Curator of Native American Art, Deana Dartt-Newton and designer/weaver of the robe, Clarissa Rizal.  This is my third Chilkat robe Wayne Price has worn for me.

11WayneClarissa PAM now houses the robe in their permanent collection.  According to Deana, as long as she is the Curator of Native American art at P.A.M., this robe will always find its way into ceremonies and Celebrations.  Thank you, Deana!