“Resilience” Chilkat Robe Update: 5.9.11

Clarissa Rizal finishes weaving the ANB (Alaska Native Brotherhood) and ANS (Alaska Native Sisterhood) logos.

Weaving an average of 9 hours per day for the past 5 months, Clarissa must deliver this robe to Portland Art Museum staff members in Juneau during SHI’s biennial “Celebration”  this mid-June.

Clarissa begins weaving the (SHI) Sealaska Heritage Institute’s logo (bottom center)

Read about Clarissa’s design description of this robe is in a previous blog entry:  http://www.clarissarizal.com/blogblog/?p=2914

Clarissa’s progression of the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s logo in the “tail” of the overall design of the robe.

Tlingit Graduation Cap

Ursala;s Graduation cap

Our family has “style.”  We are very much into creating our own style of dress, decor, language, etc.  My parents were both very stylish and so are my kids.  So when Ursala said she wanted to paint her graduation cap to wear during the Ft. Lewis College ceremony, how could I be surprised?

Clarissa Rizal quickly sketches the design for her daughter’s graduation cap


“Resilience” Chilkat Robe Updated: 4.15.14

Clarissa Rizal and apprentice Teahonna James – April 15, 2014

It’s nerve-wracking to weave a Chilkat robe in a total of 5 months, absolutely nerve-wracking.  Though when I have a student who lives an hour from me who is willing to make the drive and sleep in my studio to learn how to weave, that is a real plus for me to make the deadline —  and of course, it’s a plus for her because she gets to learn how many tricks-of-the-trade and how to weave a robe!  So the trade is perfect for both of us!

Teahonna James has shown a great dedication to herself and I in learning how to weave Chilkat.  She is totally committed, has a sense of balance and organizational skills and is a talented “expert” in weaving….but I’m not going to tell her that so we can avoid getting big-headed about it!  %^}  I appreciate having the gift of apprentices who squeeze Chilkat weaving in between the lines!   Recent apprentices Crystal Rogers and Vanessa Morgan are two others who do this too.

There are several other apprentices too from the distant past who have become strong weavers and teachers in their own communities.  I know my mentor and teacher of Chilkat, Jennie Thlunaut would be proud of them too.  There is a sense of peace knowing that I fulfilled my promise to Jennie; there is a sense of pride with the students knowing they are a major part of that promise.

Thank you, Teahonna; I appreciate you making the time and effort to come over the past couple of weekends to assist me in gettingerdun!

“Resilience” Chilkat Robe Progress Update as of 3.14.14

A 1/4 slice of the “Resilience” Chilkat robe as of Friday, March 14, 2014 – woven by Clarissa Rizal

One of the most important challenges a Chilkat weaver encounters on a daily basis is creating the balancing act of the following:  taking care of other business (personal & business), making time with family, main relationship and friends, and making time for our health and well-being.  The past week has been challenging.  I just want to make sure I get the next section of weaving done (the Sealaska Corporation logo) by next weekend.  However, I’ve spent a day preparing for and partaking in a birthday for a grand-daughter, spent a day supporting a friend in a medical challenge, spent a day recouperating from both events, and spent another day dealing with the insurance/registration/wheels of a car, insurance/mortgage on the house, figuring out how to replace the washer machine when we don’t have the finances for another, attending a conference call and placing orders online for supplements.   That’s four days of no weaving; that is most frustrating when I am pressed with a deadline to complete this robe on time!

In the world of Chilkat weaving we just have to take a deep breath knowing fully well the robe will get done in time and say to ourselves:  C’est la vie!


Back to “Resilience” – The Chilkat Robe

Clarissa Rizal finishes weaving the left “ship” – Valentine’s Day 2014

After 6 weeks of illness, weaving while singing voice lessons is heavenly!  Golly, what a life!  It feels so good to get  back to “Resilience.”  I designed and am now weaving this Chilkat robe called “Resilience.”  You may see the full pattern with the design description by visiting the blog entry here.    And you may see previous photos of the process of weaving this robe up until today by clicking on these blog entries here.

I am 6 weeks behind schedule because of my long winter illness.  I am not even a third completed with this robe and it is due by June 15th – that’s only 3.5 months!  I wove the “Diving Whale Lovebirds” robe in 5 months; looks like I am on for another marathon!

“Resilience” Chilkat Robe – close up of the eyebrow, the beginning of the Raven’s head – designed and being woven by Clarissa Rizal

Ready to Begin Weaving Next Chilkat Robe

Left to Right:  bundle of Chilkat template transparency pattern sit atop 800 yards of Chilkat warp; the warp stick (to measure the warp lengths efficiently – fashioned after the late Chilkat weaver, Jennie Thlunaut’s stick); dyed yellow weft and black weft yarns accompanied by stack of baby socks (for keeping warp ends clean); deep turquoise blue weft yarns; backdrop is a partial view of the Chilkat robe pattern board

After 3 months of preparing my materials and pattern for my next Chilkat robe, I am about to begin warping the loom (aka “dressing” the loom),…maybe by tonight!  I am on schedule.  My goal was to begin weaving the robe on October 15th!  Today is the day!  And I celebrate here with you today with a photo of my materials!

This robe is commissioned by the Portland Art Museum; check out the complete image and story on this robe at this former blog entry.   And read Portland Art Museum’s Curator of Native American Art, Deana Dartt-Newton’s narrative of this robe.


My Working Body Creates Body of Work

Chilkat/Ravenstail headdress, double-sided Ravenstail vest, and Chilkat/Ravenstail handbag woven by Clarissa Rizal – 1989

My very first Chilkat piece was a small ghost face pouch woven in a week in 1983.  A lousy weaver, I dare say that when I threw the thing against the window it just about cracked it!  Nope I never show that one to nobody!  Other than the one side of a pair of leggings that I wove with Jennie during our apprenticeship, and the Chilkat woven flap to a leather backpack, the three pieces above and the wall pouch below are my very first weavings before I wove my first Chilkat robe (Sea Grizzly 1999) and my first Ravenstail robe (Copper Woman’s robe woven in 1994).

“Father Cyril Bulashevich & St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church” Chilkat wall pocket woven by Clarissa Rizal – 1990 – private collection, Denver, Colorado

Though I have woven several small pieces not pictured here (or anywhere else for that matter), and I am a multi-tasker who has created other major pieces of art in a variety of mediums, the photos in this blog are all of my major weavings.  This blog post is to honor my children and grand-children to whom I leave my legacy and especially today to my youngest child whose birthday is today; she is the one who created this website, who created and encouraged me to blog, and who still continues to be a level-headed side-kick.

“Sea Grizzly” Chilkat robe woven by Clarissa Rizal – 1999 – private collection, Vancouver, B.C.

“The Diamonds Robe” woven by Clarissa Rizal – 1997 – private collection, Juneau, Alaska

“Hauberg Raven” Chilkat robe woven by Clarissa Rizal – 2001 – private collection – Seattle, WA

“Copper Woman” 5-piece Ravenstail and Chilkat ensemble woven by Clarissa Rizal – 2001 – Collection of Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage, Alaska

“Copper Man” 6-piece Ravenstail and Chilkat ensemble woven by Clarissa Rizal – 2006 – private collection, Mercer Island, WA

“Copper Child” 4-piece Ravenstail ensemble woven by Lily Hope and Clarissa Rizal – 2009 – Collection of Sealaska Heritage Institute

“Jennie Weaves An Apprentice” Chilkat robe woven by Clarissa Rizal – 2011 – Private Collection, Los Angeles, CA

7-foot Ravenstail border for a button robe – 2013 – private collection, Vashon Island, WA

“Diving Whale Lovebirds” Chilkat robe woven by Clarissa Rizal – 2013 – private collection, New York, NY

Dancing of “Diving Whale Lovebirds” Chilkat robe by Clarissa Rizal – 2013

Pattern Board of “Resilience” Chilkat/Ravenstail robe designed by Clarissa Rizal – in the process of being woven; completion by June 2014 – commissioned by Portland Art Museum


Teachers Learning Ovoids & Artists Learning to Teach

R to L: Darlene See (Hoonah), Alison Bremner (Yakutat) and Joe James (Angoon) review classroom kits designed to teach K-5 students to recognize the interpretation of Tlingit designs

For a week August 5 through the 9th at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center (JACC), Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Jineit Academy, the Juneau School District and JACC sponsored 9 school teachers and 9 Tlingit artists from Southeast Alaska to collaborate with one another to design classroom kits for school teachers to use to teach Tlingit form line art in grades K-12 to be used throughout Southeast Alaska.  The intention of this week-long seminar is to educate and upgrade the standards of Tlingit form line art.

Artists and school teachers — L to R: Clarissa Rizal, Konrad Frank, Nicole Demmert, Pauline Johnson, Allie High, Arlene Wilson, Jay Watts, Glenda Lindley, Joe James, Darlene, See, Linda Churchill, Alison Bremner, Susan Nachtigal, Della Cheney, Justina Starzynski, Shgen George, Michelle Martin — James White is not pictured

School teachers received a crash course in learning how to draw Tlingit form line and the Native artists learned skills and strategies in teaching form line art in the schools.   Invited artists came from Angoon, Kake, Wrangell, Yakutat, Hoonah, Juneau and as far away as Seattle.  School teachers came from as far away as Anchorage.  This week-long, intense training course is one of the first of its kind.

One of several example kits (used in the Juneau Public Schools), reviews the learning the ovoid

During our introductions on the first day, we realized that none of us knew what we were getting into.  We were not clear of the intention of the course; we just filled out the one-page paperwork a month prior to the event questioning us if we had ever taught in the schools and where we learned our form line art, and figured okay, what the hey!    So it’s just like artists to fly on a wing and show up, not knowing what the heck we’re getting into — it’s another adventure!  And what an adventure this one was:  an experience of a lifetime.

Konrad James explains to the class the kit his group reviewed – Instructor Heather Ridgeway stands in the far right listening to our observations

Enthusiastic Heather Ridgeway formed us into groups of two or three to review classroom kits that have been used in the school system for several years.  These kits were examples that helped us learn how to design and implement our own kits that we would create to teach students form line art and refine their art each year so that by the time they reach high school, they are well-versed in thought and hand, how to create a successful Tlingit design.

Academy coordinators Shgen George and Shaadootlaa Hanlon provide guidelines on how the artists and the school teachers will begin to collaborate on the creation of new kits that will teach K-12 students the formline art of the Tlingit

There were so many things we artists learned during this week; and the great part about this seminar was that it was actually fun!  We had so much fun thinking, thinking, thinking for 8 hours, that by the end of each day at 5pm we were exhausted.  I, personally, can CREATE for 8 hours no problem, but to THINK for 8 hours non-stop, holy, that’s a lot of WORK! — no wonder why teachers cannot do anything else in their 9 months of work other than teach; their creative work is in teaching others how to learn!  By the end of this seminar, my appreciation level for teachers in the schools sky-rocketed.

Former-school-teacher-now-Teacher-Trainer Lynn Williams explains one of the strategies used to keep children’s attention and to complete their projects

Teacher Coach, Lynn Mitchell reviews each artist group who begin creation of a new kit

Pauline Johnson (artist) and Glenda Lindley (teacher) collaborate on kit designed to teach a Kindergartener how to identify ovoids in form line art

Juneau school teacher and artist, Shgen George teaches the school teachers a step-by-step process of the basic fundamentals of Tlingit form line art – several of us artists wanted to sit in on the class!

James White (teacher), Nicole Demmert (artist), and Jay Watts (teacher) hash out the details of how the kit instructions will be explained to the school teacher who will use this kit to teach her students form line art – while James does a test piece on his proposed kit using clay

Ask Della Cheney what she thought of the whole concept of Tlingit artists and public school teachers coming together to assist one another in teaching Tlingit form line art to K-12 students:   De-light-ful!

Click here to read the Juneau Empire article.  Thank you for your interest.

And thank you to Shgen George, Shaadootlaa Hanlon, Davina Cole, and Annie Calkins who helped organize this event.

Thank you to our teaching instructors:  Heather Ridgeway, Lynn Mitchell and Roblin Gray




Spreading the Ashes of Anna Beaver

Anna Beaver’s ashes in a box covered by a cloth embellished with a small beaded “T’naa” by Anna when she was a child

The first time I met Anna Beaver was during a portrait documentary project that her daughter Donna Beaver Pizzarelli and I were photographing during Celebration 2004 in Juneau.  A gracious, generous, thoughtful woman who not only brought us food during our crazy three days of photographing dancers in their regalia all the while we forgetting to eat, but also she beadworked name tags for the four of us who were collaborating together on this project:  Liana Wallace Young, Rhonda Mann, Donna and myself.  Since then, I hadn’t seen her much except now and then when we would run into one another at an art fair selling our wares.

Beadwork and doll-maker, Anna Beaver – photo by Donna Beaver Pizzarelli

Hand-made dolls by Anna Beaver – photo by Donna Beaver Pizzarelli

Clarissa, Anna Beaver and Rhonda – Auke Bay 2005 – photo by Donna Beaver Pizzarelli

We took a small catamaran to the back side of Douglas Island, a place called “Hilda Creek” where Anna and her family would harvest foods from the land and sea

The last time I saw Anna Beaver was just three weeks before she passed away on Sunday, July 14th.   Rhonda and I had heard she was not doing well and I was scheduled to jump a ferry to Skagway to head up to Whitehorse the next day so we thought we better get a visit in.  Rhonda, Donna and Donna’s sister, Delores Weathers and I sat around for at least two hours at Anna’s bedside telling young women dumb stories gossiping about ourselves…we shared, teased and we laughed until we cried.  Anna could hardly get a word in edgewise, though she was very happy.

family members and relatives gathered inside

Anna seemed like she could go either way; she could get better or she could be “letting go.”  This time she “let go.”  Upon hearing her passing, I was in my room in Whitehorse preparing to teach a few more tricks-of-the-trade to my students; I had to sit still and gaze out the window.  In one day two of my friends’ mothers passed away this same day just within four hours of one another.   All time stood still for those moments as I remembered too my own mother, Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe.  Our mothers are special people. We miss our mothers.  Till the day we pass, not a day goes by without thinking of them and every now and then we can “feel” their presence.  It’s a fine day.

Anna Beaver’s children L to R: Delores, Debbie, Darlene, Donna and Darren

Click here to read Anna Beaver’s obituary in the Juneau Empire .  Anna was the daughter of Amos Wallace, T’akDeinTaan Clan originally from Hoonah, Alaska who was a famous totem pole carver and silversmith (amongst many other talents).  Click here to read Amos’ obituary in the Juneau Empire

Rhonda, Clarissa and Donna

Tom Jimmie, Jr. sang a Kaagwaantaan song

Anna’s sister holds a bouquet of a dozen white roses

A plate of some of Anna’s favorite foods were “sent” with her ashes – this is a tradition of many tribes throughout Southeast Alaska – we believe we keep alive the spirit of the departed one by “feeding” them.  We want to let them know we will remember them.  They “assist” us from their place as we acknowledge and continue to appreciate  them from here.

Hilda Creek in the background, Anna’s ashes, bouquets, food and lost of love were spread into the ocean

White roses accompany the ashes of Anna Beaver – photo by Donna Beaver Pizzarelli

Appropriately, the opposite clan the T’akDeinTaan, Anna’s father’s clan song was sung by Irene Jean Lampe accompanied by Tom Jimmie (T.J.), Jr.

Donna Beaver Pizzarelli’s (yellow pants) and friends, Rhonda Mann (blue pants) and Clarissa Rizal (red jacket)

Donna and her husband, Al Pizzarelli