“Eagle Raven” Button Robe

“Eagle Raven Lovebirds” button blanket robe – collaboration of form line design by Preston Singletary and Clarissa Rizal seamstress (and she chose the fabrics and buttons) – Photograph by Ruth Borgfjord

Crystal Rogers from Juneau, Alaska modeled this button blanket at the DaZeTs’an Fashion Show Wednesday night, June 26th at the Adaka Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

The robe is made of two types of woven cotton “tapestry-like” upholstery fabric, hand-appliqued with antique mother-of-pearl and abalone buttons.

Crystal Rogers does a slight dance during the fashion show just before she exit the stage – she was one of the best models because of her demure and mysterious “air” about her as she kept her chin down hiding her face from the bright stage lights – our grandparents would have been proud of her!

“Diving Whale Lovebirds” Chilkat Robe

Clarissa’s latest Chilkat robe “Diving Whale Lovebirds” danced by Wayne Price during the “Weavers’ Dance” at the Adaka Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – photograph by Ken Kaushansky

Well…I finished this robe on Summer Solstice 2013 in Whitehorse, Yukon just before it was hung as part of the Northwest Coast art exhibit at the Kwaanlin Dun Cultural Center.   The owners of the robe rendevous-ed with me at the Festival to attend the ceremony, meet carver Wayne Price and have the robe placed in their arms.  Again, it was not easy parting from another “child.”

The following photographs show the weaving progression from end to start – yes, sounds backwards don’t it, but just wanted to give you an artistic experience of “thinking backwards!”

In the professional photographer’s studio! (and no I’m not THAT big; the shirt is just big on me…hello!

According to my weaving teacher, the late Jennie Thlunaut, who passed at the age of 96 in 1986, she said that I must NEVER show my weaving-in-progress to the owners if the robe is commissioned.  They are not to see the robe until it is completed.  I never asked “why” because it was futile, I’d be wasting my words.  To the best of my abilities, I did not, and have not, shown the progression of my robes as I have honored Jennie’s request.

Completed weaving the robe June 15th – then there were the side braids to be done – yum, yum, the side braids are the best part of weaving a Chilkat robe!

So now that I have completed the robe, and have delivered it to the rightful owners, I can show you the progression of the robe…

On the Alaska ferry from Juneau to Skagway…

Ursala weaves the side braids; Amelie “helps” too!

Close-up of how I finished the bottom yellow border

Whooooheee – finished the design field of the robe, just need to weave the borders, weave the side braids, weave the signature tie-offs, block the weaving, etc. – (a foreign language?)

One last portion to complete!

Started the form line of the last pair of eyes to weave

Close-up of weaving the borders down to match the left corner of the design field

Three-quarters complete!

A vivacious Chilkat face!

Beginning to weave the bottom of the top and bottom of the beaks – the left one is Eagle and the right one is Raven…of course!

The robe is a bit more than half-way woven….

A few weaving details….now, I have never considered myself a very good weaver, although there are many who say otherwise. In so doing and being, I can say that I am progressing at it…every time I weave I get slightly better…in ways, i get better, my dear,…in ways!

yep, the colors of this robe are brilliant…(unlike the weaver who has lost her brilliancy as she has aged…)

more details…the circles are pretty good…not too bad….not too bad!  Always pay attention to the braids…the braids are what shape the shapes…!

I can say that this Chilkat robe is one-third complete!

No we do not weave straight across; this photo just makes it LOOK like we weave straight across…!

It is still winter time…had to wear my fleece topped by my Japanese quilted jacket with my hand-sewn Ainu headband…weaving, weaving, weaving…

The loom is in the guest room where I am borrowing the space cuz my studio is way too cold to work – it’s gotten down to zero degrees out there! — The plastic transparency “templates” are clipped to the warp…

Well, if you aren’t a friend of mine on Facebook, then you haven’t seen this photo take by my son, the film-maker…

Not a good idea to weave day and night like I can.  Else you get to be a boring person; like I can be.  And then you just want to stare at everything else except the weaving…and the grand-children!  I don’t mind staring at the grandchildren!  heeeheee!

…come to think of it, my eyes rest easy and well on my grandchildren!…so nice to have this one around while weaving…a real treat!

The ravenstail border is completed – yeah!

Bright and white day today…that’s because the spirits know there’s a new robe, a new “skin” that has been “born” most recently. good medicine.

Here’s a sketch of the proposed robe. It’s a ‘Diving Whale Lovebirds”

The preliminary sketch of the Chilkat robe I’m about to start some day soon – I drafted this design just three weeks before my mother passed away…June 2011 – it took me two years to complete this weaving; of course, though I was doing all kinds of other major things as well in that time period (i.e. burying my mother, moving to Santa Fe to attend IAIA for BFA degree, commuting to Colorado to spend time with my daughter and family, an exhibit, taught a couple of classes and three different apprenticeships, not to mention travel, etc. etc. You know, it’s called an “artist’s life.” I would not recommend this lifestyle for the weak of heart…!

Collaboration With Preston Singletary

Pinning the border of the button robe – the design in the background is waiting to be cut out

Couple of years ago I asked my friend Preston Singletary if he had some images suitable for making button robes; I didn’t feel like designing any robes, I just felt like getting down to the nitty gritty and get going on sewing ’em!

Preston’s design of this robe is based on our legend “Raven Steals the Sun”, bringing light to the world.

with a wet cloth placed over the cut-out applique, the heat from the iron fuses the image to the robe body

Lily Hope helps her daughter Bette (SikiKwaan) Hope take out the basting threads

With the help of Lily and Bette in April, and later with my friend Lis Saya who helped lay out the buttons and sew them down, I finally finished this robe to this point by mid-June  (though it still needs the circle of buttons about the body).

“Raven and the Sun” is a collaboration between designer by Preston Singletary and seamstress Clarissa Rizal — the robe is not quite finished; it still needs the circle of buttons that goes around the entire body of the Raven

The robe worn by a dancer

Huna Totem 40th Anniversary Button Robe

Clarissa finalizes her button blanket design for the Huna Totem’s celebration of their 40th anniversary

Back in February, I was given a week deadline in a competition to draft up a design that reflected one of Southeast Alaska’s Native Corporation’s 40th anniversary vision statement:  “…sailing the canoe of our ancestor’s into the future…”  I don’t know if I have ever been successful at drafting up a winning design in that short amount of time, but somehow the image came very easily to me and within a day I had the proposal and design done – that’s unheard of in my experiences.

“Stitch witchery” iron-on interfacing assists in applying the cut applique to the robe body – however, this stitch witchery must have been old because the fusion to the wool fabric did not work – alas, I had to hand-baste the design down before sewing it.

The robe was presented during the Huna 40th celebration at the Cannery Point in Hoonah, Alaska on Saturday, July 27th.  Click here for the blog entry.

The unfinished robe; still needs the face in the Copper T’naa, the teeth on the shark and the “mountains”

The name of this robe is based on Huna Totem’s request:  “…sailing the canoe of our Grandfathers into the future…”  The Design explanation is as follows:

…there are four clans in Hoonah whose crests are depicted on the canoe L to R:   The Chookaneidi clan’s octopus crest, the WooshkeeTaan clan’s Shark crest, the Kaagwaantaan clan’s wolf crest and the T’akDeinTaan clan’s black-legged kitty-wake crest.  In the canoe are the Raven and the Eagle moieties each holding the Copper T’naa which represents the history, culture, wealth and arts.  The Eagle and Raven moeities each share in the responsibility of carrying our culture in the canoe of our Grandfathers’ into the future…”

What the robe looks like when it is on a body! – by the way, my  model’s name is Dan Shanks

The cool thing about this commemorative 40th-year robe is that it can be worn in ceremony by any one from the four main clans from Hoonah, AND it can be hung on the corporate walls of Huna Totem…I really like the idea of its versatility.

After laying out the buttons under my direction, Lis begins to glue down the “Mt. Fairweather range”… which completes the robe

I never got a professional shot of the completed robe, not even a snap shot of the robe – so I cannot show you the entire robe until somebody sends me a photograph!  Quick! – If you happened to be at the 40th anniversary celebration event in Hoonah and you have got a photograph of me doing the presentation, go for it and email me an image – and of course, I may want to use it in this blog entry and of course, I will give you photo credit!  Thank you!

Clarissa’s Year for Chilkat Weaving

Clarissa Rizal weaving a “Diving Whale Lovebirds” Chilkat robe – May 2013

One morning in early January, I woke up thinking about all the Chilkat weavings I started a year or two (or even three(?) ago:  the Chilkat robe for a couple from Seattle, the leggings for my friend Preston, a handbag for Cherri, the doll started with my daughter Lily, etc.   Incomplete projects tend to nag; they drag down energy . No one likes a nag; and I surely don’t like to be dragged down.  I was once a nag, but learned it didn’t do any good.  Yet did any of these Chilkat weavings learn not to nag to their maker?  No, because it’s not the weavings that are nagging; it’s that other part of me that’s nagging – so really I hadn’t ever given up the art of nagging – what a revelation!  So, that early morning in January, I said to myself:  “…this is my year for Chilkat weaving.  I’m going to complete all that I started…and then some…”  And I am doing so.  I’m quitting the nag business!

Vote Chilkat Robe “Resilience” at Portland Art Museum

The proposed “Resilience” Chilkat robe design by Clarissa Rizal

I would like your support on a project that is happening this week until the April 12th Art Event at the Portland Art Museum in Portland.  This year, out of 7 art works, PAM will be purchasing only 2 of the new art works for their permanent collection.  There are 7 curators who have chosen 7 different artists.   Each of PAM’s seven curators have selected a work of art that they hope will find a place in the Museum—whether an ancient work of Chinese art or the latest from a contemporary artist.

There is only one choice for a new Native American art work to be placed in the museum; the Chilkat robe is IT! — Remember, there will be only 2 artworks out of 7 that will be chosen for PAM’s permanent collection

My proposed Chilkat robe called “Reslience” is up for vote;  as of today, the Chilkat robe is placed 4th in the running.  That’s not quite good enough; I’ve got to be at least 2nd in the running – here’s your chance to play a role in influencing the Museum’s permanent collection AND here’s your chance to vote for a Chilkat robe to be added to their Native American art collection AND here’s your chance to help me support myself with this Chilkat robe commission for this next year!

Go to the Portland Art Museum’s website at the address below and click on:
7 Curators, 7 Choices <https://www.portlandartmuseum.org/curatorchoices>

Scroll down to the image of the Chilkat  and click on “more” – you may view the video and/or read the description by Deana, the Curator of Native American art.  Scroll down and click on the “vote” button – this will automatically place your vote for the Chilkat robe!

I truly appreciate your time and support in placing a new Chilkat robe in the Portland Art Museum!

Remember, you must vote asap by April 10th(?) – time is of the essence.

Gunalcheesh!  (Tlingit for “thank you”)

“Raven Brings Daylight” Chilkat T-Shirt

“Raven Brings Daylight to the World” or sometimes called “Raven Steals the Sun” or sometimes referred to “Raven Breaks Daylight”  or “Raven Brings Box of Daylight” – Design by Clarissa Rizal – 1991

I found this t-shirt amongst my T-shirt collection (that I never wear) – I haven’t seen this for years!  I think I wore it once maybe when first printed.  I might have to do another rendition to make it more “weave-able or at least print another edition! – The image is as it says, a Raven holding the sun in its claws and beak…

Chilkat Weaving Laws of Old (or in modern terms, “Taboos”)

Close up of “Jennie Weaves An Apprentice” Chilkat robe by Clarissa Rizal completed 2011 – It is part of a series of Chilkat robe designs by Clarissa featuring a Chilkat robe within a Chilkat robe – the green and blue is to delineate between apprentice and teacher, the past and present, the present and future, Raven and Eagle clans

Jennie Thlunaut taught me several Chilkat “laws” or guidelines for weavers and weavings.  This day in age we would call them “taboos” since most of us modern folk do not (or will not) honor the laws of old – most modern folk think that following the “old ways of thinking and doing” no longer applies to us today.  Some of us folks say that they want to follow the ways of our people, yet when it comes right down to applying those old teachings, or when it comes to honoring the elders and their guidelines, we choose to ignore.

Chilkat weaving has a strong spirit.  Jennie tried hard to explain these things to me.  I was young then.  I am young still, however, in my experiences as an active weaver, I have come to know many things of the unseen, and I see why the Chilkat laws of weaving apply today even as they did 100 years ago…the ways of the physical reality may change, the ways in how we live may change, yet the ways of spirit do not.  I have experienced that when you apply these teachings, any or all, no matter what goes on in your life, positive and negative, there resides a strong, steady “rudder” serving as a guide of the straight and narrow path – and you will recognize all the good things that have been placed in your path – kind of like a path of righteousness.

In the next blog entries towards the end of March into April, I will list some of the Chilkat weaving laws, for both the weaving and the weavers.  You as a weaver, can decide for yourself which laws may apply to you.

Thank you for staying tuned.

“Resilience” Chilkat Robe May Have a Home

Assistants to the curators at the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon hang “Resilience” to be photographed for P.A.M.’s website.  The painting on canvas is the “pattern board” for a Chilkat robe Clarissa is proposing to weave this year.  There’s the possibility the Portland Art Museum may commission this robe. (Photo by Kate Damon, P.A.M.)

Design Narrative by Deana Dartt-Newton, PhD, curator at the Portland Art Museum:

“The Chilkat Robe, an enduring symbol of Northwest Coast Native cultures, has remained an icon of Native American art through time. Today, fine examples of Chilkat robes can be seen right here at the Portland Art Museum.

Chilkat robes, a complex form of tapestry twining, are the best-known textiles of the Northwest Coast.  Emblems of nobility, they are prized for crest significance, fine workmanship and spirituality.  The labor-intensive process  to create a robe includes spinning wool and cedar bark warp, dyeing weft, then weaving the blanket.  The abstract designs of crest animals on Chilkat blankets fill the entire design space.

In the Resilience design, Tlingit weaver Clarissa Rizal, student of Master Weaver Jennie Thlunaut of Klukwan, will illustrate in a commissioned traditional Chilkat, a narrative about colonial impacts on Northwest Coast Native cultures.

Within the central design field, Eagle and Raven symbols dominate, as they continue to form the foundation of culture – the clan system.  Rizal expresses adaptations for cultural integration and survival by incorporating logos of the Native corporations and organizations “giving flight” to Native rights and sovereignty. The right and left panels contain symbols of Western influences integrated into lives of Native people including  museums, institutions, and mining represented by the pair of hands holding the gold pan.

A powerful bridge between the traditional and the modern, the Resilience robe will set the stage for an exhibition in 2017 highlighting continuities and change among the art forms of the Northwest Coast. The picture of balance and symmetry, the Resilience Chilkat is modern expression woven in traditional form and represents the powerful bridge we need to bring our historic collection of Northwest Coast Art into the 21st century.”

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


Drafting Chilkat Robe Patterns

After drafting the pattern in pencil, then I outline with a black Sharpie marker

Have you noticed that even though I may be weaving on a Chilkat robe for a year or two, I do not ever show the process of me weaving on this blog until AFTER the robe is completed?  The reason is because I was taught by my teacher Jennie Thlunaut that whenever Chilkat weavers are weaving a robe (as opposed to an apron, headdress, leggings, etc.), that we are not to publicly show the robe to the person(s) who has commissioned the robe.  Another Tlingit taboo?  I don’t know.  While I was weaving with Jennie, I gave up asking her the question “Why” every time she told me certain Chilkat “guidelines.”  I remembered that the elderly folk of that time period and before did not explain the “why” of things – you just did what you were told, and that was that.

Using the Sharpie marker, I fill in the form line. I used elements from a couple of robes. This is a Diving Whale with an Eagle in the right side of the body and a Raven in the left side. – The far right design elements are called the “filler.”

I apologize that I cannot show you the process of weaving this robe.  My goal is to finish by May 1st this year; then I will post a sequence of photographs.