Chilkat Prayer

Using small, self-igniting charcoal burns the natural resins

Small, self-igniting charcoal burns the natural resins on a ceramic plate upon an abalone shell — Bentwood boxes were a gift from Sister Dee

My weaving teacher and mentor, the late Jennie Thlunaut recommended that Chilkat weavers pray every morning before they go to their loom.  She said real prayer is always about “giving thanks for what we got.”  She said give thanks for everything you have in your life, and the gift that was given to you, you were chosen to receive this gift…”(she was referring to the art of Chilkat weaving).  I still listen to her words. Every day before I weave, I always say the Lord’s Prayer.  (It doesn’t matter what belief you have, as long as you give thanks, you invoke the spirit of goodness to be with you and those around you.)  In the past few years I developed a method in which I can focus on giving thanks, a ritual that I learned from growing up in the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church.

Almost every day since my mother’s passing on July 4, 2011, I have burned Russian Orthodox Church resins as part of my morning ritual before I begin my work.  And while I walk about my studio home with the incense burning with the gentle fanning by an Eagle feather, I say the Lord’s Prayer with the addition of my own words of gratitude.  The calmness and peace I feel when I complete this ritual invokes a blessing to begin my day.

The then priest of the St. Nicholas Church in Juneau presided over my mother’s memorial service.  It was one of the last services he had conducted before he relocated to Denver, Colorado.  (He gifted me several bags of incense that I recently used up.)  He was the last priest of the church.  If I am not mistaken, the church is no longer used for services, though I believe the church is open during tourist season.  The church was built in 1895 at the request of the Tlingit people living in Juneau.  Our mother was one of the last active members of the church until her passing.

My favorite incense to burn is the Russian Amber and the Russian Rose, along with other local resins, the dried sap collected from the Pinon tree of the Southwest and the Spruce resin of Southeast Alaska.


William and Irene Lampe model the Eagle and Raven robes by Clarissa Rizal, now displayed in the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) Hall in Juneau, Alaska – Christmas 1988

Today would have been the 60th wedding anniversary of my parents; I salute them with a prayer of gratitude…



Antique Chilkat Robes in Santa Fe

Chilkat Robes

Lily Hope with her youngest daughter, Ella at the show opening of Chilkat Robes featured at the Antique Native American Art Show at the El Museo de Santa Fe in the Railyard District – August 17, 2015

Two months ago, when my daughter Lily called me and asked if I wanted “Chilkat Child” to be featured in a Chilkat exhibit featuring antique robes in Santa Fe directly before the Santa Fe Indian Market, at first I thought it impossible to get together an exhibit in that short amount of time, yet I jumped in anyway, because I’ve learned that in an artist’s life, anything can happen!


“Diving Whale” Chilkat robe – I understand the whales depicted in this manner are the humpback whales as opposed to the killerwhales of Southeast Alaska

According to John Morris and Kim Martindale, the producers/directors of this annual exhibit of Antique Native American Art Show and Sale, all proceeds from the sales in this specific exhibit of Chilkat robes are donated to the New Mexico PBS station in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The Chilkat exhibit was a special feature during the Antique Native American Art Show held at the El Museo de Santa Fe in the Railyard District.


Clarissa’s interpretation of this robe: the unusual black background lends itself to show the diving “White Raven” amongst the floating entities

16 Chilkat and 2 Ravenstail weavings were exhibited in this show, 4 of which were contemporary pieces created in the past 10 years including:  1 Ravenstail robe woven by Delores Churchill, 1 Chilkat tunic and 1 Chilkat/Ravenstail robe by Cheryl Samuel, 1 child-size Ravenstail ensemble by Lily Hope, and 1 child-size Chilkat ensemble by myself.  The other 13 were antique Chilkat robes from private collections; most of them in great condition.


As opposed to all the other antique Chilkat robes in this exhibit which were collected in the 1800’s, these two Chilkat robes were collected in the early 1900’s

“So many “relatives” in one room…!”  That’s the way we Northwest Coast Native peoples feel when we see all these elders!  I could have demonstrated the weaving of Chilkat on my loom smack dab in the middle, but I didn’t!  How would I be able to stand the energies!?  How would I be able to respond to all the visitors in a normal, coherent manner?  I would be “drunk” with ecstacy being in their presence!–so it was best we demonstrated off to the side of the exhibit!


Lily and Ella Hope stand with Lily’s Ravenstail/button robe ensemble “Little Watchman”

A couple of months ago, our Alaskan Lt. Governor Byron Mallott asked me who my weaving mentors were.  I had never been asked that question before; and I was doubly surprised by the fact that I don’t have any (living) mentors anyway!  There is no one older than our generation that knows how to weave!  Like we are it!  HOWEVER, I have first-hand experience in the power of spiritual transference of knowledge “through the veils” of time and space.  My mentor and teacher is still Jennie Thlunaut even though she passed in 1986.  So when I speak of the presence of our “elders” in these robes, I speak not only of the weaver who wove the robe, but all those whose DNA have become a part of the robe because they wore the robe!

Chilkat Robe

Clarissa has seen at least two other renditions of this robe; this one being in the best condition than the others

Based on suggestions, there is a proposal underway to bring this collection (all or part or additional) to a few museums across the continent.  Some have suggested New York and Los Angelos; I of course suggested that the robes “go home” for a little while and be shown in Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Washington and Juneau, Alaska.  Who else but our own people would appreciate being amongst “relatives” not seen for awhile OR have not ever met in person!?


Canadian Chilkat and Ravenstail Weaver, Cheryl Samuel’s latest Chilkat robe (left) and Chilkat tunic (right) – Bill Holm wears the Chilkat tunic in the small photograph between these two weavings

I am working with a coordinator to see if these robes will indeed go on tour; if so, I will keep everyone posted through this blog, through my email contacts and through my Facebook page.  In the meantime, please do stay tuned!


Clarissa demonstrates Chilkat weaving opening night of the Chilkat Weaving Exhibit featured at the Antique Native American Art Show & Sale


Lily Hope and mother Clarissa Rizal demonstrate weaving at the Chilkat Weaving Exhibit

Chilkat Robes

Weavers Cheryl Samuel and Clarissa Rizal discuss a passionate subject: keeping our health as we get older!

Chilkat Robe

Close-up of “White Raven” amongst the floating entities


Clarissa Rizal’s demonstration space with Chilkat robe, drum and elk-hide chair


Lily Hope’s “Little Watchman” and Clarissa’s “Chilkat Child” 5-piece woven ensemble had the honor of standing amongst 18 antique Chilkat robe “relatives”


Kim Martindale and John Morris were the Curators of the “Chilkat Blankets – Artistic Masterpieces” exhibit during


Watching Over Me: A Carving by the late Amos Wallace

A sculpture of a human wearing a Chilkat robe and cedar bark neckring by Tlingit carver Amos Wallace 1964

A sculpture of a human wearing a Chilkat robe and cedar bark neckring by the late Tlingit carver Amos Wallace in 1964

While talking with the owner of the Haa Shagoon Gallery in downtown Juneau, in the middle of the conversation I suddenly turned around.  I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for; just pure instinct led my eyes to this sculpture that totally caught my fancy.  Why?  I’m not sure, but as soon as I saw this figure I felt so compelled that it had to go home with a local, not a tourist, that I immediately called Amos’ grand-daughter and my friend, Donna Beaver Pizzarelli.  With no answer and worried that a tourist would buy the sculpture, I snatched up this 8″ tall mold of a carving by Amos Wallace made in 1964 and I have it placed in a prestigious location:  next to my weaving loom.  This figure watches over me as I work.  It’s great to have the company!

This small sculpture is a cast made of a plaster-like compound that gives it the appearance of wood or a stone called argillite.  Manufactured by a company called Griffin’s Alaska based in Edmonds, Washington State between the years of 1964-67, they had a complete line of bowls and totems which are frequently mistaken for stone.  Even the weight of this little guy feels like stone.

Amos Wallace was one of less than a handful of local Tlingit carvers here in Juneau, Alaska in the 1940’s until a few years before his passing in 2004.  I grew up in the Russian Orthodox Church where he and his wife, Dorothy Wallace sang in the choir.  It wasn’t until recently I discovered from his son Brian that Amos was of the Raven Moiety, T’akdeintaan Clan of Hoonah, which is also my clan!  A gentle, soft-spoken man, his name was Jeet Yaaw Dustaa.   Born in 1920, his older brother  Lincoln Wallace, was also a carver.

Read the Juneau Empire article about Sealaska Heritage Institute receiving a collection of Amos’ drawings for their archives donated by Amos’ son, Brian Wallace at: 

Hoonah, Alaska Vietnam Vets Documentary


Samantha Farinella prepares to address the first Juneau audience to her documentary at the Old Town Nicolodean Theatre

“Hunting in Wartime” was shown at the Gold Town Nickelodean Theatre in Juneau last weekend.  The documentary profiles the extraordinary stories of Tlingit Vietnam War veterans from Hoonah, Alaska. The film traces the tension of the soldiers’ tremendous pride in service, the racism that affects their livelihoods, and the challenges they faced (and continue to face) in the military and back at home.

Hoonah, Alaska is where my mother grew up; it is the home of our clan the Black-legged Kittywake “T’akDeinTaan Clan.

My brother, the late Robert “Bunny” Lampe served during the Vietnam era though he was stationed in Germany and did not go to the front lines as our cousins in this film.  The men in this film are all guys Bunny grew up with since his teenage years.  I remember Bunny saying that when these men returned from Vietnam they were not the same; in fact they seemed “scary.”   Though I did not know this men, I recognize every one of them by either their names or their faces.

The film was very moving from start to finish.

Movie Trailer:


When we came out of the theatre, the second showing was already sold out


Dorothy Grant Girls

L to R:  Vicki Soboleff, Catrina Mitchell, Nancy Barnes (Jr.), and Clarissa Rizal sport Dorothy Grant's beautiful designer clothing

L to R: Dorothy Grant, Vicki Soboleff, Catrina Mitchell, Nancy Barnes (Jr.), and Clarissa Rizal sport Dorothy Grant’s beautiful designer clothing

During the final hour of the Sealaska Corporation’s annual meeting, my friend Rhonda Mann and I took a jaunt over to Dorothy Grant’s booth of her designer clothing.  Of course we went wild over the blues!  And it turns out that after a half hour of having a ball, all of us danced away with a Dorothy Grant!

For those of you who want to know about our top Northwest Coast Native designer of 35 years, check out her website at:

2nd Year at Adaka’s Fashion Show

Clarissa Rizal models her 7-piece dance ensemble created by 4 generations of women in her family

Clarissa Rizal models her 7-piece dance ensemble created by 4 generations of women in her family:  Clarissa’s Grandmother Mary Sarabia made the tunic for great uncle Leonard Davis, button robe designed by Clarissa and beaded by mother Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe, button work by daughter Lily Hope. (Photo by Minnie Clark)

This evening, the Adaka Festival sponsored the 2nd biennial Da Ze Tsan Fashion Show featuring traditional and contemporary designs from First Nations designers and artists, including a special sealskin collection from Nunavut, performances by Andrameda Hunter, Nyla Carpentier, and special guests.  I was asked to be one of the special guests to show the following ensembles:


Mariella Wentzell models Clarissa Rizal’s latest 5-piece Chilkat woven ensemble “Chilkat Child” which includes the headdress, robe, apron and leggings (photo by Minnie Clark, Yukon News)

At $20/ticket (Elders and youth $10/ticket), I was totally surprised to hear that the tickets were sold out the first day of Adaka a week ago, and the standing room audience proved it so! — Fabulous traditional and contemporary works walked this runway.  I did not include any photos here for several reasons:  I was back stage during the event so I did not take any photos.  These photos of my ensembles  were borrowed from Minnie Clark, Photographer. And if you want to see photographs of the rest of the fashion show, then be-friend Minnie Clark on Facebook.

Megan Jensen

Megan Jensen models Clarissa Rizal’s three-piece leather ensemble made for her mother Irene Lampe by beadworker Kate Boyan in 1981 — Clarissa inherited the ensemble with her mother’s passing in 2011 (Photo by Minnie Clark)


Wayne Price models the “Egyptian Thunderbird” button blanket robe designed and sewn by Clarissa Rizal – though you cannot see the design in this photo image, you can check out the robe at the Haa Shagoon Gallery in downtown Juneau, or you may see it during one of the Native American art markets in Santa Fe, New Mexico (August), the Lawrence, Kansas (September) or Tulsa, Oklahoma (October), or Los Angeles (November – check out my “Calendar” website page for details (Photo by Minnie Clark)


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

Lifelong Sewing Basket

My 50-year-old antique sewing basket was given to me for my 9th birthday from my Mother, Irene Lampe

My 50-year-old antique sewing basket was given to me for my 9th birthday from my Mother, Irene Lampe

This little sewing basket has sentimental value to my life as a designer and maker of button robes, a costume designer for theatre and a seamstress who sewed all my own clothing for myself, family and friends for many years,… and now my grandchildren.

Today is our mother’s birthday.  She would have been 90 years old.  I don’t know if she remembers giving me this gift for my 9th birthday and I have used this little treasure box for 50 years and will most likely continue to do so until my own passing.  I don’t know if she ever saw this basket at my sewing table; though, for some reason it would be nice for her to know that I have used this little treasure box and have never replaced it with anything else.

Back in March I was online searching for small sewing baskets for each of my oldest grand-daughters and to my delight, I came across some of these baskets for sale — though none of them had the plastic tray!  If any of my readers happen to come across these baskets (that include the plastic tray), I would appreciate it if you would please contact me!

Thank you Mom, for your thoughtfulness.  I have always appreciated your support.

Alaskan Authors Whale-Watching Cruise


100 audience members on board the Allen Marine whale watching tour included 15 Alaskan authors and 3 illustrators, of which Clarissa was one…

I was born nearly 60 years ago in Juneau and it’s only recently twice in less than two weeks I have been invited on a whale-watching cruise; both trips were something new to me since 1) we weren’t fishing? 2) we didn’t have a port destination, and 3) it didn’t cost me a penny.  And both trips were during the stretch of amazingly fine weather we had the entire month of May so it made whale watching all the more enjoyable!


Leaving the Auke Bay boat harbor on a fine early evening: 6pm. — The Mendenhall Glacier is at the base of the snowcapped mountains…

Every year in conjunction with Allen Marine, Hearthside Books hosts their “Alaskan Authors Whale Watching” tour/sail open to the public.  $59/person you receive all the appetizers you can eat and a chance to hang out with friends you hadn’t seen in awhile.


Lots of appetizers including salmon spread on croissants, fresh fruits and veggies, chocolate eclairs, etc.

Even though Nobu Koch and I are not authors, we were invited guests because we are the co-illustrator’s of Hannah Lindoff’s children’s book “Mary’s Wild Winter Feast” recently published in the Fall 2014.  To order a copy of the book, and check out other blog posts about this book:  Click here to read about “Mary’s Wild Winter Feast.”


Hannah Lindoff, author of children’s book “Mary’s Wild Winter Feast” introduces her illustrators, Clarissa Rizal (left) and Nobu Koch


Alaskan author Heather Lende, introduces her latest book “Find the Good”


Humpback whale


Ishmael Hope reads a requested poem from his book of poetry called “The Courtesans of Flounder Hill”


Chief Editor Jeff Brown introduces his latest edition of “Real Alaskan Magazine” which he publishes annually on April 1st.


Kim Heacox introduces his latest book “Rhythm of the Wild”

Alaskan Whale Watching Cruise - fluke

Alaskan Whale Watching Cruise – fluke


Writer Hannah Lindoff, Illustrator Nobu Koch, writer/poet Ishmael Hope


Hannah Lindoff, Nobu Koch, Clarissa Rizal


Author Mary Lou King introduces her latest “90+ Short Walks Around Juneau”


Authors Peter Metcalfe and Kathy Ruddy introduce “A Dangerous Idea”


Children’s book author Sarah Asper-Smith and her husband, illustrator Mitchell Watley introduce their book “I Would Tuck You In”


Sea lions cluster along a rock slab coastline of Admiralty Island


Many enjoyed the back deck in the second consecutive week of sunshine!


Last but not least, Juneau author Stuart Archer Cohen introduces his 4th novel “This Is How It Really Sounds”


Worth Our Wait in Glass

Preston Singletary

Preston Singletary double-checks the accuracy of the most recent panel installed

Two years ago, when I heard through the grapevine that Sealaska Heritage Institute was planning on building a cultural center where the old Juneau Lyle’s Hardware once was, I got excited and thought of a couple of artist buddies of mine who I felt needed to be represented in the new structure.  So I called up Preston and said he needed to get his foot in the door and make sure SHI has a monumental piece of his work.  He asked what I had in mind.  I asked him what would it take to construct a life-size, glass house screen front.  He chuckled and said that the Seattle Art Museum’s house front was as large as he thought he could do.  I said I thought it needed to be larger; he laughed again.  He agreed that he would check out the engineering logistics with his production crew:  could it be done?  After some research with his production and installation teams, the answer was yes!

The paper pattern of the complete house front design

The paper pattern of the complete house front design

We spent a week or two drafting up a proposal for SHI; it would be a collaborative project since I’ve had some experience in glass work with Preston years prior and I am a fairly good designer (with always room for more improvement!); Preston and I felt pretty good about submitting the concept.  A few months later, though both of us submitted the proposal as a team, he received a letter addressed only to him from SHI stating they liked the concept though they did not want my design concept.  We both thought it weird that SHI made no statement about “working with Clarissa” on what design they wanted on the house front instead.  They simply stated they didn’t want my design (which I interpret as my name) being associated with the glass front.  After reading the letter a couple of times, I knew what “they” were up to.  I knew “they” didn’t want me in the picture; they wanted a close relative instead, and I had an inkling who that particular relative was.

The "clan house" inside of the new Sealaska Heritage Institute's "Walter Soboleff" Cultural Center

The “clan house” inside of the new Sealaska Heritage Institute’s “Walter Soboleff  Cultural Center” (In 2001, I wove the Chilkat robe laying on the bench; Preston recently acquired it from the original owner)

Preston asked me if I felt okay about him going ahead on his own instead of the initial teamwork we had planned.  I told him that initially I wanted him to have a piece of his work represented in the cultural center, so even though he could have told SHI that we were working as a team, I told him to go on without me because I knew SHI would come up with whatever reasons to not have my name associated with any monumental art in the cultural center, and I wanted to avoid any further denials.

Preston sets the next plexiglass plate

The installation of the 17′ x 12′ screen was created in panels — Preston sets the next plexiglass plate

About a year later in the Fall of 2014, SHI sent out an announcement requesting apprentices to work with Preston on the glass panel.  Of course, I did not apply.  I knew SHI already had the person(s) selected, one of them being the young relative to SHI’s president.  The call for apprentices was the legal procedure they had to endure.  Preston was given no say who his apprentices would be though he was very happy Nicholas Galanin was “chosen.”

How many guys does it take to screw in a 17' x 12' screen?

How many guys does it take to screw in a 17′ x 12′ screen?

You, the reader, may interpret this blog entry as a bitter response to being edged out.  You may also think that I write about these kinds of sensitive issues on my blog or elsewhere.  Not so.  This may be the first time (and most likely not the last) I have written about an unjust act on my blog.  I may speak about unpleasant injustice or opinions to others face to face, but I am not one to write about injustice, especially in an art blog.

However, I have made an exception because I realize I made a mistake in the course of this story.  There is no one else to blame about me not being “included.”  When SHI “edged me out” of the art project, and I had told Preston to go on without me; I was not honoring myself as a one-of-a-kind, female, Tlingit, full-time artist of nearly 40 years; this is where I made a big mistake.    There’s no other Tlingit or any other female artist out of all the Northwest Coast tribes, who lives now or  lived before my time, who has ever accomplished all that I have designed and created in a variety of works.   I realized that even now there is no other Native female artist from Alaska who comes close to my caliber of artistry.  As the elder from the western TV film series would say:  “…no brag, just fact…”  How am I to be honored by others if I am not loyal to myself?

4 more panels to install

4 more glass panels to install

This particular story is a big lesson to myself.  My mother always said I was too generous with others and that I always “sell myself short” and when people recognize this, there will always be those who take advantage of people like me without intention of giving back.  This concept did not ride home to me until I saw a few photos of the making of this art installation on Facebook.  I felt a ton of bricks crashing into the core of my being.  I was depressed for a few days; I let myself down, but I looked within myself for my answers.

In white gloves

In white gloves…

So why do I tell this story here?  It’s for me.  First, this story is to remind myself of how I have been all my life; it is to remind myself to forgive myself for not honoring myself, not being loyal to who I am and what I do and what I have become and continue in my human becoming.  Second, I tend to forgive and forget, even this is a lesson I must learn and retain, else I repeat the same pattern, going through the school of hard knocks and never earning any credits.  Why do we need to acknowledge and earn our credits?  So we can “graduate!”  Hello!? — I have always said “Patience Is Worth Waiting For” and this definitely applies to the patience any of us need as we continue to  “grow up!”


Preston with his professional installation crew:  Jeremy Bosworth and Joe Benvenuto

Though this was a big lesson to go through regarding this project, I bear no hard feelings towards SHI nor Preston.  Like anyone else, they have nothing to do with my self-worth.  I had a wake-up call about my lack of self-respect, loyalty to self with honor.   Although SHI has hired me to do small projects like book covers, I have known for awhile where I stand with SHI regarding large projects whether they benefit me and/or others; I have learned to work around them because I just want my ideas put out there and get done.  AND, I am proud of my friend Preston and his great piece of work.  The inclusion of his work was my initial idea; my friend is now represented in the art collection of Sealaska.  What more can I ask for?  I helped  him get there, and I can pat myself on the back for this!

Read more about the details of this art installation online at the Juneau Empire: