Buttonrobe by Israel Shotridge

Clarissa pounces the paper pattern of a button robe designed by fellow Tlingit artist Israel Shotridge

Clarissa pounces the paper pattern of a button robe designed by fellow Tlingit artist Israel Shotridge as he points out making sure she does not veer off the lines!

There have been a few times I have collaborated with an artist; they design something and I make it, or I design something and they make it.  In this case, I am preparing to transfer a design onto wool melton cloth to begin making a buttonrobe designed by Israel Shotridge for his daughter, Autumn.

While working on the pouncing (the wheel has many sharp, tiny spokes that punch tiny holes into the paper), Israel asked me if I come to other people’s homes and hang out with them.  I laughed.  Like what?  Do you think I go to someone’s home and help them get a button robe made?  No…

Going to the Shotridges’ house is a special treat.  Why?  Because Israel and Sue are quite the team and they are a kick in the pants to hang out with.  And Israel’s wife, Sue is one of my best friends.  Bottom line.  We talk business, art, Native politics, spiritual stuff and of course, men.  What else?

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!

Chilkat “Tunic” T-shirt

"Raven Steals the Sun" Chilkat "tunic" t-shirt design by Clarissa Rizal - 1994

“Raven Steals the Sun” Chilkat “tunic” t-shirt design by Clarissa Rizal – 1994

Over 20 years ago I designed this Chilkat “tunic” specifically for a t-shirt.  I think only 5 or so shirts were printed.  I’m not sure why I didn’t print any more than that.  Anyway, if all goes as planned, I will have these T-shirts available for sale at the Clan Conference in Juneau, Alaska where a group of us local weavers will be doing another demonstration/presentation in the lobby of Centennial Hall starting on Thursday, October 29th.  See you then!

Clarissa Selected for Tulsa Artist Residency, Oklahoma

Beginning student in Plein Rein, Clarissa paints at Eagle Beach, Juneau, Alaska - July 2015

Beginning student in Plein Rein, Clarissa paints at Eagle Beach, Juneau, Alaska – July 2015

Native Art Markets are good venues for certain artists who have sale-able works.  I have yet to experience myself to fit into that category as my work appeals to a certain type of art collector or historian.  However, art markets allow me to put myself out there and see who “bites.”  The bites are  folks who may be interested in buying my work later on, or they know of someone else who is, OR they are folks like those from the Tulsa Artist Residency who invite me to submit an application for a one-year residency starting in January 2016 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Of 300 applicants from across this nation, I was 1 of 12 who were selected.  Whoa!  This was quite the  competition.  Read the press release just received from TAR announcing their first 12 inaugural residencies:  http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/tulsa-artist-fellowship-announces-inaugural-class-of-12-artists-300120297.html 

Though I will be living in Tulsa for the entire year of 2016, I will still be traveling for business.  I’ll post my 2016 calendar later on this year; stay tuned!


Sneak Preview of “Egyptian Thunderbird” Chilkat Robe

Beginning to weave one of the fingers on Clarissa's latest Chilkat robe "Egyptian Thunderbird"

Beginning to weave one of the fingers on Clarissa’s latest Chilkat robe “Egyptian Thunderbird” – August 2015

I dye my own weft yarns in shades of golden yellow and a variety of blues.  A couple of years ago I was trying to dye a beautiful turquoise, however, the yarns were unevenly dyed:  I panicked!  I couldn’t believe it; how come this was happening!?  I did everything by the book:  I mixed the colors evenly, I gave a gentle wash in gentle soapy lukewarm water after I had soaked the yarns for a few hours, I consistently stirred the pot!—And then to top it off, I was so enthralled by the beautiful deepening colors, I just kept stirring!  HELLO!?  Finally, I snapped out of my self-induced panic spell and snatched the yarns out of the dye pot!

And being the resourceful person that I can be, I wasn’t about to throw out dollars worth of yarns, so I saved it for a rainy day.

That rainy day came.  I have used these unevenly dyed weft yarns for this present day robe I have been weaving this year.  Using a Ravenstail technique within a Chilkat form, I am having a blast.  Stay tuned for more close-ups of the robe as I move along with the weave in between all else that I am up to these days!  I am carrying on as usual.

Clarissa in Antique Native American Art Show

Clarissa's grand-daughter, Amelie models "Chilkat Child" to be featured as 1 of 18 Chilkat robes to be exhibited during the Antique Native American Art Show

Clarissa’s grand-daughter, Amelie models “Chilkat Child” a 5-piece handwoven ensemble to be featured as 1 of 18 Chilkat robes to be exhibited during the Antique Native American Art Show

The Antique American Indian Art Show launches at El Museo in Santa Fe’s Railyard with an opening night gala on August 17th (6-9pm) benefiting New Mexico PBS. Show dates run from August 18-20th (11am-6pm), featuring a special Chilkat Blanket exhibit – (they say) the most extensive collection ever presented!

Lily Hope, Delores Churchill and Cheryl Samuel are a part of this exhibit as well.

Come check us out on opening night Monday, August 17th; we’re gonna dress up and meet the Native Art Market crowd!

Read about the producers of this event by clicking here!

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)


What To Do With Antler Bone

Dyed red antler bone carved into fish

Dyed red antler bone carved into fish

It’s been awhile back that I purchased these so I don’t recall where I bought these little, red, valuable trinkets cut from antler, dyed red, sawed into the shape of fish and then embellished with circles and lines using a dremel tool.  I figured I will use them one day for a button robe.  Have any of you seen these guys; if so, where?

“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 cedarmountaindrums.com

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