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:


Clarissa Rizal Announces Her New Website!

Northwest Coast Tlingit graduation cap designed by Clarissa Rizal painted and modeled by Ursala Hudson --  2014

Northwest Coast Tlingit graduation cap designed by Clarissa Rizal painted and modeled by Ursala Hudson at her BA graduation — 2014

I have a new website with a few new tweaks to my blog, just launched last week on April 13th; I HAVE GRADUATED to a simpler, cleaner, and easy-to-navigate format to update:  It’s time to celebrate!  (Most artists that I know would rather spend their time creating instead of working on the computer, so the easier and faster computer time, the better for us all…!)

This is my fourth website since 1998; the first was created by my friend Cecil Touchon (www.ceciltouchon.com) nearly 20 years ago when there were not very many Native American artists’ websites.

I have been blogging since July 2010, nearly 5 years!  Unlike the past blog entries randomly posted when I could fit in the work, I will post new blog entries 3/x weekly with this schedule:

  • on Mondays and Thursdays and Saturdays by 12 midnight (Alaska, Pacific or Mountain time — all depends on where my business travel takes me!).

Blog posts will include the usual latest projects, art business travel, tools of the trade, people, classes, health topics, etc., though to continue helping out my fellow weavers in a more efficient manner, I have added a new section to my categories (column on the right) called “Tricks-of-the-Trade.”

All photographs on my website and blog were shot by myself unless otherwise noted.

  • For over 20 years, most of the photographs of my button robes and my chilkat weavings were taken by professional photographer Jeff Laydon at www.pagosaphotography.com.
  • I make an effort to give credit to any other  photographers.
  • Thank you to my ceremonial robe models the late Russ Eagle and my grand-daughter Amelie Haas.
  • My friend Russ had been modeling for me for nearly 15 years until his passing in 2009.
  • Five-year-old Amelie had her debut this past March modelling my “Chilkat Child” 5-piece weaving ensemble.

I have begun formatting my photographs larger; people want to SEE!

  • I also will aim towards shooting more interesting shots, maybe at different angles
  • maybe I’ll even tweak them too, because I CAN!
  • Click photos on my website to enlarge; the blog photos are what they are
  • Ursala says I ought to buy myself a SLR camera to produce better photos, though at this time I cannot afford spending $500-$1000.
  • Blogs and websites are much more interesting with better photography and golly, shooting from my old iPhone I guess just doesn’t tickle anybody’s fancy does it!
  • Hold on, dear readers, the money for a real camera will come some day!

As time permits, I will be adding one more topic to my website:  a “Tributes” page to honor  mainly Tlingit elders who have helped me on my path as a full-time Tlingit artist for nearly 40 years.  My “Tributes” page will include those of have passed including:

  • grandparents, Juan and Mary Sarabia
  • parents William and Irene Lampe
  • very first mentor/teacher Tlingit chief from Yakutat, Harry K. Bremner, Sr. who gave me my very first sewing lessons along with Tlingit song and dance instruction, and
  • mentor/teacher of Chilkat weaving, Jennie Thlunaut
  • my apprenticeship with Jennie Thlunaut

Thank you to my daughter, Ursala Hudson for working hard last weekend to create and launch  my website by my deadline!  Check Ursala’s graphic design/web design work on her website at:  www.whiterabbitstudio.us

Beloved Cindy Gustafson


Cindy Gustafson, born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania May 21, 1935; passed away peacefully in her sleep on December 3, 2014 in Pagosa Springs, Colorado at the age of 79

On the 2nd day sailing on the Alaska ferry, Wednesday, December 3rd:….. this evening 6 hours southbound from Ketchikan, destination Bellingham, Washington, when I entered my stateroom, I noticed a friend texted me that a dear friend Cindy Gustafson passed away last night in her sleep. I had just finished dinner with new-found friends and was planning on designing the next part of this child-size Chilkat robe; I also planned on finalizing my Power Point Presentation for the Portland Art Museum two nights from now; I was also planning on shaping the best part of my weaving. Oh well, as usual a death of a dear one takes precedence over commitments and goals. I put these all aside. I watched the darkness glide by outside the window for several hours until I laid myself to a still sleep. Without dreams.

Cindy Gustafson was a spunky elder right up there next to my Kate Terry who passed away over five years ago. I loved these gals. Both women were well known in our community; one wrote a “gossip column” for the local newspaper and the other had her own “gossip column” just by being a great listener.

Halloween was the last time I saw Cindy. We were at the monthly WHIPS luncheon (Women Helping In Pagosa Springs). I noticed she looked very radiant as if she were wearing a bit of blush and eyeliner, her bluest eyes sparked like sapphires, ah, but there was no trace of additions; her radiance was of the natural kind. As usual she wanted to know about my love life, my family life, and my business – I told her I was preparing to visit the latest additional grandchildren in Juneau and I was also finishing up the last of my products for the upcoming markets I was planning in Alaska during Thanksgiving weekend, and that I would be out of town until Christmas Eve so I would be missing all of the local holiday events that she had been planning for the community, and that Dan was going to be meeting me in Portland to play a live gig during my Power Point Presentation and that we would be driving back to Colorado together.   She was happy to hear things were going well for me.

Cindy and I always remarked about the other’s attire; we always admired what the other was wearing. That day she was wearing one of her fantastic skirts, the Seminole Indian patchwork skirt I told her that she would willingly will me when she passed…I told her I would cherish the skirt forever and I would tell the world about the wonderful woman who once owned the skirt before me and I would say this with pride. Cindy thought I was a little crazy but I know she forgave me because we shared being Gemini’s which made it all the more reason why we had this common understanding of our character!

Now I imagine wearing that skirt, though I will most likely not inherit it and it is important to note the skirt means more than an object of desire. The skirt represented the passing of a beautiful thing to another with love, respect and honor. Whatever skirt I wear will always remind me of Cindy.

Cindy began the women helping women in Pagosa Springs.  About 4 years ago, when I was still adjusting from several major life changes, I was a recipient of a WHIPS donation.  I will always remember this.  Here’s the link to the WHIPS:  http://pagosawomen.com/sample-page/

Like our beloved Kate Terry, I will always remember our Cindy Gustafson!

Doggone If She Flipped For A Cat Skan

Clarissa heads into the cat skan to check for internal bleeding…

The assessment after the bike accident (that happened on May 12th) revealed that my front brake system on my bike had gone awry causing the brakes to clamp down on the front tire which hurdled me over the bike, bouncing me on the cement street and hit my head on the curb!  At the urgency of my youngest daughter, she took me to the emergency room to make sure I had formed no blood clots or bleeding on the brain.  (And do you know how many thousands of dollars that cost!?)

To her relief, I was clean of harm…BUT my body suffered multiple bruises and I had sprained both hands/wrists badly, especially my left hand…I have not been able to do anything with my left hand except that although still painful, I can at least WEAVE!  Slowly but surely I can weave as long as I take breaks to not cause additional strain.

I ice-packed the sprain the first four days to reduce the swelling.  In addition, to assist with the brusing and a speedier recovery, I used the famous “Skookum” salve made by Harlena Warford in Hoonah, Alaska that you may buy on line from www.gutsuwu.com.  I swear by this product.  I applied this salve to all my bruised areas and to my bruised brow and face; it was amazing to see and feel the results!

And for continual circulation and support, I used my trusty “Incredibrace” for both wrists—I travel with these companions; they have been life-savers over the past year!

I am reminded every day how precious an artists hands are!

X-raying painful hand/wrist for broken bones!—there were none!

Honoring Our Mothers Today and Always

Clarissa’s mother Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe berry-picking at SueAnn’s home – My mother protected herself from the blood-sucking mosquitos; she wore two layers of clothing, fingerless gloves (before you could buy them in the store) AND a shower cap! — August 2001

One of the most favorite things to be and do with my mother was berry picking…We picked berries almost every August since I can remember filling up our freezers and jars until she was 80 (just 4 years after this photo was taken).  2005 was the last year we picked together; she decided that it was risky to be romping around in the forest even though she was very careful.  She was avoiding breaking a leg or worse yet, breaking a hip which she warned us to never do since at that age will be the downfall of one’s health.

For the past three years, Mother’s Day has been a day of both sorrow and joy.  Like any of us whose mother’s are one of our best friends for life, I miss her so I have my moments of sorrow; yet, at the same time, I am a mother to three great kids!  After our mother’s passing on July 4, 2011, I wrote a blog entry about my Mother; you may read and see more photos of her at:  http://www.clarissarizal.com/blogblog/?p=1983

I invite you to also read her obituary with historical photos at:  http://www.clarissarizal.com/blogblog/?p=2025  These photos include images of my Grandmother and Grandfather Mary and Juan Sarabia, childhood, etc.

Top: Clarissa’s parents William and Irene Lampe with first grandchild, 18-month-old son, Kahlil on father’s boat the “Clarissa Rizal”, Excursion Inlet, Alaska – July 1978 — Middle photos of Clarissa’s children: Kahlil, 5 yrs old; Lily, two yrs old; Ursala, one yrs old — Bottom photo: Clarissa, 2nd grade school photo

I am fortunate to be the mother of three fine kids; and my children are now parents!

Clarissa and her children Ursala, Lily and Kahlil in front of “Jennie Weaves An Apprentice” Chilkat robe – July 2011

I am blessed with four wonderful grandchildren with two more “waiting in the eaves” to be born this July and October!

Just got out of the movie theatre….Clarissa’s four grandchildren L to R: Elizabeth Hope and her brother, Louis, Violet Hudson and Amelie Haas — they make up the three clans of H’s: Hope, Hudson and Haas!

I have known for a very long time that I am one of the most wealthiest women I know.  My definition of  wealth is defined by my family, who we are, where we come from, who we be and what we do.  I wish you a very a Happy Mother’s Day,…today and always!

Two Years Since Buddy Tabor’s Passing

Buddy Tabor – Castle Valley, Moab, Utah – 2006 – I imagine that if he saw this particular photo, he may have used it for an album cover

I don’t think Buddy saw any of these photos I took of him. I think this series of photos in this blog entry he would have enjoyed seeing.  It’s been two years since his passing on February 5, 2012.  This blog entry is in honorable memory of him.

Buddy with friends Connie and Phil – 2006

Every year in the Falltime he would make his annual visit.  He always encouraged us to take a weekend trip somewhere in the Southwest.  One year he rented a real jeep and we went into Canyonlands National Park just south of Moab, Utah.  Gawd, what an adventure!  Something I had never done before or since!  The photos here in the Southwest were taken in Castle Valley, near Moab, Utah.

Buddy Tabor Running Rocks – Utah – 2006 – this could have been an album cover too

There are many of us across this continent who miss Buddy.  An unforgettable singer-songwriter gone with a blinding flash of light!

Buddy Tabor – 2006

Buddy Tabor with my lovebird, Kiwi – 2005 – though I’d like to think that this photo and the next could have been album covers too!

Buddy Tabor Bear – 2005 – this could have been an album cover for his 2nd children’s album!

In Memory of Walter Porter

“Father Cyril Bulashevich in the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Juneau, Alaska” Chilkat woven wall pouch –  1990 –          16″w x 24″h – Private Collection, Denver, CO

Even though the above Chilkat weaving is in honor of the priest I grew up with, Father Cyril Bulashevich, I use this image here in honor of Walter Porter from Yakutat, Alaska.  In his own way, because he was what I would regard as a spiritual man, Walter Porter was “priestly.”  It’s really the only way I have known him.  (The first time I met his wife, MaryAnn Porter, was at the Chilkat weaving class taught by Jennie Thlunaut in 1985 – MaryAnn and I were fellow students.)  Hearing of Walter’s passing on November 6th was shocking.  Fellow artist, Preston Singletary texted me; I spent the entire week passing tears not able to do much else really.   I know the news hit Preston even harder as both Walter and he were planning on working together again.   The way I see Walter, the entire State of Alaska received a big blow, a big loss to our spiritual/emotional way of being.

Walter Porter explains a design concept at the 2nd Northwest Coast Artists’ Gathering 2008           Juneau, Alaska

Walter was our guest speaker at the 2nd Biennial Northwest Coast Artists’ Gathering in 2008.  His lecture was recorded and is on his website.  Walter was an interpreter, a guide to assist us into thinking differently about the way we saw our world.

Condolences to our MaryAnn, their children and family.  A big hole has been left – We will miss him for the rest of our lives!

To get a glimpse of Walter and his work, please visit Walter’s website at:  http://www.tlinkimo.com/


1st Mother’s Day Without Her

Irene and William Lampe - December 1955 - my mother is pregnant with her first daughter, Clarissa Rizal Lampe

Irene passed away last year on the 4th of July; she was 86 years old.  This is the first Mother’s Day without her; somehow as much as I tried to feel okay about this day with my family members, I couldn’t help but feel melancholy – it was always such a special day when our mother was alive.  And even though I am not only a mother of 3 but a grandmother of 4, I’m not in any mode to celebrate myself in that role.  I must look for another element…I’ll celebrate my daughters as mothers.

The Life & Passing of “Big Blue”

“Big Blue Whale” was his full name; we all called him “Big Blue” for short.   A pale blue-green, 1965 Ford pick-up, ¾ ton sporting a 351 engine (coveted by mechanics knowing the value of this type of engine), Big Blue was “born and bred” in Georgia and made his way up to Alaska in the early 80’s driven by the original owner, an airplane mechanic who kept this babe in great shape.  Big Blue was happiest humming down the highway at 85mph best with a ton of gravel – his engine “purred!”   I bought Big Blue in July 1985 for my landscape company when he was just 20 years old.    It was love at first sight!

Firefighters put out the last remaining life of "Big Blue" - photo by Ursala Hudson

27 years later, Big Blue passed away today on April Fool’s Day.  When my son-in-law was going up the hill towards home, suddenly the truck died and when he jumped out to check what happened, suddenly the engine began to smoke and burst into flames – luckily Chris had not had the chance to open the hood!!!  911 came to the rescue and put out the last life of Big Blue.  When all had died down, the fire chief examined the engine and showed us the broken fuel line figuring this was what started the fire.

The passing of Big Blue was very sad; for me it was the completion of an era allowed to live only once.  As I mentioned earlier, when I first saw this truck many years ago, it was “love at first sight.”  My personal experience of “love at first sight” is a feeling of deep gratitude upon the sight of something, or someone, or somewhere.  This feeling has nothing to do with want, lust, desire, must have; it is full body experience of being in awe, feeling a deep appreciation of what is before me.  I loved this machine at first sight in 1985.

I was a landscape gardener; boss of my “Kahtahah Landscape Gardeners”, every season I’d hire a new group of adventurous young folk who didn’t mind working hard in the Southeastern Alaskan weather from April 1st through October 31st in wind, sleet, snow flurries, rain (of course!), and yet any fine, rare sunny day, we were out and about, we soaked up the shine, all of it!  Kept in lean shape sportin’ mighty fine tans, we did, yessirreee!

Instead of buying a company truck, I rented one from June Dawson’s vehicle rental company.  (And if any of you living in Juneau remember June, she was a hoot – one of the happiest redheads I’ve ever known – a generous woman who implored me to dig up the best peatmossy loamy soil on this side of the planet! (which happened to be located in what is now the Lemon Creek Industrial area where COSTCO and all those other brand names hang out together…we hand-dug truckloads and truckloads to the Sealaska Corporation plaza’s garden beds – there were nights I couldn’t sleep cuz I had threats by passer-bys who were coveting the soil – I was never sure if I’d return to work the next day and find the piles gone, so we quickly worked the soil into the poor soil already existing at Sealaska.

(Why did I rent a truck instead of buying one?  I was waiting for the right one to come around.  I didn’t want just any ole truck; I wanted a specific type.  And the moment I wished for it out loud, not even 5 minutes later, there he was at the garbage dump in all his fine glory!  Hallelujiah!)

My 1985 crew members included 5 neighbors.  They had just moved to Juneau from Nebraska and Kansas, looking for the “Alaskan experience” and were out looking for a job.  Being the kind of neighbor that I am, I asked them if they were interested in working for me.  They jumped for it.  One day, the five of us were jammed packed into the cab of the truck heading to the garbage dump to look for an old refigerator to use as a smokehouse.  One crew member asked:  “Hey Clarissa, when are you going to buy your own truck?”  They all chimed in:  “Yeah, you’ve got to get your own truck, how come you gotta be so picky, like what kind of truck do you want?”

I replied:  “I want an old truck, one from the 60’s, can’t be older than ’69.  I want a Chevy or Ford pick-up, you know, the kind with the rounded fronts with a big bed, not one of those ½ ton, but ¾ ton.  I want him in excellent condition…I’m waiting for the right one!”

Everyone’s reply:  “oh golly, that’s wishful thinking, where you gonna find one in Juneau, those types are rare, especially those without any rust in excellent shape…!?”

Within 5 minutes of the conversation, as we had come around the corner, there at the dump, was “Big Blue!” – the owners were visiting the dump too!  My crew members and I gawked “Clarissa!  There’s YOUR truck!” — and sure enough, there was a “For Sale” sign on the rear window!

The rest is 27 years of history and fantastic memories.


An Eternal Friendship With My Mamma

Irene and Clarissa at Celebration 2000

My mother passed away yesterday on a day of freedom, Independence Day, the 4th of July.  I know my mother has been liberated from the restraint of her aged, wretched body.  After intense suffering since the passing of our father over two years ago, including the recent passing of a son three months ago, she’s now a free woman.   8 days prior, she turned 86.

Irene with Clarissa and younger brother, Timothy - Summer 1958

Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe was born June 25, 1925 in Port Althorp, a place that doesn’t exist anymore, near Hawk Inlet.  She was born during her family’s  Summer fish camp to Juan and Mary Sarabia.  They spent their winters protected from the cold North winds in the small village of Hoonah, near Glacier Bay.  Eventually her parents worked Summer months at the Excursion Inlet Packing Co. (XIP); and in 1955 while working at the cannery, she met and married my father, William Lampe on August 20th.  Nine months later, I was born.  My parents dispute over my name.  I would have been named Kate if I were born on June 5th, my mother’s eldest sister Katherine Mills’ birthday; or, I would have been named Patricia (i.e. Pat), after my father’s mother Patricia Rizal Lampe if I were born any other day other than June 5th.   However, the day before I was born, my father dreamt a girl would be born to them and her name was Clarissa, a name he had never heard before.

William B. Lampe & Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe model the Eagle & Raven button blanket robes made by their daughter Clarissa - 1987 - collection of Tlingit & Haida Central Council offices, Juneau

Irene helps sew the button blanket wall mural "Following Our Ancestors' Trail" - 1992 - Private Collection, Austin, Texas

Most of her adult life, our mother helped support our family by working for various state and local agencies including the State Department of Education, Department of Health & Social Services, the Department of Revenue and Tlingit & Haida Central Council.  A year after she retired in 1990, she said she didn’t know how she got all the things done that needed to get done when she worked a “real job.”  She enjoyed traveling with her husband, hosting her grandchildren overnight, sewing quilts, crocheting afghans, taking daily walks and getting back to her bead work.  She said she learned how to bead work when she was 5 (I have that 5-year-olds’ first beadwork), and that it felt good to get back to beading after almost a 60-year absence.

Sewing a beaded eagle for the back of her husband's vest - June 2005

One day I realized that I didn’t have a button blanket of my own.   (Uh, huh.  You are most likely thinking about the shoemaker who doesn’t make his own shoes and goes barefoot.  Yep.  That’s what I had been –  over 20 years as a regalia-maker of robes for others, but not for myself nor family – yup!)  Because I could create any kind of robe I wanted, from a Chilkat robe to a Ravenstail robe to a button blanket, I asked what kind of robe would I make for myself, and the answer was:  “…you design the robe, coordinate the colors to match your tunic (I inherited in 1976 from my maternal Uncle Leonard Davis) and have your mother do the bead work; it will then hold special meaning for you…”  – of course, why didn’t I think of that long time ago!? –  The robe is made with deep red and deep brilliant blue melton cloth of 100% wool, antique, carved Mother-of-Pearl buttons, and machine-embroidered braid.  The bead work and designs were sewn by my mother; I sewed the robe and did the embellishments with the embroidered braid and buttons.     Below are images and details of the robe.

Clarissa's Black-legged Kittywake T'akDeinTaan button blanket robe - a collaboration with mother Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe who did all the bead work, and Clarissa designed and sewed the robe - 2005

*(For many our clan assumed the emblem as the common Seagull, and for many years I had questioned and doubted our clan emblem as a Seagull because the beaded representation of our  clan designs was a bird that had a golden beak, black markings towards the tip of its wings and if there were legs portrayed in the design, they were black; plus, there was generally two birds hovering above a nest – to indicate that the nature of the bird:  both parents raise their young.   Due to my sister Irene Jean Lampe’s research a several years ago, we are now on the right track of the true identity of our clan emblem of the Black-legged Kittywake T’akDeinTaan.).

Small sea bird commonly dwells on cliffs near glaciers called the"Black-legged Kittywake" - Clan emblem to the Alaskan Tlingit T'akDeinTaan - beaded by Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe for her daughter Clarissa's robe - 2005

Close-up of the carved, antique Mother-of-Pearl buttons placed on the machine-embroidered braid along the borders of the button robe - Clarissa Rizal - 2005

When I put together the robe, I felt a need to “give back” to my mother.  What could I do to repay her for the hours and talent she put into my robe?  She would not take money from me.  So I left the “debt” wide open until the idea came a year later when we were looking through her large box of all the bead work she had created over the course of 15 years since she retired in 1990; she had beaded flowers of all sorts and sizes and she had beaded at least 10 of the Black-legged Kittywakes.   Suddenly, the idea popped into my head:  “…sew up button robes for all of your Mother’s children and grand-children and place her bead work on each robe…”  She loved the idea.  This project ended up being a collaboration between mother, daughter and granddaughter; I sewed the robes, daughter Lily sewed the buttons, and we sewed down Mom’s bead work on each robe.  We also sewed a couple more octopus bags fashioned after the one (on the right) that my mother had sewn.  A weaving apprentice Julia Sai Carlson, had helped attach Mom’s bead work to the bags too.   I had never sewn octopus bags before; it was fun.  All the bead work was designed and sewn by our Mother.  Below are the three octopus bags with Irene’s bead work.

The Octopus bags - August 2005 - collection of Robert Lampe's family

After my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary dinner on August 20, 3005, we went to their house to do a family ceremony of “bringing out the robes.”  My parent’s children and grand-children were present.  My mother gave a speech; it was an emotional time for her.  (She had said she is not a public speaker – not even in front of her own family.)  I was proud of our Mother.  She spoke of how she kept the old bead work patterns that were once her Mother’s (Mary Wilson Sarabia), she mentioned that each robe had our clan emblem, the Black-legged Kittywake T’akDeinTaan, or a beaded raven (for our brother, Robert); she hoped that each of us would keep our robes long after she was gone.  Directly after her speech, our sister Irene Jean sang and drummed a Tlingit song, and for the first time in our family, we witnessed all our family members dancing together; it was a thing of beauty, we laughed together.  I felt this was a significant moment in our family’s life.  My parents beamed.

We honored our parent's 50 years of marriage, with new robes for all the children and grandchildren - August 2005

Also, as part of our parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, we took a 3-day trip to Excursion Inlet.  Included in our entourage was my sister Dee, my kids Kahlil and Lily, my apprentice Julia and myself.  We joined our brother Rick, cousins Janie, Linda and 2nd cousins Thomas and Lydia.  I have fond memories of spending a few Summers in Excursion Inlet when I was a child; it was a good feeling to hear stories of my parent’s days as young adults – it was good for my own children to experience the place and to hear the stories.  We tend to forget that old people were once young.

William and Irene walking the "boardwalk" in Excursion Inlet - the cannery village where they first met in 1955 - He was a fisherman with his own seiner and had stopped there for the Summer, she worked in the cannery - August 2005

Another thing my mother incorporated into her life as soon as she retired was a daily walk.  No, not just a walk around the block, but a real walk!  Years of working at a “normal” job kept her in the condition of waking at 5am, so by 6am she was ready to go.  From the age of 65, she began walking at least 6 miles a day.   Sometimes she would walk with her friend, Lillian Austin.  Sometimes she walked with another friend, Rachel Carpenter.   She paced a steady rythym.  I remember a time about 10 years ago, when she was 76, our brother Bunny met us at the Hoonah ferry terminal and we walked into town.  At one point, we noticed she was walking way ahead of us; none of her kids nor husband kept up with her pace!  The following photos are a few places where we walked…

Walking the Flume - July 2007

Walking the Juneau tour ship dock...June 2007

Walking Auke Bay...August 2007

Taking a rest on the Dan Moller Trail...2001

Starting in 2005, my parents began to ask me when I would move back home, so in 2007 I moved up to Juneau for about 7 months.  During this time we took a couple of ferry trips; one to Hoonah (and my father hadn’t been there for over 30 years), and the ferry to Skagway to drive up to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory (a place they would pass through when they took their annual Summer drive into the Yukon and interior of Alaska.)  I also took my parents on day trips in Juneau they hadn’t been in many, many years like the Lena Loop picnic area, Auke Bay, Eagle Beach, Echo Cove, Thane Road, Evergreen Bowl, Twin Lakes and Sandy Beach; and to places they had never been like The Flume and the Treadwell Mine.  I knew then what is confirmed now:  Forever I will cherish the Spring/Summer of 2007  – the time I made to enjoy with my parents.

William & Irene walk the Treadwell Mine Trail...July 2007

About 20+ years ago, my father, who was an avid gardener, had too many packets of daisy seeds.  (I say “too many” cuz I quote my Mom.)   During those years, my Mother walked Twin Lakes often with the family dog, Nick.  One day she took several packets of the daisy seeds and sprinkled them on the banks between the highway and the Twin Lakes path.  Over the years, the daisies have naturally spread their seeds.  Right now, the daisies are in full bloom.  The following two photos are of my parents during one of our walks back in 2007.  During this walk, Mom and I told Dad the story of her sprinkling the seeds which resulted in the entire banks covered with daisies.  As we walked the path, although my father’s response was an “Umph”, my mother and I knew he was proud of her.   My Mother smiled quietly; she was very happy to be walking the path with her husband.

Irene walking Twin Lakes admiring all the daisies she "planted" many,many years ago...July 2007

William & Irene walking Twin Lakes - notice the expressions on their faces - he commented "hmmmm....I guess that's pretty good" - and she all along smiled with a spirit of satisfaction and pride...July 2007

Irene's of late walking shoes and cane - July 4, 2011

In 1996, I designed and created a leather button blanket style robe in honor of my mother Irene Lampe, in honor of mothers around the world, and in honor of our Mother Earth.  It is called “Mother Earth Child.”   The circle is the earth and the womb; inside the “womb” a mother tenderly embraces a child, the child tenderly touches the lips while listening to the mother.   The circle of human hands represents the constructive and destructive nature of mankind.  The robe is made of forest green leather machine-sewn appliqued upon turquoise leather with antique Mother-of-Pearl buttons.  The turquoise represents the ocean and sky; the green represents the land.

The robe is currently displayed in the Hilton Hotel lobby in Juneau; it is part of the permanent collection of  Native art of Goldbelt, Inc.  I wasn’t sure about selling this robe to be displayed in a public art setting.  Yet, as I am writing about this topic, I realize the robe in a public setting can be a reminder to all of us how important our mothers are.

Sewing the leather button robe in honor of my mother, "Mother Earth Child" on the 1935 Singer machine - August 1996

When my mother turned 70 in 1995, I felt it was time to honor my relationship with her; I began drafting out this design.  My mother and I were not just mother and daughter; we were friends.  I cannot remember a time when we had any disputes or discord between us (except maybe when I was a teenager and she worried about me like most parents do with teenage children!).   She was always respectful of me even though she did not always agree with some of the decisions I made in my life and I was respectful of her even though I may not have agreed with some of the decisions she made in her life.  Our mother was kind and generous to all of us.  She watched out for us, protected us, guided us and she had a great sense of humor.   Like most parents, she was always “watching our back” even to her very last day.  Even though she is no longer in physical form, I think she will still be watching our back.  Our mother loved us.

I will greatly miss our mother.  Yet, as long as I live and my memory remains good, I will continue to have a lifelong friendship with my Mamma.

In honor of Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe: "Mother Earth Child" - copyright Clarissa Rizal - 1996 - collection of Goldbelt, Inc., Juneau