Weaving in the Midst of Movement


A birthday gift weaving loom from her daughter Lily, Clarissa weaves a Chilkat/Ravenstail neck “scarf” while fishing with friends; a beautiful partly sunny day on the east side of Shelter Island, Juneau, Alaska — June 2016

No matter what size my weaving loom, be it 7ft. wide, 4ft. wide, 3ft, 2 ft. or 1ft., all my looms are portable.  They have to be.  I am always on the move.


The gallery and the fishing pole are proof, Clarissa is weaving while friends are fishing…a glorious place to weave as long as we keep the fish separate from the weaving!!!

For the past two years, I have been weaving four ensembles for my very first, and most likely my last, exhibit of weavings.  I’ve had financial support from several funding organizations that have helped pay nearly all of my personal and business expenses; this support has been a luxury.

The following are the organizations that have provided me grants to do this exhibit:

*  2015 Native Arts and Culture Foundation Fellowship Grant, Vancouver, Washington State

*  2015 1st People’s Fund Creative Capital Grant, Rapid City, South Dakota

*  2016 Tulsa Artist Residency, Tulsa, Oklahoma


Clarissa’s weaving in the hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida — September 2016

I have been traveling a lot this year; all of it has been business-related where I squeeze in family visits when I can.  Portable weaving looms and financial support have enabled me to continue doing my other business-related work such as doing a presentation of my work during the NACF Board Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood, Florida, and the following week to attend the annual Las Vegas Souvenir and Gift Show.


With a refreshing treat of a small bowl of cherries, Clarissa gives herself a foot bath while weaving…

I’m teaching myself how to “relax” in the midst of movement, creativity, business and sometimes chaos.  Listen up weavers; if I can do it, so can you!


One of three completed woven strips to be a part of an ensemble entitled “Girl Gaucho” — the ensemble is part of an exhibit “Layers of Love” opening at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

I am living proof that we Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers can get our work done in the midst of movement!


Watch Clarissa’s NEA’s Award Performance Livestream

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Clarissa models her latest Chilkat robe “Egyptian Thunderbird” at Eagle River Beach in Juneau, Alaska (Hmmm…Clarissa’s hair is the same color as the beaver fur trim and don’t you  just love her “Raven” ears!) — photo by NEA photographer, Tom Pich

Click on this link to see your open invitation to the general public for the NEA Heritage Fellowship concert:  2016-heritage-ceremony-invitation   

As part of the award ceremonies during the week of September 25-30, 2016, the NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert will be on Friday, September 30, 2016.  For those who are not in Washington, D.C. area, the event will be streamed live at arts.gov.   If you are in Washington, D.C. area, the Friday night presentations/concert is wide open to the public. Feel free to pass this information along to your family and friends who aren’t able to be in DC that day.

Each of the 9 awardees will be doing an 8-minute presentation of their work.  I will be doing a brief presentation on preparing the cedar bark and wool, then spinning, then weaving.  Then the last 4 or 5 minutes, Irene Jean Lampe, Donna Beaver Pizzarelli and Darlene See will be joining me on stage to present some of my latest robes (and of course, the Weavers Across the Waters robe will be one of those robes, worn by Donna), along with an historical robe care-taken by my sister Irene.  To provide the audience (far and wide) an idea of how the robes are used, the four of us will be singing/dancing a song composed and written many, many years ago by our T’akDeinTaan clan member Kloon’eesh (John K. Smith).

“Egyptian Thunderbird” Chilkat Robe

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Clarissa models the “Egyptian Thunderbird” Chilkat robe she recently completed in June 2016 — photo by NEA Photographer Tom Pich at Eagle Beach, Juneau, Alaska, with the southern end of the Chilkat Range in the far distance

This photograph was not tampered with Photoshop.  Tom Pich, the professional photographer for the National Endowment for the Arts fellows for the past 25 years, used his camera settings to capture the colors.  Tom used no additional lights, no gadgets, nothing.  Just his knowledge, talent and keen eye! — Thank you, Tom, for a beautiful rendition of one of my most favorite robes in a beautiful country; it was a great outing!

Update: “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat Ravenstail Robe


Grand-daughters Simone and Amelie Haas always made a daily check-up on the status of the hanging slip knots; it’s good to allow the little people to come visit and “play” with the yarns (under supervision of course). Clarissa’s Chilkat weaving teacher and mentor, Jennie Thlunaut had told Clarissa the story about how when she was 5 years old, she would “play” with her mother’s warp and weft as it hung on the loom. Whatever children play with and enjoy when they are young is most likely what they will do for a living when they are adults

A month ago, I finally began weaving the borders that will frame the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail robe.  I did not wait for all the 5×5 squares to arrive, though I had received more than half of the 54 committed donations then.  The following is a photo essay of the process:


Using the traditional warp stick (fashioned after Jennie Thlunaut’s), Clarissa measures out the length of the strands for the side borders


Clarissa uses the length of a book that measures (close to the) exact length she needs for the top border of the robe


Inspired by Teahonna James’ 5×5, here is the first color combo of the top border of the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat and Ravenstail ceremonial robe


The top border of the ‘Weavers Across the Waters’ Chilkat/Ravenstail robe


The beginning of the yellow border (Traditionally, a black border was woven and the a yellow border; Clarissa took the liberty of “jazzing up” the black and yellow borders. Notice there are no horizontal braids between the yellow and black borders. Clarissa plans on replacing the horizontal braids with a row of white Mother-of-Pearl buttons instead


Prepared slip knotted strands hang from the lightly-stablizing cross bar; instead of using your good weaving hours to make slip knots, it’s always best to prepare the strands while visiting with folks, or while taking a bath, and choose a discreet seat when you make slip knots at a funeral


Notice the laptop close at hand, along with the basket of yarns and of course when you need to remind yourself of certain tasks, or you have an idea of another project or you just remembered your grocery list, keep your notebooks (daily planner, sketch book, pocket notebook, etc.) at hand at all times near your weaving loom


Three generations of weavers begin weaving the side borders of the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat and Ravenstail robe: Ursala demonstrates her innovative fingering techniques to her daughter, Amelie and her mother, Clarissa.


The borders of the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat and Ravenstail robe; the small white diamonds were a suggestion by my daughter, weaver Lily Hope


Clarissa and Ursala weave the side borders of the “Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail robe


Teahonna James weaves the last couple of inches of the side borders


The side borders required hours of commitment. Clarissa measured her length of time to the inch; it takes her 1 hour to weave 1 inch. This translates to an estimate of 1-1/2” hours per inch for Ursala and/or Teahonna to achieve. In the foreground are all the squares being sewn together by Clarissa

For the initial project launch, invite, purpose, design specs and who are the ‘weavers across the waters’ who have volunteered to be a part of this project, please visit previous blog posts on my website, at:

 Click here for Recent update before this current blog post

Click here for the launch, invite, design specs 



Nominating Wayne Price for First People’s Community Spirit Award



Master carver of the traditional Tlingit dugout canoe canoe, Wayne Price with his crew at the canoe races during “KusTeYea Celebration” Teslin Lake, Teslin, Yukon Territory, July 2015

The First People’s Fund put a call out for nominations for their Community Spirit Award.  They asked:  “Do you know a Native artist who has dedicated his or her life and work to sustaining cultural traditions within their commuity?  first Peoples Fund has opened nominations for the 2017 Community Spirit Awards, and we want to hear from you by tomorrow, July 15th! — “If your life has been touched by a Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian artist who embodies the Indigenous values of generosity, integrity, humility and wisdom, consider nominating them for the Community Spirit Awards,” said Lori Pourier, president of First Peoples Fund. — the Community Spirit Awards, launched in 1999, are national grants for established Native culture bearers who demonstrate substantial contributions to their communities through their careers as artists.  Each year, First Peoples Fund seats a national panel to select four to six Community Spirit honorees from tribes across the country.”

So I thought about all the artists that I have known a long, long time, who would fit this bill.  I thought about all the artists that I know who are not just talented in what they do, but are passionate about their lives and sharing their work to the extent that they will leave the comforts of their own home and studio for great lengths of time and share with the younger generations, AND they need money!!!  My friend of 36 years came to mind:  Wayne Price…he fit the bill…this is what I wrote in the nomination:


Wayne Price stands in front of a portion of a cedar panel he adzed into a “herringbone” pattern; his adzed pattern work is in the entire downstairs of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Walter Soboleff Center in Juneau, Alaska – Grand Opening of the WSC, May 2015

“For 40+ years, Wayne Price is a Tlingit master carver in silver jewelry yet mainly known for his wood carvings of totem poles, masks, and is one of four men who knows how to carve the traditional dugout Tlingit canoes.  For the past 10 years he has been on an aggressive mission to  educate the general public, mentor and teach the methods of the nearly-extinct dugouts of the Tlingit.  Each canoe takes about 5 to 6 months to complete so these carvings are quite the accomplishment and are designed for ocean-going waves.  He has led expeditions in the wilderness of Southeast Alaska with the younger generation of men in their traditional dugouts that they had carved.    He teaches how to read the ocean, how to hunt and fish, how to survive on the land, and teaches the spiritual laws and ways of being of our people.  In 2007, with no other dance group in Haines, he began a dance troupe called “North Tide” which is also the name of his mentor group of young carvers because he also teaches them the stories, song and dance.  Wayne is passionate about his work and his life and terribly passionate about teaching the next generations; he wants his students to live a clean life without drugs and alcohol; he feels that training his students from a young age in the cultural arts and lifeways is the way to deter them from even having a wagon to fall from!  With his wife Cherri, he owns and operates the Silver Cloud Art Center which is his 16,000 sq. ft. home where he has conducted retreats in weaving, carving, subsistence food hunting and gathering, and dance troupe practices.  The front porch of their house always has a large carving of a totem pole or a dugout canoe in progress with the younger generation at his side either working and/or just listening.    Wayne has lived and worked in almost every community in Southeast Alaska and Yukon Territory; his name and character is known far and wide.  He is a natural born  leader (who he himself will admit he is always still learning).”


Wayne Price at the rudder with two young folk going for a canoe ride in his latest dugout canoe “Jibba” on Teslin Lake during the biennial “KusTeYea Celebration” — July 2015

We’ll see what happens, Wayne!  If you don’t receive this award this time around, then there’s always a next time.  Just make sure you remain safe and happy cuz we need you for the long haul…!


Tulsa Artists’ Coalition 5×5 Show & Sale


Clarissa’s first two chalk pastels on canvas board — May 2016 — working in chalk pastel is new to Clarissa; she experimented with the medium first on the large canvas before tackling the smaller canvas (foreground)

It’s been the custom for me over the past few years that I donate some piece of artwork to a non-profit for a worthy cause; usually it’s a painting, or a print, but this time I tried my hand at something different because I had left all my paints, charcoals, etc. in my studio attic in Colorado.  I’d never worked with chalk pastels, and I was intimidated because I didn’t know if I could pull of creating something that I liked; Imagine that?  I doubted myself?   But, I didn’t have time to lose; I volunteered to donate an art piece for the Tulsa Artists’ Coalitions’ 5×5 Show and Sale and the deadline for submissions was in just two hours!  These two images I did in a matter of two hours.  The larger took about half hour; the smaller one took about one and a half hours!!!

So what is the Tulsa Artists’ Coaltion’s 5×5 Show and Sale?


“Toasting the Saguaro” (or “Wendat Tlingit Visit Saguaro” — pastel by Clarissa Rizal — May 2016

Since 1999, the 5×5 has shined as an example of artists supporting artists–last year over 250 pieces measuring 5″x5″ in a variety of media were generously donated by artists from around the region and across the country.

On the day of the even, art buyers line up early outside the TAC Gallery for the opportunity to purchase their favorite 5×5 creation for $55.  At 5:55pm, doors open and the fun begins!  The show opens tonight, Friday, May 6th at the TAC Gallery in the Brady Arts District in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma!

(There’s always a big long line for a couple of hours before the show opens, I kid you not.  Now for us Alaskans, waiting for a couple of hours before an art show opens is NOT in our DNA!  If we waited in line outdoors for any event, we’d be soaked to the bone, or freeze to death, or even possibly eaten by a bear, so we are not conditioned to stand in line for nothing!!!)

The excitement and support from artists and the art-buying public for this unique event has been tremendous.  IN addition to raising critical funding for TAC, the 5×5 provides buyers with an opportunity purchase, quality, affordable art while providing artists the opportunity to display their talents before the thousands of art patrons who visit the Brady Arts District each month.

100%of the proceeds from the 5×5 directly benefits local artists through the TAC Gallery.

About TAC:  TAC has supported local artists for 30 years by providing exhibit opportunities for emerging artists and artists who work may not fit into a traditional commerial gallery.  TAC is proud to be a pioneer in the Brady Arts District—one of a handful of independent artists and art groups that initially established the neighborhood as an arts district.  TAC has held opening receptions Frist Friday since 1996 and worked with the Brady Arts District Business Association in establishing what is now known as the First Friday Art Crawl.

TAC is an all-volunteer, independent non-profit arts organiaation, with the majority of funding from memberships and the 5×5 event.



Clarissa’s Latest Button Blanket Robe: “The River Robe”

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“The River Robe” — latest button blanket robe by Clarissa Rizal in memory of her mother, father and brother — December 2015

When we were kids fishing with our mother at Fish Creek out North Douglas Highway near Eaglecrest in Juneau, Alaska, (this was back in the late 60’s), our mother recalled a memory from her childhood as she looked upon the shallow creek of a few salmon running upstream, and said:  “…In the olden days there were fish so thick we could walk across their backs to the other side…” — This is the name and meaning of this button robe.


Using dark Mother-of-Pearl buttons, antique fishing lures and 100% wool appliqued on wool, Clarissa added Czech crystal beads to the tips of the hooks…for safety purposes!

Back in the mid-90’s, I began collecting antique fishing lures.  I bought some from an elderly Swedish man at a garage sale on Saltspring Island, bought some from a garage sale in Juneau, bought some at antique stores wherever I happen to be and whenever I thought of it: in Oregon, Washington State, California and Colorado.  I had every intention of designing and creating a series of button robes embellished with the antique lures. In my vision, the button robes were in honor of all our fishermen from any culture out there in the open ocean, big and small rivers and tiny creeks, all fishing for their supper, their families, and for putting up for winter.


The border of Mother-of-Pearl “salmon eggs” and MOP simulated “fishing hooks” and antique fishing lures — copyright 2015, Clarissa Rizal

Finally, 4 weeks later, I completed the robe today!  The entire time I worked on this robe, I thought of my father and my two older brothers who all were commercial fisherman and fished for themselves, family, friends and community.  And of course, I thought of my mother whose statement she made over 50 years ago was still remembered by her eldest daughter who just had to name a robe in honor of her childhood recollection.  Here’s to my Mom, Dad, Brothers, and all who love salmon fishing!


“Haa Shagoon” Filmed in Haines, Alaska

"Haa Shagoon" film written, directed and produced by Joseph Kawaky - 1981

“Haa Shagoon” film written, directed and produced by Joseph Kawaky – 1981

I was not even 25 years old when this film was shot.  In the Summer of 1980, because of sudden news of a death of a dear love, I  was in Haines on a private retreat in a small cabin on Paradise Cove with my then 9-month-old daughter, Lily Hope.  I remember hearing about the struggles the local Tlingit were having with the local, state and federal governments regarding the Native rights and use of the Chilkoot Lake and River.  It was an emotional time for many of the local Tlingits.  Over the next couple of decades, I had come to know many of the folks in this film.  I watched this film many years ago when it first came out in 1981, just a year after it was filmed.  I bought this copy for only $10 at the Sealaska Heritage Institute retail shop and watched it again.  All but one or two of the elders in the film have all passed.  It was emotional 34 years ago as it was today.

An Afternoon in Taku Harbor


Most likely the longest swings in the Northwest Coast at least 50 feet up; the girls swing as if it’s “normal…”

My father was a local fisherman for many years.  He started out in the early 50’s up in Kodiak and Kenai until Rudy Govina told him that the “women are better” in Tlingit territory, so my father sailed his seiner to the Glacier Bay area which included Haines, Excursion Inlet, Hoonah Gustavus and on the outskirts, Juneau.  Though now and then I remember him talking about Taku Harbor.  He never took us there; he said it was not suited for humans because it was too far away for a man with a family.  He wanted us little kids to be safe.  I never knew where or how far Taku Harbor was, I just knew that it was South of Juneau “all the way down till you almost hit the land straight in front of you but immediately make a left and then it’s up there a little ways and make another left…”  uh, huh…those were the instructions from a fisherman, I kid you not, long time ago.  So those directions are exactly what we did on the MV Princeton Hall sail…!


James Crippen catches himself a bull kelp; now what’s he gonna do with it?

Not much goes on in Taku Harbor.  There’s an old cabin once inhabited by the late Tiger Olson, an elder who made a living doing his own thing.  There’s a cabin run by the Forest Service too that people can rent by the day, week, month.


Unbeknownst to the rest of us, James plays the digeridoo so it was only natural he make one out of the bull kelp

As a full-time artist, I go through intense periods of a face-paced life.  This Summer was an extreme example of that.  I generally work at least 12 hours a day, though up to 18 hour days depending on whether or not a deadline (or several deadlines) is approaching.  I never live the same day, month or year, twice.  There is no routine other than “what next?”.  Just when I think I have got a routine down, there’s always something that disrupts it.  I used to get bent out of shape when something changed; after many, many years, I have learned to go with the flow.  It’s the nature of the beast.

So what does jumping a sail for a day have to do with being an artist?


Alice Taft tries her hand (or ought I say “mouth!?” at playing the digeridoo…!

Sailing with folks I know but haven’t spent any time with is an excellent balance for spending a lot of alone time creating works holed up in my studio for days, weeks and sometimes months.  In Colorado, my life is a high contrast to my time in Alaska and Yukon (and anywhere else outside of my studio doors for that matter).  I have no social life in Colorado; there’s a reason for that.  I made it that way because it’s the only way I can get any work done.  Frankly, I need a break from people, places and things!

I grew up on the ocean, and as a young girl I went fishing with my father.  There’s comfort and serenity being on the ocean.  It’s a time of relaxation, rejuvenation and inspiration.  It’s one of the ways I tone my energy down a few notches so I can quiet down and get to know myself!  Lol.


Heading back to the MV Princeton Hall

I’ll be heading back to my studio in Colorado the first of September.  I’ve had quite the Spring/Summer in Alaska and Yukon; I am privileged to be able to choose a life as such.  No, it is not perfect, however, I am happy dong and being what I do and be.  It’s a good life.  Especially when I have the once-in-a-lifetime to board a boat I’ve admired since a little kid playing at the docks:  the Princeton Hall.

A Day Sail on the MV Princeton Hall

MV Princeton Hall

The famous MV Princeton Hall, Aurora Harbor, Juneau, Alaska – August 2015

This was the sail of my lifetime.  Just a one-day sail.  I grew up seeing this classic wooden boat and had always admired the lines and grace by which it sailed.  50 years later, and with an overnight notice, I had the opportunity to drop all else and jump the sail.  I had also made a decision that when I board this beauty, I would begin my journey into learning how to speak the native tongue of my mother’s:  Tlingit.  Little did I know that almost every adult on board either spoke the language fluently or they were learners and teachers of the language!

Princeton Hall

Bessie Coolie, Nora Dauenhauer, her daughter Della Florendo, and Marsha Hotch

It was obvious to me that I am to learn my language as the syncronicity of me being aboard the ship of language instructors cannot be denied.  The women above are keepers and sharers of the language.


Additional visitors on board this day sail of which I did not catch the names, however, I had to show the galley!


Norma Shorty (3 young gals I did not catch their names), Kathy Ruddy


Kathy Ruddy, James Crippen, his boss ?, and Alice Taft

Kathy Ruddy is the owner of this wonderful ship; she invited every person on board for this one-day sail.  She provided a brief history of the making of this boat built in Sitka by a crew of woodworkers under the guidance of Andrew Hope I in 1942 commissioned by the Presbyterian Church as their missionary travel took them to every small community in Southeast Alaska for 20 years (until the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system came into being).


“The History of Fort Durham in Taku Harbor” by Wallace (Wally) C. Olson


Sailing south under the Juneau-Douglas bridge


The southern tip of Douglas Island called “Marmion Island” which as a child in the 60’s my father would take our entire family and camp out just to the right of that tiny peninsula – there was once a small cabin directly at the tree line; instead of camping in a wall tent, we camped in the cabin


The bow is filled with visitors as we come into Taku Harbor


Taku Harbor


Bessie Coolie tells Norma and I that her father was born here in Taku Harbor; she had never been to his birth place until this day


The bow of the beautifully-crafted MV Princeton Hall docked at Taku Harbor


Pulling away from Taku Harbor, we sail into the famous mist as we turn into Gastineau Channel


This is where the sky meets ocean and we are the “in-betweeners”


James Crippen whittles away at a piece of alder wood


So above not necessarily so below


More Alaskan ocean and sky scenery


More fabulous landscape of sky, mountains, mist and sea…


Sailing down Gastineau Channel: Douglas Island on the left, and the town of Juneau at the base of Mt. Juneau on the right


Returning to space A-2 at the Aurora Harbor, Juneau, Alaska