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!


“Sharing Our Knowledge” Clan Conference 2015

In the opening ceremonies, Bob Sam places Chilkat robe over Ed Kunz's shoulders

In the “Warming of Hands” opening ceremonies, Bob Sam places Chilkat robe over Ed Kunz’s shoulders

On the evening of Wednesday, October 28th, clan leaders welcomed participants in the “Warming of Hands” ceremony to kick off another Clan Conference of Tsimpshian, Haida and Tlingit Tribes and Clans.  The audience included academics and artists from throughout Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.  For the third year, Chilkat weavers, Ravenstail weavers, cedar bark weavers and spruceroot weavers gathered together to demonstrate and present their work in the lobby of Centennial Hall in Juneau, Alaska.


Yarrow Vaara and her mother Suzi Williams attend the opening ceremony “Warming of Hands” the night before the Clan Conference 2015 begins

During the four days that followed, nearly 100 presentations and workshops were staged, with a Thursday luncheon to honor philosopher, actor, clan leader Walter Porter, and evenings dedicated to traditional music and dance, oratory, poetry readings and a Friday-night dinner honoring the late scholar, writer and poet Richard Dauenhauer.


Chilkat robes and one Ravenstail robe (woven by none other) await the time to dance

The Clan Conference was the latest in the series of what has become the premier scholarly gathering for historians, academics, elders, clan leaders, artists and youth who are involved in the study and documentation of Southeast Alaska Native history, culture and language.


Elder carver Nathan Jackson (R) and his right hand man, Steve Brown

Earlier Clan Conferences were held in Haines & Klukwan (1993), Sitka (1995), Ketchikan (1996), Sitka (1997 and 2007), and the last four in 2009, 2011, 2013, and this year were all held in Juneau.


Master of Ceremonies Harold Jacobs tells a humorous introduction of elders Percy Kunz (L) and Marie Olsen (R) — Notice Harold’s Chilkat top hat!

Previous gatherings were organized by the late Andrew Hope III.  For the 2007 conference, Hope was joined by curator Steve Henrikson (University of Alaska/ Alaska State Museum) and anthropologist Sergei Kan (Dartmouth College), who served as co-organizers.  Since Andy Hope’s passing in 2008, the most recent clan conferences have been spearheaded by his brother, Gerry Hope, along with a couple of his best friends Dick and Nora Dauenhauer, and long-time friend Peter Metcalfe, collegues Alice Taff and Sergei Kahn, and Andy’s son Ishmael Hope.


Hans Chester lends support to elder Selina Everson giving the closing prayer at the “Warming of Hands” ceremony

For more information:


Norma Shorty, Florence Sheakley, Emma Shorty and Connie Munro


Ricky Tagaban, Clarissa Rizal and Suzi Williams discuss the differences of using the traditional mountain goat wool (in Suzi’s hand) as opposed to the merino wool


Scholars Aldona Jonaitis and Eric Holzinger visit a couple of the weavers who are demonstrating at the Clan Conference including Suzi Williams, Yarrow Vaara, Ricky Tagaban, Jean Lampe, Lily Hope and Clarissa Rizal


Yarrow, Suzi and Ricky share their knowledge of weaving and spinning techniques


Yarrow Vaara shows the side braids of “Copper Child” 5-piece Chilkat ensemble (woven by Clarissa Rizal)


Lily Hope has had a long day at day one of the Clan Conference


Ricky Tagaban tugs at a piece of mountain goat hide and tells us that it is easier to spin short pieces of mountain goat wool than longer pieces of merino wool for our warp


Irene Jean Lampe tells a weaving story to local weavers Karen Taug and Catrina Mitchell


Suzi Williams gives a presentation on the spiritual aspects of Chilkat weaving


Buddies Tong Tengs (maker of Chilkat cones) and Preston Singletary (glass blower)


Eric Holzinger and Bob Starboard examine the original carving and the digital 3-D replica of identical dance staffs


Two up-and-coming-elders Harold Jacobs and Fred White


Deana Dartt, Native American Curator at the Portland Art Museum presents the outline for PAM’s first Tlingit art exhibit slated for 2017 — other Museum staff panelists also include Steven Henrikson, Kate Bunn-Marcuse and Barbara Brotherton


Ricky Tagaban and Michael Hoyt discuss the latest cultural presentation at the Clan Conference while “Little Watchman” and “Chilkat Child” listen up!


At the Walter Porter Memorial luncheon held on the first day of the Clan Conference, Byron Mallott talks about his childhood growing up with Walter in Yakutat


Lance Twitchell gives an introduction of the film he directed/produced on Nora and Dick Dauenhauer


At the Richard Dauenhauer memorial dinner held the second night of the Clan Conference, the audience watches the film about the Dauenhauers by Lance Twitchell


Long time friend and collegue of Dick Dauenhauer: Walter Krauss provided some humor of the courtship of Dick and Nora Dauenhauer over 40 years ago


Ishamel Hope recites a poem written by Dick Dauenhauer


With Clan Conference organizers Peter Metcalfe and Gerry Hope, and presenters Ishmael Hope and Lance Twitchell, Steve Langdon remembers Dick Dauenhauer


Sergei Kahn remembers Dick Dauenhauer


Dick’s beloved wife, Nora Dauenhauer takes a bow


In her partial Halloween costume and make-up, Clarissa Rizal stands between two Alaskan scholars: Father Michael Oleska and Sergei Kahn


Clan Conference organizers (?, Kathy Ruddy, Alice Taft, David Katzeek, Harold Jacobs and Sergei Kahn) allow Ishmael Hope to give the the closing speech during the Clan Conference wrap-up


“Northwest By Southwest II” Buttonrobe


A very similar version of the original robe of the same name minus the #2 of “Northwest By Southwest II” button robe, recently completed by Clarissa Rizal

This is a photo of the original buttonrobe entitled “Northwest by Southwest” made in 1999.  This is my most favorite button robe I’ve ever designed and made.  This past summer, my son-in-law gave me some of the same background fabric that he found while searching for blankets on eBay.   This same fabric I bought nearly 30 years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico,  so I was absolutely thrilled to have enough to make a second “NW x SW” button robe, hence the name “NW x SW II…!”

Clarissa irons "NW x SW II" button robe with her brand new "Rowenta" Steamer Iron

Catch a close-up of the fabric detail as Clarissa irons “NW x SW II” button robe with her brand new “Rowenta” Steamer Iron

If you are interested in purchasing this robe, just give me a holler!  I will have this robe available for sale at the Clan Conference in Juneau next weekend, October 28-November 1st.  If a happy buyer does not snatch it up during the conference, I will have it available for viewing and sale at the Haa Shagoon Gallery in Juneau.  Remember:  Christmas is coming!

“Chilkat Blankets: Artistic Masterpieces”


The catalogue for the “Chilkat Blankets: Artistic Masterpieces” exhibit of antique Chilkat robes held in private collections in the U.S. recently displayed at the Antique Native American Art Show & Sale at El Museo De Santa Fe this past August 2015

I have a limited 10 copies of these books available for sale at my booth during the Clan Conference held Wednesday, October 28th through Sunday, November 1st at Centennial Hall in Juneau, Alaska.  They are excellent study reference, especially since we will not see these robes in museums because they are in private collections.  They are $25/each


I interpret this design as the  “Diving White Raven Amongst the Bullkelp” image woven in this antique Chilkat robe


Clarissa Wins Best of Class in Textiles

Clarissa points to her Best of Class ribbon in Textiles of her "Chilkat Child", a 5-piece handwoven ensemble

In her booth at the Cherokee Art Market, Clarissa shows her Best of Class ribbon in Textiles of her “Chilkat Child”, a 5-piece handwoven ceremonial ensemble – The award amount helped Clarissa break even with this show’s expenses–yay!

The 10th Annual Cherokee Art Market announces the Best of Show and Best of Class award winners; to read the list, click here

Sho Sho Esquiro and Clarissa Rizal Exhibit


Miranda Belarde-Lewis, Sho Sho Esquiro and Clarissa Rizal plan the floor layout of their next year’s October 2016 exhibit at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, B.C.

A year after the initial idea of an exhibit featuring traditional and contemporary Northwest Coast regalia and clothing with Sho Sho Esquiro and Clarissa Rizal, we finally met up at the house of Curator Miranda Belarde-Lewis to review the basics of the exhibit!

The exhibit opens at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, B.C., Canada next year in October and will run for approximately 5 months.  We will be featuring a total of 20 to 30 individual ensembles of which during opening night only will be modeled with the accompaniment of traditional songs set to Preston Singletary’s latest jazz funk band called “Ku’eex.”  Directly after opening night, the ensembles will be placed on their respective mannequins.

Stay tuned for updates on the progress of our exhibit!


Curator Miranda Belarde-Lewis, Contemporary clothing designer Sho Sho Esquiro, and Ceremonial regalia-maker, Clarissa Rizal


Site Visit For Tlingit Artists Gathering


One of the most up-town covered, outdoor fire pit shelter seats approximately 150 people in a cozy, intimate setting

A little over 10 years ago, when Preston and I had been talking about putting together the first gathering of Northwest Coast Artists to be held during Celebration 2006 in Juneau, Alaska, he had mentioned Islandwood retreat learning center on Bainbridge Island, Washington State as a possible location.  He felt that the location of this beautiful retreat in a heavily wooded forest would  foster a networking of  life-long friendships, kindle collaborations, and create a very tight group of artists where we could truly focus on any art and cultural issues in a very real way.  10 years and 2 Northwest Coast Native artists gatherings later, we finally made it a point to visit IslandWood yesterday; it was obvious to me during this site visit why Preston insisted on IslandWood as the place for conducting next year’s gathering of Tlingit artists – the location of this retreat is astounding!

The purpose of this gathering of Tlingit artists is to establish a loose coalition of mentors to consciously create a mentorship “guide” for our younger generations so we continue to endorse our future artists in whatever field they work.


The warmth of solid oak and maple dining room

There are five, dedicated, professional Tlingit artists who are at the helm of helping to organize this retreat.  They include:  Sue and Israel Shotridge, Donna Beaver Pizzarelli, Preston Singletary and myself.

At this time, Artstream Alaska and the Evergreen Longhouse are two organizations who will help sponsor this gathering.

We will be re-vamping the Artstream Alaska website where we will have information on the gathering.  The goal for website completion is by November this year.

In the meantime, although all of us work together on all aspects of organizing this gathering, we each have organically “fallen into our main roles.”   Sue and Israel works on cultural values and the administration, Preston works on fundraising, Donna gathers materials to eventually design and create the website, and during my travels, I have been networking and collecting names of Tlingit artists.


Standing at the entry to Islandwood’s main hall, program coordinators L to R: Clarissa Rizal, Preston Singletary, Swil Kanim, Sue Shotridge (missing: Donna Beaver Pizzarelli)

At first we were going to invite any and all Northwest Coast artists from any background and tribe.  Then we got to thinking about the differences in some of the values and we thought the gathering will already be challenging enough with the variety of egos, that we would like to keep it simple.  We will be inviting only Tlingit artists for this gathering.  We envision other tribes will be inspired to create their own mentorship program for their next generations.


The main lobby before the “Great Hall…”

IslandWood’s Story:

IslandWood is a nationally recognized outdoor learning center located across Puget Sound from Seattle’s urban center.  IslandWood’s mission is to provide exceptional learning experiences and to inspire lifelong environmental and community stewardship.  Each year, more than 25,000 people participate in IslandWood’s programs on the 225-acre campus and in communities throughout the region.  In addition to our school programs, IslandWood offers a graduate program in partnership with the University of Washington, summer camps, and community programs for children and adults.  Revenue from conferences and retreats and contributions from the community enable IslandWood to underwrite our outdoor education programs for children from low-income communities.

For more information on IslandWood, you may visit their website at:


Islandwood Program Director Christine welcomes the four of us to tour the small portion of the 250-acre landscape

As I mentioned earlier, Artstream Alaska will be our main sponsor for this project.  When the re-vamped website is launched by November 1st, we will be inviting selected Tlingit artists to check out all the information to see if they would like to participate.  We are inviting Tlingit artists based on their artistic merit, their involvement in the arts and culture and their obvious concern for the health and well-being of our people.


Sue Shotridge and Preston Singletary walk one of the many paths through the woods on the Islandwood Retreat

Currently, the dates for this 3-day  Tlingit Mentorship Retreat is set for next year, September 16 through the 18th, 2016.  This will be a retreat.  We ask that each artist make a clear commitment all 3 days and nights.  We encourage artists to book any outside activities (i.e. visit family and friends in the Seattle area, shopping, sightseeing, etc.)  before or after the 3 days.


Just outside Islandwood’s “Great Room”

Once the Artstream website is re-vamped and we’ve got our ducks in order (goal is November 1st), we will send out our invites to our Tlingit artists pointing them to read about our mission statement, the confirmed dates and times, the agenda of the mentorship project, the cultural leaders who will be helping to guide this 3-day event, and the list of artists who will be committing to attend this historical event.


Islandwood’s Welcome plaque just before the shed of many hand carts

Our space has a capacity limit of up to 50 artists.   The room and board is covered for each artist attending all 3 days.   At this time, we are seeking funds to help pay up to $250 (or less) for each artist’s travel expenses.  This will be invitation only, though we are open right now to receive names and contact info of anyone who you may know who fits the bill for a Tlingit mentor.

Stay tuned!


Swil Kanim and Preston Singletary discuss the meaning of being a mentor


Mentorship project coordinators L to R: Swil Kanim, Sue Shotridge, Preston Singletary, Clarissa Rizal


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?

Clarissa’s Interview for New Mexico PBS “Colores”

Clarissa weaves "Copper Man" Ravenstail ceremonial dance robe - 2006

Clarissa weaves “Copper Man” Ravenstail ceremonial dance robe – 2006

The New Mexico PBS “Colores” television series recently posted their youtube video clip on me and my work.  Most of the film clips was shot by my son, Kahlil Hudson, with in-studio interview by KTOO radio station in Juneau, and most of the still shots of my Chilkat and button blanket robes were photographed by Jeff Laydon.   The video clip is about 8 minutes:  

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!