“No Red in Chilkat Weaving…” Maria Ackerman Miller

Cheap Chilkat weaving in colors of red (a taboo), black, turquoise and cream — by Clarissa Rizal 1985

30 years ago, when there were less than a handful of weavers, I thought I’d try my hand at Chilkat weaving without an instructor.   I wove this Chilkat sampler using cheap clothesline for warp and commercial 4-ply black, turquoise, cream and red (a taboo) weft yarns.  Instead of using the traditional yellow, I thought red would be nifty because the rest of our traditional artwork uses these same colors, so why not?

According to a Chilkat weaving elder from Haines, Alaska, the late Maria Ackerman Miller warned me not to use red in the weaving  because it signifies the weaver as being egotistical.  Both Maria and the late Jennie Thlunaut said weavers only use red for example in the tongue of a wolf.

Cotton clothesline used as warp for a Chilkat sampler by Clarissa Rizal — 1985

I have never publicly shown this weaving until now.  I’ve hidden it for 30 years and it is now coming out of the closet.  I have reasons for this.   I want to show an example of one of my very first attempts at Chilkat weaving, where I didn’t have some one to help “show me the way” nor receive proper instruction on using fine, traditional materials or to teach me the taboos…yet (not until my apprenticeship with Jennie Thlunaut the following year in 1986).  I show this sampler here also to show any beginner students of Chilkat weaving to have compassion for self as you learn the intricacies of weaving in this style; you WILL become a better weaver — a few of us start out as perfect weavers, others like myself do not!  Not until last year have I felt like I know what I am doing in Chilkat weaving… 30 years later!  hello!

I also wanted to show my tendency to get a big head, especially when I was younger!

Teachings such as the ones I received from Maria Miller Ackerman and Jennie Thlunaut are invaluable; they help keep us on the right “spiritual” path.  Our elders will tell us many things we do not understand, though we have the respect to follow through with their words and their example without question.  In our culture, we do not ask the question “why?”  A respectful Native (or non-Native) person will heed an elder’s lead.

It is good to be humbled now and then.  Sometimes we do get big-headed; we forget the words of our Native mentors, though there are things that bring us back to “who we are.”

Happy 34th to Eldest Daughter, Lily Hope

Lily Lalanya Hudson Hope and her mother, Clarissa – December 2013 – Juneau, Alaskaphoto by Kelly Burnett

The moment Lily was born the morning of January 30, 1980, my condemning, self-judgments began to cease.  This thing called “love of self” was felt in every cell of my body; I remember it quite well.  I feel this is the gift she gave to her mother and this is the gift she gives to the rest of the world – it is also the gift in and of herself.

Lily is all kinds of things, but first and foremost the past six years, she is a mother of two of my favorite people in the world, Bette (Grandma’s nickname for her is “SikiKwaan”) and Louis (Grandma’s nickname for him is “Ajuju”).  She enjoys  homeschooling her kids; being a full-time mother right now is her favorite job, though for her sanity, she has her own weaving/sewing/beadworking room!

Lily has done all kinds of jobs, she always went “up the ladder” in no time due to her organizational abilities, her mathematical mind and her love to just be busy making people happy.  When she was 18, after only a month, she became the manager of McDonald’s in Pagosa Springs, Colorado; then at 20 she became the Marketing Director for Whole Foods in Santa Fe, New Mexico and a beadwork artist for an internationally-famous mask-maker out of New Orleans.  When she returned to her hometown of Juneau, Alaska 10 years ago to help take care of her Grandma Irene, she was led back into her Native roots.

She received her Bachelors Degree from the University of Alaska Southeast in 2005.  By way of Perseverance Theatre in Douglas, she became an actress and with the assistance of her Grandpa Bob Hudson attended the San Francisco School of Acting.  She also became an award-winning storyteller, winning top awards in the All-Alaska Storytelling competition; she and her husband, Ishmael Hope have performed at the Smithsonian.   She got back into Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving and won 1st Place for the 4-piece, child-size woven ensemble in the Traditional Arts category of the Sealaska Juried Art Show.  She used to have a website under Lily Hudson, but her name changed when she married Ishmael and she hasn’t gotten her younger sister, Ursala the web-designer to create a new website just yet.  Although you can visit Ishmael’s superb website at:  www.alaskanativestoryteller.com

Ishmael, Lily and their two children live happily  in Douglas, Alaska.

Happy Birthday, my Nina!

Chilkat “Seaweed” for Klukwan’s Cultural Center Fundraiser

Weaving the beginning of the “seaweed” Chilkat weaving I designed for a small handbag

The village of Klukwan, Alaska is hosting a fundraiser to assist in the construction of their Cultural Center.  This even is held next week on December 7th at the Burke Museum, University of Washington State, in Seattle.  Click here for more information on the cultural center and see other artists’ donations for the fundraiser.

Yesterday I began weaving this Chilkat “seaweed” bag to donate for the fundraiser.  I intend to finish it by Saturday’s 2pm mail out deadline.  I intended to have it completed by the first of this month but many unforeseen circumstances arose; slowed me down a bit.  At times like these, I call myself “Cutting-It-Close Clarissa.”

Later this week, I will post photos of the completed project; stay tuned!


What are Chilkat “Warp Sticks?”

Chilkat warp stick

Chilkat “warp sticks” are an easy device for measuring warp for your projects.  This “traditional” warp stick (shown above) was fashioned directly from Jennie Thluntau’s warp stick.  The stick measures approximately 53″ high x 2″ wide x 1″ thick.

Chilkat Warp Stick notches are cut at 1″ intervals

The warp sticks are generally made of wood with notches at 1″ intervals.  There are two groups of 1″ notches:  The group of longer lengths are for a standard size Chilkat robe; the shorter group of lengths is for a standard size Chilkat apron.

Vanessa Morgan measures her warp lengths on her brand new Chilkat Warp Stick!

Using a piece of cardboard as another alternative for a Chilkat “warp stick” – a piece of cardboard cut to the desired length of a weaving project, you wrap your warp around and around and cut only one end of all the warp – another one of Jennie Thlunaut’s “tricks-of-the-trade”

I hope you are enjoying the various “tricks-of-the-trade” shared with you the past couple of weeks – please stay tuned for additional ones within the next couple of months….thanks for visiting!


Chilkat/Ravenstail Weavers’ Gathering in Whitehorse

Hans Chester (in the background) brought out a Chilkat robe in a protected container to show to the 2003 Chilkat Weavers’ Gathering of 2003 including, L to R: Shgen George, Catrina Mitchell, Pat Walker, the late Elaine Etukeok, elder Bessie Coolie, Yarrow Vaara, Darlene See and Liana Wallace – July 2003

I am happy to announce a Chilkat/Ravenstail Weavers’ Gathering in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory held during the fabulous Adaka Festival at the new Kwaan Lin Dun Cultural Center on the Yukon River June 21-26, 2013.  The Festival program includes:  a gallery exhibition, artist demonstration tent, traditional and contemporary Indigenous music and dance, fashion, workshops, cultural presentations and more.  Festival coordinators are currently working on this year’s line-up however you may check out last year’s information on the week-long Adaka Festival on their website at:   http://www.adakafestival.ca/

Clarissa Rizal and Darlene See – the best part about the Weavers’ Gatherings is the sharing of laughter…it’s real good Chilkat medicine!

The Chilkat/Ravenstail Weavers’ Gathering is a wonderful venue where weavers from all levels of skill congregate to share in techniques, tricks-of-the-trade, establish life-long friends and gain spiritual and emotional support just by being together!   Past Gatherings have been held in Hoonah, Juneau, Sitka, Haines, Alert Bay, Prince Rupert, and Pagosa Springs.  We are excited to be hosted in Whitehorse.  Chilkat and Ravenstail weaver, Ann Smith, Wolf Clan of the Kwaan Lin Dun people in Whitehorse, will be our local weaver  “ambassador.”

Ann Smith begins weaving a Ravenstail robe while a Navajo weaver looks on – she is demonstrating weaving at the Heard Museum’s Indian Art Fair & Market – March 2003

The Gathering  will be held in the Cultural Center’s Elder’s Room kitty-corner on the left from the main hall where all the festival performances will be held.  The room is all glass allowing an ample amount of natural light.

The Adaka Festival Co-Executive Producer, Charlene Alexander is very excited about hosting the Weavers’ Gathering as part of their festival activities this year.  Currently, Charlene is working on finding a large house where all of us may stay, and/or depending on number of participants, she will find locals who are willing to host us.  However, if you need your space and privacy, there are several hotels and motels available, and I would suggest you book sooner rather than later.

As in the past, each weaver is responsible for their transportation to and from the Gathering.  If you want grant assistance, applications for Alaskan residents may be obtained at the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Rasmuson Foundation are due in just three weeks this coming March 1st.   Also the New England Foundation for the Arts’ Native Arts Program has a travel grant with the stipulation that they must receive your application 2 months before travel date.  It’s a fairly simple application and these people are helpful and generous.  (In the past four years, I have applied and received this travel grant twice.)  Because I am not Canadian, I am not familiar with the Canadian grants available, but I KNOW they are out there!  Please do whatever it takes to help one another out in attending this wonderful Festival and Gathering!

If you are traveling by car, think about  coordinating your travel plans with other weavers, just in case several of you want to car pool a drive from Haines or Skagway up to Whitehorse or a carpool from British Columbia.  Spread the word about this Gathering!

You may take part for the entire week, or just for a few days or weekend – it’s up to your time and dime.

Bring whatever project you have on your loom, however, if you do not have a project and would like to begin one, gather your materials together to begin one.  At past Gatherings, there is always someone who will assist you.

I will be conducting a weaving workshop during the Adaka Festival; I will mainly focus on teaching beginner students, however, if you want to brush up on your skills or obtain tricks-of-the-trade, you are welcome to attend.

If you need warp to begin your new project, you may place your order with me; I formed the Warped Bank, a team of people who spend part of their time spinning Chilkat and Ravenstail warp!!

If you have any questions about the Adaka Festival, please contact Charlene Alexander – her email address is:  calexander@northwestel.net

If you have any questions, suggestions, concerns, etc. about the Weavers’ Gathering, please contact me via email at:  clarissa@www.clarissarizal.com

I know many of us have time constraints due to jobs, family, fishing, etc.   Just remember, you are not required to attend the Gathering during the entire week of the Festival; you may attend for a day or two if that is all your schedule allows.

We look forward to seeing you at the Gathering and Festival!

Buttonblanket Robe-making at Raven’s Nest Gallery

Just enough room to fit 7 students learning to create a buttonblanket robe sampler in the cozy Raven’s Nest Gallery owned and operated by Sue and Israel Shotridge on Vashon Island, Washington State

Almost 30 years I’ve been designing and creating button robes.  It never occurred to me to teach a class until Sue Shotridge dropped the first hint a couple of months ago.  She bugged me some more until she got a real commitment.  Golly, I’m sure thankful she insisted.  As usual, like anything a teacher teaches, we just get better at it.  With the tricks-of-the-trade I learned from my students, I shoulda been teaching classes long time ago!

Tools of the trade: thin sock filled with baby powder, pounce wheel, rotary cutter, snip scissors, Elmer’s glue, paper pattern, straight edge, antique mother-of-pearl buttons and of course, your fabric…!

The pounce wheel creates tiny holes along the design lines which will allow the baby powder to filter through onto the wool

Cindy Leask using the rotary cutter to cut the pattern in her black wool

…cutting out the design. The entire class pretty much kept up with one another…impressive!

A few of the students worked late into the evening…

After sewing down the design with a blanket stitch, the buttons are carefully laid out

Each button is carefully glued in place. This trick I learned from the late Agnes Thlunaut Belllinger back in the late ’70s when I never even thought of making robes – one day during dance practice, out of the sky blue, Agnes said “…Clarissa, when you are making button robes, do the layout of all the buttons and then one-by-one glue each carefully with Elmer’s glue…” Little did she know I couldn’t stand sewing buttons onto even a shirt let alone a robe with hundreds of buttons, but somewhere along the line, she musta known what my spirit many years later would go into…

It was great to see enthusiastic students play with buttons…

Clarissa’s first button blanket-making class – L to R: Clarissa, Anne Kelly, Michelle Ruelas, Paul Barry, Marilynn Short, Cindy Leask, and Steven Seto


Clarissa’s Art Appreciation Class Finals Assignment: A Virtual Exhibit

The following is my Finals Project for my  Art Appreciation online class this semester with the University of Alaska Southeast with Professor Karen Meizner from Sitka/Haines.   We were instructed to create our own online museum exhibit, with at least 12 works of art.  (In my opinion, it’s like we are playing “curator” of the exhibit, oh boy!)  With the guidelines kept in mind, I explain my choice works of art, why the works are appealing, and how it affects my personal and/or business life, and my personal “vision.”   I describe the relationships these works have with each other and why I have placed the particular objects near or far from each other, including descriptive labels (for the imaginary exhibit and in this case, for my virtual audience), and what I expect my audience and  I will gain from this exhibit.

A full-time artist for almost 35 years, I have worked in a variety of mediums, most recently painting and collage.  Throughout the years, naturally I have been inspired by a variety of artists such as Haida artist Robert Davidson, Tahltan Tlingit artist Dempsey Bob, Haida artist Delores Churchill, and Tlingit Chilkat weaving teacher Jennie Thlunaut.  These artists helped set the traditional foundation of my work from which I sprang into creating contemporary works.   In the late 1990’s I began to dabble in painting and collage,  introduced by my friend and artist, Cecil Touchon.  I have worked in the style of Tlingit Northwest Coast form line art in silkscreened images, Native ceremonial regalia in Chilkat and Ravenstail weavings,  button blankets, and cedar bark weaving.  Cecil’s cubist-style works were inspiring and encouraged me to take a leap into creating cubist-influenced Northwest Coast paintings.

This exhibit leads the viewer to experience the influences of Tlingit and Western cross-cultural blends and the influence of other artists’ work in my present day work featuring 5 contemporary pieces.  I feature seven artists 2 works each who have, and continue to,  influence my present-day and future work.   Six are presently living, some of which I personally know; others include colorful works by German Cubist nature artist Franz Marc (1880-1916) and I aspire to create works incorporating the style of South American artist Teodoro Reque Liza, where I want to learn how to bring more fractured light and geometry into my paintings and collages.  Innovative Tlingit glass artist Preston Singletary introduced the glass medium to Native American artists; Nick Galanin also followed suit by introducing computerized digitally-cut masks made from books and Paul Bond’s oils on canvas paintings portray the spiritual essence and livelihood of human kind.  As I mentioned earlier, this exhibit is an example of how a variety of other artists’ work influenced my becoming a contemporary painter.

What do all these artists have in common?  1)  Vibrant color, textures and obvious fine talent; 2) Leading edge as a pioneer in their style during the time they “came out” of the woodwork;   3)  Courage to experiment and put themselves out there; 4)  A sense of playfulness included with a level of spirituality; and dedication to their families, work, community and nation.

I also include a sketch of the floor plan design for the exhibit.  The works of art is displayed in a simulated traditional clan house, with the opening at one end, and the triptych painting serves as a “house screen” at the opposite end.  Three levels of wood flooring step down to the simulated “firepit” in the center of the room where the “smokehole” (skylight) cast natural light onto the firepit.   Additional track lighting casts beams of light criss-crossing the main shaft of natural light from the “smokehole” above.  (See exhibit floor plan shown below for more detailed information on exact exhibit layout and lighting design.)

Welcome to my exhibit where I honor those who have helped lead me to where I am today as a traditionally contemporary artist, and the direction of where I wish to go with my imagery.  I also include links to view the other artist’s websites.  I present you the artists and a small sampling of their work.  –   Thank you for visiting.

"Hoisting Our Dreams Into the Light of Another Sun" by Paul Bond - 36" x 48" oil on canvas - 2011 - inspired from a line from a poem Paul wrote: "Ladened with the weight of a thousand squandered opportunities, we hoisted our dreams intot he light of another sun." It is about the dichotomy of our dreams as both the burdens, as well as the things that make our lives worth living. Every one of us has unrealized desires. When they are ignored or not followed out of fear that we cannot achieve or don't deserve them, our lives are tethered to an unfulfilled burden. On the contrary, when we pursue those dreams they immediately lift our spirits and give new meaning to our lives in unimaginably miraculous ways."

"Birthing A New God" - Paul Bond - oil on canvas - 48"x48"

Paul Bond’s images can evoke immediate responses of happiness and mysterious wonderment putting the viewer in touch with the spiritual aspect of life creating a pure communication between artist and viewer.  His painterly style is similar to Norman Rockwell yet Bond incorporates symbolic images with less components in the overall composition.  I have kicked myself time and again when I once had the opportunity to purchase an original painting when I first met Paul in the late 1990’s in Colorado during a dinner party for local artists in the area.  For larger views of the above images and read about Paul, please visit his website at:  www.paulbondart.com

"Blue Horses" - Franz Marc - oil on canvas - 1911

"Rain" - Franz Marc - oil on canvas

Cubist artist Franz Marc was born in Munich, Germany in 1880.  He is best known for the intense nature mysticism of his colorful oil paintings of animals. Marc’s “Blue Horses” is one of my favorite images with the powerfully simplified, rounded outlines of the horses echoed in the rhythms of the landscape background creating a unified composition.  I was first introduced to Marc’s work when I visited a museum in New York City and was struck by his magnificent original painting, “Stalls.”  I immediately bought a book of his work; Franz Marc inspired me to paint!  A few years later, for an art class painting assignment, we were given the task of reproducing our favorite artist’s work on canvas.  I chose to paint “Rain.”  In the process, I learned so much about cubist design concept, choice and blending of colors, how to create textures and to play with technique to evoke emotion and mystery.

"Fusion Series 3054ct11" - Cecil Touchon - mixed media collage - 7"x5"

"Fusion Series 2999ct10a" - Cecil Touchon - 2010 - mixed media collage - 8" x 12"

Cecil Touchon mixed-media collages employ the use of new and antique papers and posters, maps, reject art prints and antique scripted ledgers, with a touch of color pencil or paints for shading and depth.   His bold, graphic style and playfulness lends one to believe that “hey, I can do this too!” (it worked on me…) – and this is the basis of his intent; he wants to show the world that what he can do, anyone can do too and actually make an income!  Cecil also works in acrylics on canvas, sometimes painting very large murals in a modern cubist style.  He recommends artist create at least one piece of art per day even if it is just a simple sketch; it is part of his philosophy and the way he sees it, you just never know when the work will  eventually put the bread and butter on the table.   It was Cecil’s  encouragement with my first painting lesson that led me into the world of becoming a painter.  You may visit Cecil’s extensive website at:  www.ceciltouchon.com

"Subtle Forms II" - Teodoro Reque Liza - oil on canvas - 39.4" w x 31.5" h - 2010

"They're Off" - Teodoro Reque Liza - 28.7" x 46.5" - oil on canvas - 2010

Teodoro Reque Liza’s work invokes a “coming home to” emotion with spirituality.  It’s as if his paintings reflect a world that actually exists all the time, we are just not aware of it like this painter.  He definitely employs a simple graphic sense profound in color, tones, hues and shafts of light – always with shafts of light!  Each image has a focal point, a vantage point or a horizon, simple in context and composition yet powerfully moving.  I discovered Teodoro’s work on line as I was roaming the internet (which I rarely ever do) to see what other modern cubist-influenced artists are out there.  Teodoro is from the land of the Andes.  His images reflect the cross-cultural influences of this modern day.  Yes, I aspire to meet this artist one day as I aspire to learn more how to paint in his style.

"What We Have Become" - Nicholas Galanin - book pages - 2008

"Imaginary Indian" - Nicholas Galanin - porcelain, wall paper, red cedar bark - 2010

Nick Galanin is one of the few young, Northwest Coast Native artists who is taking the art form style into another dimension and modality.  Strong in his quiet and modest mannerisms, his work always twists the minds of fellow artists, the Native community members, collectors, gallery owners and museum staff.   His work is true to Northwest Coast style and form combining traditional materials with non-traditional as in the mask made with book pages or the use of wall paper.  Nick was one of our artist panel speakers at our Northwest Coast Artists’ Gathering 2008 in Juneau, Alaska.  His manner of speaking is as eloquent as his works in any medium he works.  You may visit Nick at:  www.nicholasgalanin.com

"Oyster Catcher" - Preston Singletary - 20" - 2005

"Bentwood Box" - Preston Singletary - approximately 28"w x 20"h x 11"d - 2004

Back in 1980, Preston Singletary’s glass “cedar hat” hit magazines and newspapers throughout Alaska and Washington State.  He takes traditional art forms and creates them in glass.  Nobody had ever done this before.  Like Galanin, he too has expertise in the traditional form line art as well as the medium he chooses to work; his design work always has a story to tell – the process of how he creates his work, in itself, is always a story to tell!  Preston’s glassblown images reflect the innovation of modern-day influences using a modality not customarily traditional.  The photographs of Singletary’s work is a work of art in itself with the directional lighting casting shadows where need be to provide the viewer the depth of the “carved” surfaces of the glass work.   You may visit Preston’s work at:  www.prestonsingletary.com

Below are all works completed between 2000 – 2005.  They are my very first paintings on canvas (except for the traditional button robe which is shown as example of traditional art inspiring the contemporary painting).  Again, the intentions of including my works in this exhibit is to show my audience the variety of influences from other artists.

"Emergence" acrylic on curved canvas - Clarissa Rizal - based on button blanket robe of the same name - 2000

"Emergence" button blanket ceremonial robe - wool appliqued on wool w/mother-of-pearl buttons - 1992

"Totem Theory I & II" - acrylic on canvasses (there are two identical) free-standing "totem pole" - Clarissa Rizal - 6' h x 28" w - 2001

"Tlingit World Series (TWS) #052 - Clarissa Rizal - mixed media collage - 7"w x 9" h - 2001

"An Ocean Runs Through Us" triptych acrylic on canvas - Clarissa Rizal - 30"h x 10' w - 2005

As stated earlier in this post, below is the floor plan layout for the exhibit.  The works of art is displayed in a simulated traditional clan house, with the opening at one end, and the triptych painting “An Ocean Runs Through Us” serving as a “house screen” at the opposite end flanked by the two totem poles “Totemic Theory I & II”.  Three levels of wood flooring step down to the simulated “firepit” in the center of the room; the firepit is represented by Preston Singletary’s yellow “bentwood box”.  The above  “smokehole” (skylight) casts natural light serving as a spotlight for the art in the center of the room; additional track lighting casts beams of light criss-crossing the main shaft of natural light from the “smokehole” above; the criss-crossing of the light reflects the cubist-style paintings of shafts of light and color.  The “Bentwood Box” firepit is surrounded by Singletary’s “Oyster Catcher”,  Galanin’s Raven mask and book pages mask, each set on pedestals.  On the walls are the paintings and collages by the other artists.  Each painting is lit by an oil candle resting on a small shelf just below the painting.  Here’s the floor plan layout:

Exhibit Floor Plan of the Simulated Clan House - color coded... Violet: Paul Bond - Green: Cecil Touchon - Blue: Franz Marc - Red: Teodoro Reque Liza - Orange: Nicholas Galanin - Yellow: Preston Singletary - Gray: Clarissa Rizal

Thank you for imagining this virtual exhibit with me, and thanks for visiting!

Weaving Together Gallery Walk

A painting of Eileen Wagner weaving a cedar bark hat

A couple of weeks ago, Della Cheney contacted all of us who have attended the Sunday afternoon gathering of artists at Fireweed Place.  She said that the group was invited to display any of their work in a show down at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.  When she asked Fausto and I to help set up the exhibit last Thursday night, I figured we’d have a few things to show – little did I know we would fill up an entire room!  And little did I know that I had anything to show until Della asked me to show some of my paintings and prints.  Ha-eh!?

Cedar bark hat in display unit by Eileen Wagner, cedar bark baskets by Della Cheney, Chilkat leggings on loom by Fausto Paulo

We were also invited to demonstrate whatever projects we may have on our looms and hat forms, so about 9 of us showed up, set up tables down the middle of the exhibit room and demonstrated the weaving of cedar bark hatbands, baskets and hats, Ravenstail pouches, leggings and bags, and the weaving of a Chilkat robe.

Juneau Arts & Humanities Director, Nancy DeChurney talks with Della Cheney about this evening's Gallery Walk exhibit

There is a feeling of cooperation and inspiration as we all work individually on our own projects sitting side-by-side with a kind of quiet companionship, the stuff that is made of long-term relationships that will most likely last a lifetime whether we are conscious about our efforts or not.

Patrice DeAsis weaves a cedar bark hat while coils of cedar bark soak awaiting to be stripped

Debra O'Gara and Kendra Makaily enjoy Ricky Tagaban's Ravenstail weaving made of plastic garbage bag strips. In the display case are Percy Kunz's first Ravenstail weavings

The beginnings of a small Chilkat robe by Nora Dauenhauer, a pair of Chilkat leggings and Chilkat by Patrice DeAsis, "Totemic Theory" acrylic on canvas by Clarissa Rizal, a pair of moccasins by Percy Kunz, and button blanket bib by Mary Ebona Miller

Percy Kunz weaving a small cedar bark basket - her pair of sealskin and moosehide mittens are in the foreground - Fausto Paulo's cross-stitched Chilkat tunic is in the background

Della Cheney explains her robe design to Melinda Cavanaugh - Fausto Paulo to the left concentrates on his latest Ravenstail weaving

With assistance from his mother Lorraine DeAsis, Joshua prepares cedar bark strands for weaving by running the bands through the "stripper"

Armondo DeAsis and his brother Antonio, are weaving another round of cedar bark headbands

Folk Festival president Greg McLaughlin with wife, Lis Saya and inventor, John Ingalls hang out enjoying all who attended the exhibit

Irene Lampe and her son, Richard, are excited about "digging in" to the wonderful refreshments

Thank you to all who came out on this cold, slightly-blustery evening and joined us for a round of pleasant artistic company and a bite to eat.

Della Cheney Presents Basketry and Ravenstail Weaving at UAS

Della Cheney explains the Ravenstail robe design she created and wove as a ceremonial gift for her daughter who graduated from law school - the design includes the ANS letters in the top border

Born and raised in Kake, Alaska, Della Cheney has been residing in Juneau for the past couple of years.   Last Thursday of last week, February 10th, she gave a presentation at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau on cedar bark, spruce root and Ravenstail weaving.  She is the first of 6 artist presentations sponsored by the UAS this Spring.  (Pardon me for being late with this entry; I would have posted this blog entry earlier, but for some reason my “WordPress” program had been acting up for a week until today.)

UAS students, staff, faculty and the general public attended the presentation

Two years ago in July 2009, I had the privilege of learning how to weave a cedar bark hat when Della was teaching a class at the Teslin Cultural Center (Yukon Territory, Canada) during part of their Celebration 2009 activities.  I happened to be there because I was teaching a Chilkat/Ravenstail class.  During the first day of the class, while everyone was first experiencing the texture of cedar bark (for some the very first time), Della spoke of the spiritual connection between humans and the world about them including the bark of trees.  She spoke of the spirituality and attitude of the Native people when we harvest our materials and supplies for creating the functional things that were common in our every days lives many years ago, and how these things went by the wayside when we were adjusting to the Western ways of doing things and trying to integrate the two separate values which often times clashed.  Della spoke of things that had nothing to do with the technique of cedar bark weaving, but had everything to do with the lifeways, spirituality and attitude which all goes into creation.  I listened intently.  In all the native art classes I had ever taken over the years, whether taught by Native or non-Native, I had not come across anyone who spoke in a language that I understood; I could relate.   This resonated with me.  And when I looked about the room at the fellow students, I could see they were truly listening and were reminded of our innate spirituality born within each of us.  So from then on, I knew that anytime Della would be doing a presentation of any kind, I would do my best to be in her audience as here at UAS.  I want to hear more about the art of spirituality in the spirituality of creation.

Della explains the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS) design on the traditional "Koogeina" (sash) also reflected in the cedar bark hat (in her left hand) being woven by her student Eileen Wagner

The ANS Koogeina and hat amongst bundles of split spruce roots and maidenhair fern prepared for weaving baskets

After the presentation, Della Cheney and her student of basket weaving, Eileen Wagner, explain weaving patterns to audience members

Cedar bark roses, small and large are amongst the traditional cedar bark baskets and bundles of prepared split cedar

I am almost done with my hat that I started in her class..  I spent about three 10-hour days weaving the hat.  It has been on my wooden hat form for almost two years.  I haven’t touched it since the class.  However, Della hosts a weekly Sunday afternoon artists’ gathering for folks who want company while they are weaving cedar, spruce roots, Ravenstail or Chilkat; or they are bead working or sewing.  I am going to learn how to end the hat and I am excited.  Stay tuned; once I complete the hat, I will post it as an entry on this blog.

A couple of wooden hat forms show signs of being well-used. The hat form in the foreground was hand carved of one piece of red cedar by Della's brother and well-known artist, the late Norman L. Jackson, Sr. from Keex Kwaan ( Kake, Alaska). Eileen Wagner talks art with Ernestine Hayes, organizer of the UAS "Art of Place" artist presentations

The “Art of Place” presentations sponsored by the UAS, are held at the Juneau campus in the Glacier View room. (Where’s the Glacier View room?  It is in the building that has the library, however, the Glacier View room is kitty corner from the library; it is at the top floor right hand side.  When entering the building from the parking lot, the room is to the far right – once in the building,  ask for directions.)

All presentations are open to the public; they are all held on Thursdays and begin at 10am to noon followed with potluck desserts to provide audience members to schmooze with the artist!

Here’s the list of artists:
* Della Cheney (with Eileen Wagner) started the series off last week with her presentation on Ravenstail and basket weaving.
* I will be doing my presentation next week on Thursday, February 24th.
* Ed Kunz is scheduled to demonstrate silver carving on Thursday, March 17th.
* Doug Chilton woodcarving on Thursday, March 24th.
* Florence Sheakley beading and blankets on Thursday, April 7th
* Helen Watkins gathering and preserving foods on Thursday, April 21st

I will be demonstrating Chilkat weaving on my latest robe – which hopefully will be 2/3 completed by then.
I will also be giving a power point presentation on some of my robes and paintings.
Also including a bit of storytelling as well.

If you have time, come on out and support our local artists.

December 18th – Two Years Since His Passing

A Working Man's Hands

At the request of my aging parents, I left my sweet “empty nest” home  in Colorado and  returned to Juneau in 2007.  I know I made the right decision; no doubt about it.  My parents never asked me to come home before until then, so I knew they were feeling their age, their vulnerability to getting real old.     I’ve had an innate knowing that  significant others may come and go but not your parents, and nor your children.  I am glad I made this time to spend with my mother and father.    My parents were 78 and 83 years old then; my  father was still gardening and my mother was still walking 3 miles a day.

They felt too old to travel alone  like they used to every Summer.  So, I took them on a couple of trips, a drive to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory and the other to Hoonah (my mother’s hometown, and my father said he hadn’t been there since the passing of his mother-in-law, my grandmother, who passed away in 1976).  At least twice a week I took my parents on walks and picnics around Juneau:  Lena Loop, Eagle Beach and Sandy Beach.  I was surprised to discover that my father hadn’t ever been on many of the trails:  Treadwell Mine, Mendenhall River walk, Basin Road’s flume, Perseverance Trail, Twin Lakes.  I felt privileged to introduce him to these new experiences.

William B. Lampe in his (what he called, Big Bear) mutton fur parka - Winter 2007

My father’s passing two years ago December 18th was the beginning of many major tumultuous turns in my life..  I am currently temporarily settled down; enough to  finally mourn his passing.  Outside of doing my art and being with a friend now and then, and hanging out with my grand-daughter or mother, I’ve been experiencing melancholia.  I am not at all motivated to put up any Christmas decorations whatsoever.  I haven’t even bought any Christmas lights; this is the first time in my entire life I have not put up not even a strand of lights, and if it hasn’t happened now, it ain’t gonna happen.   Thank goodness my brother Rick is setting up the tree.  He does these tasks not for himself, but for our Mother.   Out of the back shed, he’s also pulled out the big container of lights and…the famous Bill Lampe globe lamps.

My father was an avid Christmas decorator.  By Thanksgiving, his 30 ft. trees in the front yard were heavily adorned with lights.   He trimmed all the windows AND the ceiling trim with fake evergreen – and this was throughout the entire house.  As if he didn’t have enough lights, he roamed Fred Meyer’s aisles for sport…”Let’s see,…now where are those Italian lights, they are the best…”  Now I know where I get this behavior, this focus, this intensity.  Gawd.  Ask my kids, they’ll tell you.  However, I was never this extravagant.

Once he created his first globe lamp, what 10 years ago(?), he was a fanatic - he spent many nights creating just one lamp. He gave most away - even McDonald's in downtown Juneau had one smack dab in the center of it's ceiling when you walked in the front doors...!

The past couple of weeks, while driving through some Juneau neighborhoods, we have noticed a few homes displaying  his plastic cup globe lamps hanging outside just above their front doorway.  It’s a comforting thought to see a part of our father in each one of these lamps being shared with folks who were probably friends of his.

I have many photos to share, yet do not have time right now to post them – will do later – stay tuned!