Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog

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Journey of a Chilkat Robe and Its Maker

January 5th, 2012 by Clarissa

“Jennie Weaves An Apprentice” Chilkat robe was on my weaving loom for 5 years.   I’ve never had a robe take so long in the weaving, however, I’ve never had the kind of journey I’ve experienced in the past 5 years either!  The following is a pictoral journey of the life of this robe reflecting the journey of its maker.

Apprentice Bev Morris from Teslin, Yukon Territory and Clarissa begin weaving their Chilkat robes - Pagosa Springs, Colorado - September 2006

Directly after my apprenticeship in Chilkat weaving with 95-year-old Jennie Thlunaut from Klukwan, Alaska, I began designing a Chilkat robe in honor of the gift she had entrusted me with  and the 6 weeks we had together in 1986.  I had silk-screened a limited edition of the design, painted a “fake” robe for a collector, and the design was also the cover and name of my Chilkat Weaver’s handbook that I printed myself; yet it wasn’t until 20 years later after my apprenticeship with Jennie I had begun weaving the robe in September 2006 upon the arrival of an apprentice from Teslin, Yukon Territory, Bev Morris.  I demonstrated Chilkat weaving techniques on my robe while Bev learned on hers.

Chilkat robe at the Auke Bay condo - September 2010

Chilkat robe in my new room at my mother and father's house - November 2010

Chilkat weaving demonstration during Gallery Walk at the Juneau Arts Center - musician/singer/songwriter Archie Cavanaugh and his grandson stopped by for a visit

Chilkat weaving demonstration during the "Time Warp" exhibit of Northwest Coast weavers at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. - March 2011

While visiting my daughter and granddaughter in Pagosa Springs, Colorado - April 2011

Many braids and weavers to keep track - common folk wonder about Chilkat weaver's sanity

 

Rented another apartment for the Summer 2011 - the turquoise couch, the black loveseat and the Chilkat rug (woven in Tibet) were all color-coordinated beautifully - June 2011

Patrice DeAsis and Lily Hope were two of my assistants who helped me complete this robe by its designated delivery date! - June 2011

Close-up of Teacher "Jennie Thlunaut" (in green mask) and "Clarissa" in blue mask

Demonstrating Chilkat weaving at the Teslin Cultural Center's boat building - July 2011

Inside the Teslin Cultural Center's boat building - Chilkat robe is off to the far right - July 2011

Weaving in a perfect room while overnighting at the Skagway Inn - granddaughter Bette Hope enjoys the view! - July 2011

While on return ferry from Skagway to Juneau, Lily Hope and Clarissa weave in the cafeteria - July 31, 2011

In the stateroom on the MV Columbia sail from Juneau to Bellingham - August 2,2011

With fellow Chilkat weaver Nishga'a elder, Louise Dangeli, in th stateroom on board the MV Columbia sail from Juneau to Bellingham - August 4, 2011

 

Nite weave In Colorado studio - August 11, 2011

Almost complete Chilkat robe on display in Clarissa's booth at the 2011 Santa Fe Indian Market - far right is Ravenstail woven ensemble of "Copper Child" woven by Lily Hope and Clarissa - August 20, 2011

Fellow Chilkat weaver Suzi Williams and Clarissa needle up the ends in the back of Chilkat robe - Sunday morning, August 21, 2011

 

Although neither Crystal Worl (wearing cedar bark hat) and Beckie Etukeok have never woven Chilkat, they help put up the ends in the back of this Chilkat robe - Afternoon of Sunday, August 21, 2011

 

"Jennie Weaves An Apprentice" Chilkat robe designed and woven by Clarissa Rizal with help from several of her weaving students - August 22, 2011

 

Tags:   · · · · · · 7 Comments

7 responses so far ↓

  • WoW!!! Lilly Hope, impressive.

  • I am honoured to remember that this is a true story and how this Chilkat robe held such a place of power and honour in the artist’s shed at Teslin, Yukon (as we are seen in the photo above, July 2010). I was learning how to weave cedar in order to make a cedar hat. For a week, Clarissa would work on it in between teaching new weavers how to weave ravenstail. She even worked by lantern on one long summer night to get it done. I remember how her back and shoulders were sore and how I massaged those muscles when she said she just needed to finish just one more row before going to bed. She would cover it like a protected child and only spoke kind words around it. That is how Teslin, the weavers, the air, water, land and sights and sounds became a part of the story of “Jennie Weaves an Apprentice”. Gunalchéesh.

    • HI Rhonda: I am finally responding to some of these folks like yourself; thank you for the kind words and the memoirs of weaving in Teslin and your massage on my shoulders and yes, it was a fabulous time had by all who attended those weaving classes; we will do it again for sure! I envision things are well with you up there in the North Country! Bests to you, Clarissa

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  • I just bought a painting that is in the style of the Chilkat Robe. I would like to know if it was done by someone from the Tlingit Tribe. I am in North Carolina and can’t find anyone to help me with this question. If I sent you a copy could you tell me something about it? I am really curious as to the meaning of the symbols.
    Thanks.

    • Good Evening Wendell: yes, you may email me the image of your Chilkat painting; i am fairly good at interpreting a design since I am both weaver and designer. My email address is: clarissa@clarissarizal.com I look forward to hearing from you!
      Goodnight, Clarissa

  • The robe is beautiful. All the pictures showing a journey. Really nice.