Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog

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Chilkat Weaving Tour Part 3: Teslin, Y.T.

July 29th, 2013 by Clarissa

The “weavers’ cabin” during “Kus Te Yea” Celebration 2013 in Teslin, Yukon Territory

I had told the weavers about the Kus Te Yea Celebration 2013 in Teslin.  This biennial event is held in the odd-numbered years from “Celebration” sponsored by the Sealaska Heritage Institute held in Juneau, Alaska in the even-numbered years.  This is 2013; the odd year we’ve been waiting for; time to head to Teslin!

We knew that we wanted to attend the event, we just didn’t know where we were going to stay since none of us brought complete camping equipment, although we were ready to get additional equipment and camp out if we had to just like everyone else!  However, a week before Celebration 2013, we were invited to come out and demonstrate; – they had a space all ready for us as if they were expecting us to come!  We checked out of our comfy apartment in Whitehorse closing up that part of our Weavers’ Tour (click here if you missed the Whitehorse story) and were up for another adventure!

Looking through the screen windows at a lovely weaving scene!

The cabin designated for the weavers to demonstrate is an uninsulated wooden shell with screened windows without glass.  We removed the wooden shutters for added light, air, view and ambiance!  There are “skylights” and all of us just jumped with joy – what a perfect place to weave!  And all our very own for three whole days!?  Wow!  Thank you Kus Te Yea organizers for our very own space!

Jackie Kookesh and Ricky Tagaban share spinning techniques while Teahonna James sets up her table-top weaving loom

Immediately the very first day just as we were setting up, Ricky Tagaban and Jackie Kookesh surprised us – we didn’t know they were coming!  Also others from a couple of years ago returned:  Dan Shorty and Tatiana (?), and two others whose names have slipped me.  Pretty soon we had four people spinning and four people weaving.  Fun!

Vanessa Morgan explains to her audience how she first got involved in Chilkat weaving and the design story of her child-size Chilkat robe

Crowds of visitors, far and near, visited us.  One of the most rewarding things about demonstrating Chilkat weaving is to provide the visual, tactile information about the amount of work involved in just preparing the materials BEFORE you begin to weave.  Demonstrating educates the general public (and even our own people) about the spinning process as well as the actual weaving.  I am delighted when visitors are amazed at how we spin the warp on our thigh.  No matter what age, they are always shocked.  So much fun.

Crystal Rogers listens to Chief Dan (from Carcross, Y.T.) tell a story pertaining to weaving in his family

Also, it is an educational experience for us as various individuals who come to see what we are doing; more often than not they have a story to tell in regards to a relative or friend who was (or currently is or wants to be) a weaver.  Or they tell us a story regarding an old robe and how it was sold, or how it disappeared or how much it cost when it sold.  We hear many, many stories from our audience.  Storytelling is a big aspect of weaving.  We discover that when we demonstrate the art of weaving, we also learn to listen to the stories involved with weaving – our active listening skills are improved.  In so doing, we are learning while we teach and demonstrate.  The act of listening to our visitor’s stories is a large part of our “oral history.”

Clarissa’s child-size Chilkat robe now has eyes – to be able to see out into her world…as she now is able to “see” into her child-size robe. Although Clarissa has designed her robe, as she weaves along, she understands that the design of the robe is subject to change – during the course of a woven garment, things are felt, heard and “seen”, and sometimes it changes the course of history, and subsequently the design…

There is nothing quite like watching a weaving take its course.  The texture of the weave does depend on the weaver’s skill, however, there are always other factors like the fineness of the warp (the yarns that hang down), as well as your particular mood that moment, that hour, that day.

Packed up, doing last-minute clean-up, and Celebration is over; and while it is true that the Teslin Celebration organizers invited us to come demonstrate Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving at this sweet cabin where great memories and connections were laid, already we lay claim to weave, spin and teach during the next Celebration 2015!–look out, we are returning!

Weaving also creates a certain kind of tension whether it be within us or without us – tension is an aspect of weaving; there are at least two,…tactile tension and psychological tension.  Tension keeps us on our toes, it helps build up and it can also help let down.  Living in close proximity with other weavers always causes a bit of tension; it’s natural.  We learn to adjust to the various personality traits.  We learn to tolerate.  We learn to support.  We learn to take care of one another and watch out for one another.  We learn respect.  We are always learning as we weave our webs.

 

 

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