Folks wonder where the heck I live and work; there are only a handful of people who have seen the inside of my studio home, so I figured I would introduce the general public to where I play music, weave, write, sew, draw, paint (and sorry, I won’t be introducing you to my bedroom!). I work and live part-time in a remodeled two car garage in the most beautiful part of Colorado. The studio has no running water, no sewer and has insufficient heat in the wintertime, but I wear my sheepskin boots, sheepskin hat and gloves during the days and sleep in fleece and sweatpants during the bitter cold months in December, January and sometimes February. Yes, I am working towards someday having a real home though it is gonna take awhile.
Over the next three months, I will introduce you to various parts of my humble 700 sq.ft. sanctuary divided into sections. Here are the parts of “Clarissa’s Studio Series”:
I use sheer, white/off-white curtains to divide my spaces. Since the space is one big room, I want some sense of controlling the cold and heat, keep each work space free from distractions from other projects in the other work spaces, and to create privacy when needed. For example, compare the above photograph showing the closed curtains behind the couch, and then the open curtains in the photograph below exposing the small kitchenette. In the “Clarissa’s Studio Series” take note where I use the curtains.
I live a secluded life during the Fall/Winter in Colorado in comparison to my very social life during the Spring/Summer in Alaska and most recently Yukon. In Colorado, I fulfill my need for privacy and seclusion, and other than hanging with my grandchildren and children, my main focus is my work; I work hard to create as much as I can within the time frame because once I land in Alaska, life is not about me, it’s about including others. Because I was born and bred in Alaska, and I remain true to my roots and heritage, and I must harvest my berries and salmon, and I have many long-term friends and family, and the hours of daylight are long and wonderful, who has time to work indoors!?!? There are beaches to be walked, oceans to ride, branches to brush aside and big trees to rest under, and always with others!
So every Springtime before I leave for Alaska, I absorb my serenity and look about me at the little bit of charm I’ve created herewithin, and I appreciate the stillness and silence while I create, create, create. Life is good as I nourish both aspects of this Gemini being!
I’ve been collecting antique fishing lures from garage sales, antique and 2nd hand stores since 1999. While fishing with my father off shore at Outer Point back in the early 90’s, I had this notion that I would create a button blanket to honor my two older brothers and my father who were all commercial fishermen and also to just honor fish in general, especially salmon! Well 16 years later, my oldest brother and my father are now gone, and the other brother no longer fishes for a living because even that profession has nearly gone by the wayside too.
The salmon are disappearing; when our mother said that years ago, I didn’t want to believe her. Yet, we who are older than 50 have seen it with our own eyes. And the waters are so contaminated, that I will eat salmon maybe once a year because even though I crave our fish, I don’t trust what salmon are carrying.
I plan on creating a series of salmon button robes to mourn the loss of our salmon, however also to inspire faith our salmon will one day return in great numbers — maybe not in our lifetime, but possibly in our grand-children’s lifetime. If you, dear reader, come across antique fishing lures like those above, bring them to my attention so I can fetch them OR better yet, send them my way to my Alaska address or Colorado address – either way they will get to me! Thank you!
Sally Ishikawa hosted a 5-day Chilkat weaving class at her home in Corvallis, Oregon back in December 2014. She was one of 5 weavers who are working together to complete a Chilkat apron gifted to them by the infamous Ravenstail weaver John Beard, who was gifted the Chilkat apron by another person. (See Blog post at: http://clarissarizal.com/blog/the-apron-apprentices-oregon/ ) Sally’s home was like a miniature gallery of hand-made arts and crafts by other artists, friends and herself, along with an art book collection that was out of this world, not to mention the fantastic landscaped back yard.
Though of all the things that stood out in her home was the practical, antique, wooden tool box which had its permanent place located on the corner of her kitchen counter: one side had the basic cooking tools, the other side the basic hand tools for minor repairs or adjustments around the house or garden. She has eliminated the rummaging through a kitchen drawer or dragging out the tool box and rummaging some more; when you need a tool, it’s easily accessible – there’s no searching! I just love it! — As soon as I find an antique tool box of sorts, you know what I’m doing!
Many years I have cut out all my button robe applique’s on a small 30″ x 40″ cutting mat which was not quite large enough for many of the designs. Then a fellow seamstress/clothing designer referred me to the Rhino Cutting Mat she had been using for many, many years. A few months ago I made it a point to afford one! I wish I had made this dream come true long time ago!!!
The Rhino cutting mat comes in several standard sizes, however, you can place a special order for whatever size you need. I ordered a 5′ x 6′ piece to fit on top of my two folding tables that sit side by side; this custom-cut mat costed me a bit over $200 with shipping — I tell you, it is well worth the investment!!!
The Rhino cutting mat is supplied with a printed grid the same size as the actual mat. The weight of the mat and grid keeps the mat flat and from sliding around.
The best thing I totally enjoy about my Rhino cutting mat is the fact that there is no seam!! There’s is no possibility of cutting a glitch in your fabric!!!
During the Summer of 2013, a couple of my apprentices and I had volunteered to do Chilkat weaving demonstrations at the Sheldon Museum in Haines, Alaska. While we were there, of course, they had a nice collection of Chilkat weavings from the area, and to our surprise some weaving terms in the Tlingit language! So on behalf of the Sheldon Museum, I post some of the Chilkat weaving terms as well as the origin of Chilkat weaving according to an anthropologist from the turn of the century who wrote the book “The Chilkat Blanket, George Emmons.
In addition to the comment in the above photo made about Jennie Thlunaut’s signature, Jennie’s checkerboard “signature” was a pattern of yellow and blue.
Jennie had told me that she sold her first robe for $50. If my memory serves me, it was the robe started by her mother who passed away when she was a young teenager. She thought $50 was pretty good for a Chilkat robe; she had a confident smile on her face as she spoke.
Jennie and Agnes Bellinger (Jennie’s daughter) told me the golden yellow was what weavers strived for and the best way to do this was all in the urine. The best urine to make the golden yellow was urine from a woman in her last month of pregnancy; second best urine was from a newborn infant. The way they collected the urine from a newborn was to place the “wolf moss” in the diaper and only collect #1 (as opposed to #2) and put the soaked wolf moss in the dye bath. The older the baby, or child’s urine, the more pale the golden yellow. Jennie and Agnes said there is no wolf moss in Southeast Alaska. The moss was a trade item with the tribes on the other side of the coastal mountains in British Columbia, Canada. The youth of the urine made the biggest difference in the color achieved and the set of the dye.
The mountain goat wool and cedar bark spin together as if they were mated for life; they are attracted to one another like bee to a flower! Mountain goat hides are hard to come by; and even if they were easy to acquire, there are so many Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers on board, we would make the herds run away further up into the high barren mountains! In the bio on Jennie Thlunaut here on my website under “Tributes,” there is a map showing the places where the men would hunt for mountain goat. Today there are a couple of guys who hunt mountain goat. We weavers need to do trades with these guys so we can let go of using the 2nd best wool that has replaced the mountain goat: merino wool from New Zealand. This wool is the closest fiber in the world next to the mountain goat. It spins up okay, but not as fine as the bee and flower of cedar bark and mountain goat wool…!
The Western yellow cedar is best o split because the strands are silky smooth (when wet), they pull out into longer strands than the cedar (which is more brittle), and when you spin the bark and wool (done on the thigh), your hands are not prone to the first layer of skin rubbing off! Though if red cedar is all there is to collect, or someone gifted me some, then it is only sensible to not look the gift horse in the mouth. You acquire what you can! It is best to harvest the red cedar when the first sign of spring shows up with new green growth at the tips of the cedar tree boughs.
There are several stories of the origin of where Chilkat weaving first began and how it came to and was retained in the Chilkat River Valley in Haines/Klukwan, Alaska. The Nishga’a in the Nass River area claim the weaving originated in the Nass River and only the Nishga’a inhabitated the area, not the Tsimpshian. The Tsimpshian from the Skeena River say Chilkat weaving originated there. The weaving had died out because of western contact in both areas, but fortunately, as one of the stories go, a Chilkat chief married a weaver from the Nass River (or Skeena River?), and then another story says it was the other way around. No matter what the story, all agree that there were specifically 4 sisters of a Raven Clan in Klukwan who unraveled the Chilkat apron to gain the knowledge of how the weaving was done.
Jennie said she finished a Chilkat robe in 6 months; she had pride on her face as she spoke. I didn’t believe her at first, but after I learned her fingering of speed, accuracy and tension, and I applied her knowledge to my weavings of today, well……?
I have a new website with a few new tweaks to my blog, just launched last week on April 13th; I HAVE GRADUATED to a simpler, cleaner, and easy-to-navigate format to update: It’s time to celebrate! (Most artists that I know would rather spend their time creating instead of working on the computer, so the easier and faster computer time, the better for us all…!)
This is my fourth website since 1998; the first was created by my friend Cecil Touchon (www.ceciltouchon.com) nearly 20 years ago when there were not very many Native American artists’ websites.
I have been blogging since July 2010, nearly 5 years! Unlike the past blog entries randomly posted when I could fit in the work, I will post new blog entries 3/x weekly with this schedule:
Blog posts will include the usual latest projects, art business travel, tools of the trade, people, classes, health topics, etc., though to continue helping out my fellow weavers in a more efficient manner, I have added a new section to my categories (column on the right) called “Tricks-of-the-Trade.”
All photographs on my website and blog were shot by myself unless otherwise noted.
I have begun formatting my photographs larger; people want to SEE!
As time permits, I will be adding one more topic to my website: a “Tributes” page to honor mainly Tlingit elders who have helped me on my path as a full-time Tlingit artist for nearly 40 years. My “Tributes” page will include those of have passed including:
Thank you to my daughter, Ursala Hudson for working hard last weekend to create and launch my website by my deadline! Check Ursala’s graphic design/web design work on her website at: www.whiterabbitstudio.us
Once upon a time when not writing I at least would take some time to jot notes about the good words I was filling my brain with so let’s give that a shot again. Once upon a time I also used to write list poems building on the riff, ‘while you were smoking’ and I’d dive into the multitude of things I’d accomplish or at least observe, think, smell, taste, read and dream while my acquaintances were outside, dying a little. Okay no dying a little here, these books are more about growing a little as a poet with more process-awareness ninja skills.
Walking down the stairs: selections from the interviews
by Galway Kinnell
This is super interesting, especially Kinnell’s snarky remarks in the introduction about how odd of an assignment he’d been given by the publisher. Basically, go back through all the published interviews you’ve given and select (and feel free to edit or clarify) the ones that capture the essence of your work. It’s like a framed story, the poet, writing about himself, narrating his life as seen through a mirror, or a lense, or an idealized reality, gets a chance to write his wrongs of sorts, or clarify when originally obtuse or at least inarticulate. A good read. While you’re at it check out another from the series by AK poet John Haines called Living off the Country: Reflections on how landscape, the imagination, and the “real world” color the creative process . These two titles are part of the Poets On Poetry series that University of Michigan Press has been publishing for 40 years.
Close Calls with Nonsense: reading new poetry
by Stephen Burt
Poet and critic Burt equates the challenges associated with understanding poetry with putting together furniture from IKEA. Without the instructions, as challenging as all those pictograms can be, we can hardly imagine the brilliant rocking chair with sleek, modern Swedish minimalist design.
A Poet’s Glossary
By Edward Hirsch
Okay this one is a bit terrifying for a self-taught poet with little, to zero formal training but hey, that’s why I’ll be starting an MFA in poetry in 3 weeks! I’m very interested in the history of literary forms, literary history in general and love reading encyclopedia style entries devoted entirely to esoteric literature. Anyway if you’ve ever wondered what a ghazal or an abecedarian is, this is your chance. Here’s a blurb,
Hirsch defines any term in English you can think of and many more, along with ghinnawa, a form of Bedouin folk poetry; the Sanskrit term rasa, denoting the “soul of poetry”; and shan-shui, China’s rivers-and-mountain verse. A thrilling “repertoire of poetic secrets,” this radiant compendium is shaped by Hirsch’s abiding gratitude for the demands and power, illumination, and solace of poetry, “a human fundamental.”
— Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
I hope you’ll take a moment to walk with Richard through this postcard and in that moment, by which I mean a universe, you will connect your love for poetry with a love for independent publishers like Copper Canyon Press and Spork Press. Perhaps even that will lead you along a path and at the end of that path, Richard’s long awaited second poetry collection, War of the Foxes.
This video says everything I’ve longed to say about why I come to poetry, why my hands too are birds becoming and unbecoming and always flying. Thanks Copper Canyon Press and Richard for this gift.
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