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“No Red in Chilkat Weaving…” Maria Ackerman Miller

Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 8:21am

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.”

Categories: Arts & Culture

Deb: Alaska is for Writers

49 Writers - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 7:00am

What’s to love about being a writer in Alaska?
A lot.
In fact, the list is far too large for a post, and parts of it are tough for even a writer to put into words. But undeniably, a huge part of the joy of writing in this place involves the vibrant literary community that continues to thrive here, in large part due to 49 Writers/the 49 Alaska Writing Center.
From the moment four years ago when we took our first baby-steps toward becoming a full-fledged nonprofit to support the artistic development of writers throughout Alaska, foster a writing community, and build an audience for literature, this has been a grassroots, collaborative effort.
That’s what makes our upcoming Write-a-thon so special. It’s not just about writing a check to support a great cause; it’s about coming together to do what we love. If past events are any indication, the energy at Snow City Café on Friday, April 11 will be palpable. There’ll be food, fun, and drinks. An amazing amount of words will land on the page. Some might even end up in print.
You’d rather write alone? Not a problem. You can Write-a-thon from your favorite hideaway.
High on the list of why I love the Write-a-thon is the ripple effect: Just by telling friends and family you’ve signed up for the event, you’re helping to spread the word about our little nonprofit and all it does for creativity, craft, and culture in Alaska.
And here’s a little secret: Your family and friends want to support your creative efforts. They like being part of your team as you hit the page for a good cause. The Write-a-thon lets them do that. Share on Facebook, on Twitter, by email, and you'll be amazed at the response.
So sharpen your pencils, re-spool your ribbons, clear off some hard drive space, and come write for four hours, nine minutes on April 11 at Snow City Cafe. To keep you going, there will be prize drawings, stretch breaks, and inspiration throughout the night. Plus we'll help keep your vitals level with free food and unlimited caffeine.
Everyone and anyone is invited to participate. Advance registration is $10 for adults and $5 for writers eighteen and under. On-site registration will be $30 for adults and $5 for eighteen and under. So don’t delay, sign up today, and help us continue to offer the quality classes, writing retreats, and literary events for which we are known. Not to mention this blog, where it all began—a lively forum that gets more than 12,000 page views a month.
Thanks for making Alaska a great place to write!
Categories: Arts & Culture

Getting Back to Tai Chi

Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 7:03am

After 20 years of not doing Tai Chi, Clarissa plays with spontaneous movements based on the ancients. — (The lighting in Southwest Colorado is like none other!  This photo was not Photoshopped)  — Photo by Ursala Hudson

On another intense deadline to complete half of a full-size Chilkat robe in 6 weeks is not only daunting, but sounds ridiculous, right?   Like, will I have time to sleep a full night, conduct other business, tend to family, household chores, play with grandchildren, and have a picnic now and then with my Dandan?  Where do I fit in some exercise?

The real question is:  will I really achieve the goal of completing the robe by June 1st?


Categories: Arts & Culture

“Resilience” Chilkat Robe Update – 3.28.14: Sealaska Logo

Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog - Sat, 03/29/2014 - 7:44am

The three marks above the Sealaska Corporation logo…Clarissa Rizal

The top of the shared head and beaks of the “Eagle” and “Raven” of the Sealaska Corporation logo — by Clarissa Rizal

Almost completion of the shared eye of the “Eagle” and “Raven”, Sealaska Corporation logo — by Clarissa Rizal


Categories: Arts & Culture


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