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)
Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers will sit for many hours at a time enjoying ourselves as we watch our weavings come to life; it’s always exciting! To counterbalance the long hours of sitting, the above simple movements can help keep us flexible. Our bodies are vehicles, they are a tool to help us enjoy, achieve, create, re-create and live our lives. More often than not, every one of us abuse and/or ignore our bodies in some form or another and we wonder how come we don’t feel or look good? If we desire longevity with our current capabilities to be mobile and continue creating our weavings, we need to incorporate good health habits now and always.
Like many of us indigenous folk, there are many ways I had kept fit naturally while maintaining every-day life: I used to live up three flights of stairs and hauled everything from firewood, to kids, to groceries, musical instruments, costumes and props, weaving looms, pounds of fresh caught fish and lots of 5-gallon buckets of fresh berries, painting and art supplies, furniture, new washer, dryer, refigerator and piano. I once had a landscape company for 13 years where I specialized in building rock walls and digging up indigenous plants hauling them from the woods or beach and replanting with domestic plants and trees. Living this way is a wholistic approach to keeping healthy, physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. I enjoyed silent pride in the strength of my body, mind and spirit. And instead of signing up for a gym membership, I got paid to “work out.”
I am no longer that active; haven’t been for the past 20 years since I left Alaska part time, and especially the past 7 years since all the family changes that took place during this time period. Slowly but surely, I gotta admit, even though I am not overweight per se, my muscles have all gone flabby. I know it ain’t easy for you to read this, but there you have it; that’s what I get for pushing 60 and no longer living on 3 flights of stairs.
Two weeks ago, when I caught a glimpse of myself jumping down from the attic steps and I saw all that shaking going on in my arms, I was flabbergasted! Or maybe I ought to say “flabby – gasted…?” I also found out that I have lost some hearing in my left ear. When I asked my Left Hand Corner what to do about possibly regaining the hearing or at least not losing any more of it, the answer was: do the “Tibetan 5 Rites…” Huh? Okay, I’m not going to argue. Like my usual self, when I see or experience something I don’t like, if it’s in my personal power to do something about it, I’ll make a change.
I used to do these 5 Tibetan Rites years ago when I had learned Tai Chi, and they were very easy, no problem. Two weeks ago on the very first day of doing these rites, I discovered how weak my body was; I could barely hold myself up without shaking, and some of the moves I could only do twice. I was surprised, yet not. Today, I do the recommended dosage of moves: 5 of each of the 5 moves. With my meditative exercise plan, I have integrated a few Qi Gong movements along with a simple version of a Tai Chi movement. It feels good to feel my body becoming stronger.
God willing, I have every intention of being as healthy as I possibly can while aging into the last 1/4 century of my life. I’ve got lots of things I still must do before I kick any bucket. And when I kick that bucket, I would rather avoid any shaking flab!
I have started weaving my next Chilkat robe for the Thunderbird Clan. This is all I am saying for now. Stay tuned for periodic blog entries on this robe for this next year…!
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.
Supe's On - Welcome to the Superintendent's Blog
The Juneau School District has concluded our investigation into allegations that on or about May 30-31 of this year a group of incoming senior boys hazed/initiated a group of incoming freshmen boys by paddling them multiple times.
These events were first brought to our attention in early June. At that time the district began an initial investigation, which, due to an active police investigation and summer vacation, was put on hold. When we were informed that the police had concluded their investigation we resumed our efforts.