Weavers to hold gathering

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

So far, the Ravenstail Weavers Guild has 62 people registered for the fifth Gathering of Weavers 2008, to be held from May 31 to June 2 at the University of Alaska Southeast.

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Kim Andree / Juneau Empire
Kim Andree / Juneau Empire

"I'm really excited," organizer Kay Parker said. "It's going to be the highlight of my summer."

According to Parker, a weaver and guild member since 1990, the first Gathering of Weavers was coordinated by the Ketchikan Totem Heritage Center in 1990, the same year the guild was formed.

"We had one in Ketchikan and three in Juneau, but it's been 10 years," Parker said. "We kind of did them bam, bam, bam, and they got boring. And so we kind of let it go for a while, and now we're on to a new format."

According to Parker, most of the events will take place at the UAS Housing Lodge, except for three lectures (by Delores Churchill, Cheryl Samuel and Steve Henrikson), which will take place in the Egan Lecture Hall, and a potluck on Sunday evening in Smith Hall.

Parker said most of the workshops are more lectures than hands-on workshops, however, on the first day, May 31, the focus will be on materials, which will yield some small projects.

"In the morning, we're going to be working with cedar bark and spruce roots, and we'll let people see how to strip and how to split these materials," Parker said. "We have enough to do some little projects, make a little cedar deer or a little basket. And in the afternoon, we're going to do spinning."

Parker said participants will learn thigh spinning, which is the type of warp that most weavers use for their weavings. Workshops will also cover wheel spinning, and Rae Baggen will demonstrate mountain goat spinning.

"She has done a lot of work with mountain goats, and that's what the original robes were woven out of," Parker said. "She's going to explain to us how to do that process for the people who are able to get mountain goat hides."

Other lecture discussions will cover how to start a tunic and hat, how to start and finish a robe, and how to design a pattern and do graphing.

Saturday night will include a performance by All Nations Children Dance Group, followed by the free public lecture/slideshow, "The Revival of Ravenstail," by Samuel at 6:30 p.m.

"Cheryl's bringing her slides of the old robes," Parker said, "so that people who've never seen them will get to see what old, original robes look like and what the texture of the weaving is supposed to look like."

Saturday's program also will include a fashion show, art show and closing performance by Yaaw Tei Yi Dancers.

According to Parker, Sgen George will show some of her pieces, including a robe she made for her daughter, in the fashion show on Saturday night.

"We've been encouraging everyone to bring their weavings," Parker said. "So we hope there will be a lot outfits in the fashion show."

On Sunday afternoon, Churchill will discuss the design requirements of Ravenstail weaving and those attending the lecture will talke about how to define Ravenstail, Parker said. That evening, the Xaadas Git'alang Dancers will perform, followed by Henrikson's free pubic lecture/slideshow, "Wooling Mantles Neatly Wroght," at 6:30 p.m.

Henrickson, curator of the Alaska State Museum, will discuss the origins and survival of weaving on the northern Northwest Coast.

"For more than two decades, Alaska has witnessed a resurgence of weaving in this early style - not just replicating old designs, but evolving the whole tradition in terms of style and meaning," Henrikson said. "It has been exciting to see this beautiful new regalia being danced alongside 100-year-old Chilkat robes and button blankets."

Parker agreed about the recent Ravenstail revival.

"(Samuel) was recently at a coming out of Robert Davidson's robe down in Haida Guai, and she was amazed at all the weavings," Parker said. "We used to just be working to get something so people could see it, and now every event you go to, there's Ravenstail weaving, and there are people doing it."

Additionally, participants will experience museum basement tours at 2 or 3 p.m. Monday, and on an additional day, Tuesday, so those still in town for Celebration can attend. Henrikson will lead the tours, with Ellen Carrlee, conservator at the Alaska State Museum, discussing the conservation of weavings.

According to Henrickson, one of the highlights of the tour of the museum will be to view fragments of an old robe recovered in an archaeological site in Sitka, alongside several pieces of the modern Ravenstail regalia.

"We'll get to see old weavings and old baskets," Parker said. "(The basement tours) are a great feature of the museum."

Parker hopes this gathering will adequately represent the trade and serve to bring weavers together.

"We're coming from all over the world," Parker said. "There's a woman coming from Holland, and some are coming from Canada, Washington, California and all over Alaska as well."

"(It's about) sharing ideas, seeing what people are doing," Parker added. "It'll also help the art form, getting us all together and everybody seeing what really nice weavings look like."

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at neighbors@juneauempire.com or 523-2272.

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