renowned regalia maker and artist
July 31, 2020
Clarissa Rizal (1956–2016) was a Raven of the T’akdeintaan (black-legged Kittywake) Clan. Rizal was a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and entrepreneur. She was mentored by several Tlingit elders, including the late master weaver Jennie Thlunaut, who was one of the last of the traditional Chilkat weavers.
Following the teachings of Thlunaut, Rizal dedicated herself to educating others in the techniques of Chilkat, Ravenstail, and button robe making through workshops and apprenticeships. In addition to teaching, she founded non-profit arts organizations and initiated projects such as Artstream Alaska, the Biennial Northwest Coast Native Artists’ Gathering, and the Shaax ’SaaniKeek’ Weavers’ Circle of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers. Rizal authored “Jennie Weaves An Apprentice – A Chilkat Weavers’ Handbook” which received a HAIL (Honoring Alaska’s Indigenous Literature) Award in 2008 and serves as practical guide for Chilkat weavers of all experience levels.
For Rizal, weaving was inseparable from culture, kinship, and knowledge production. She said: “It’s not just weaving an art form. You’re weaving an entire culture. You’re weaving an entire family clan. You’re weaving energies that pass between the worlds. You’re in connection with all the past weavers.”
This post was written in collaboration with Rizal’s daughter, Lily Hope, who is an accomplished weaver herself and continues the work of sharing her knowledge with future weavers.
Did you know Clarissa Rizal or have a story you’d like to share about her? Share your images and stories with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging us (@anchoragemuseum and #ExtraToughWomenAK) and we’ll add them to our ongoing digital curation project. Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming exhibition and be sure to check back for new #ExtraToughWomenAK posts.
Image Credits: Clarissa Rizal with master weaver Jennie Thlunaut, 1986; Clarissa working outside; Clarissa Rizal at Celebration 2012. Images courtesy of Lily Hope.