Repairing The Flotilla Chilkat Robe

In 2010, my mother, Clarissa Rizal, led a two week beginning Chilkat weaving class, which I assistant taught with her. During that class, a friend brought over a few Chilkat robes for all of us to study. One of them was the Flotilla Robe. This Chilkat blanket is one of my favorites. It is woven in sections, with each mirrored section nearly identical to its match. This Chilkat blanket is the epitome of precision.

Fast forward to 2017. I get a FB message from the caretaker of that same Flotilla Chilkat Robe. She asks if I can repair the warp fringe rows, evaluate the side fringe, and add dance handles. Of course I said yes.

She dropped the Robe off at my home a few weeks later. Just like that.

I called my Apprentice over, excited for her to see the Flotilla Robe again, too, as she was in that class in 2010.

Together, she and I checked out the needed repairs. We decided to completely remove and reweave the three fringe rows. Both sides of side-braid-fringe needed tightening, and the dance handles created and attached.

We sifted through all my yellow yarns, and miraculously found an exact match to the 200-year-old yellow, to reweave the fringe rows. We had just enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next few weeks, Anastasia and I slowly rewove the fringe rows.

We tightened the side braid fringe.

On the last day, in early January, 2018, I realized I’d never constructed a dance handle. I texted my good friend, fellow Chilkat weaver, Ricky Tagaban. He came over to see the robe, and help execute the final repairs.

He knew a texhnique for spinning soft leather together, and showed me how. I said, “Daaaang, where’d you learn this?” And he said, “Robby Littlefield.” Thank you, Robby and Ricky. The handles turned out supple and beautiful.

As we were packing up the Flotilla Robe to return it to its caretaker, Ricky said, “I’ve never worn a Chilkat Robe.” My jaw dropped. “No way!?” “True,” he said. “I’ve worn a Ravenstail one, but never had a Chilkat robe on my shoulders.” We changed that.

Teaching Ravenstail & Chilkat Weaving

Loooong ago, I started reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. My firstborn child was 22 months old, but I stayed up past 3AM to keep reading it. My husband had fallen asleep in the living room, and my toddler was snoring away in the bedroom, so all of could do was read in the bathroom. I sat on the edge of our shower, and devoured the book by the light of the shower heat lamp. About 1:30 AM, the ceiling opened up, and I heard the room vibrate with this message: “You will be a teacher.” I will? “You will be a teacher.” I heard again. Not a male voice, nor female. A chorus of voices. “You will be a teacher.” I set the book down long enough to send an email for my former university advisor.

The next morning I called the university registrar’s office and asked to connect with the School of Education about getting a Masters in Teaching.

Two months later, I started a seven year (part time) journey toward my teaching degree.

Life–birthing three children and adopting one–and death–of my mother–interrupted my teaching studies a few times. Right after my mother’s passing in late 2017, I thought I’d finally finish my degree. I was one class and one semester of student teaching away from graduating. I enrolled in my final class.

Again, life had other plans. January 2017, we found out we were pregnant with a surprise baby, and I couldn’t stay awake for the late evening class. I also had a Chilkat Robe to finish by that summer, and four kids to take care of. The first week’s homework took me 17 hours to complete. I knew it would likely break me and my family to continue, and try to do it all. I withdrew, and slept, and finished the Chilkat Robe in May (Read about the robe cutting ceremony here: http://sealaskaheritage.org/node/523)

The rest of summer 2017, I spent teaching weaving. Ravenstail, Chilkat, adults, kids, mixed ages. I taught seven classes that summer, including two in Teslin, Yukon Territory, CANADA, while I was 7 months pregnant, and solo caring for four kids. My husband was doing his low-residency MFA during that same week, but I just couldn’t say no. There were a couple nights in Teslin where my eldest child had to pull open the bedsheets for me, as I had no strength left. We all slept hard in Teslin, and we all want to go back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the summer came to a close, and my heart swelled with joy from teaching weaving, I realized that This was the teacher I was told to be. This is the teaching I was supposed to do for the rest of my life.

I have no regrets about all my studies to become an elementary school teacher. I know it helped me in teaching weaving now.

I’m grateful to be a Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving teacher.

If you ever get a booming voice telling you to be a teacher or anything else, always ask “Which kind?”

Repairing an Old Chilkat Robe at the Burke Museum

In April, 2017, I visited the Burke with my sister, Ursala, on a Bill Holm Research Grant. We viewed Ravenstail and Chilkat weavings in the mornings, and demonstrated weaving in the afternoons.

While looking at an old robe, I asked if we could study the back, and we realized it was in such a state of deterioration, that we couldn’t turn it over. The drawstring between border and main body of the robe was completely gone. I asked if I could fix it for them. The staff said, “Well, we don’t have a budget for conservations right now.” And “Have you repaired one before?” I explained that I’d love to repair it so the robe could live a few hundred years more, and that it would be my honor to assist pro-bono in these tight budget times. I had also added drawstrings to my own weavings many times, when I had forgotten to weave them in, so this must be much the same.

The bosses authorized my contribution.* They handed me a box of 20 year old threads and needles, and I found some strong dark-brown button thread to use.  I spent about 90 minutes gently binding the border and design body back together. I found three other spots in the body of the robe where the weaver yarns could accommodate partial replacement of their drawstrings, too.

When I was finished, I watched them place the robe into a newly acquired flat-drawer. I swear I felt the robe sigh, happy to stretch out and feel it’s newly joined parts.

I’m grateful that visitors and researchers will be able to visit that robe (and many others) at the Burke Museum for years to come.

*This is uncommon behavior for museums to allow researchers to assist in conservation.

 

 

Yak’éi yagiyee (good day!)

lily hopeLily Hope was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska to full-time artists. She is Tlingit Indian, of the Raven moiety. Her mother’s mother’s clan, the T’akdeintaan, originated from the Snail House in Hoonah, Alaska.

Lily is a Ravenstail and Chilkat weaver. Her first Chilkat robe is housed at the Portland Art Museum. Lily teaches weaving in Juneau, Canada, and the coasts of Alaska down into Oregon. She demonstrates weaving internationally, and lectures on the spiritual commitments of being a weaver.