Chloe French

Chloe French

Tribal Enrollment Number: 8377

Artist Statement

My grandmother is Tlingit and I am named after her: Sk.wein.  We are of the Eagle Moiety, Tsaagweidi Clan (Killer Whale Seal Clan) and Yaax Aan Kowtl Tsexi Hit (The House that Anchors the Village).  Our village is Kake, in southeast Alaska.

When I was a little girl, my mother took me to the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, where I saw my first Chilkat robe.  I was smitten, and decided then and there that one day I would make such a robe.  That day has arrived, and I am now busy working on it.

When spinning or weaving, I have the sense of my hands being connected to all the Chilkat weavers who came before me, and to all those yet to come.  It is a wonderful feeling, conveying a sense of continuity with my culture and people. Weaving is my passion. I am learning all the time I am weaving. I learn from my students, basket makers, other weavers, and from photographs and handling the old pieces. I learn from Cheryl Samuel, who helped bring Chilkat and Ravenstail back to our Northwest Coast People, and my first teacher was Clarissa Rizal (Tlingit).

Making button robes and beaded necklaces is another aspect of my artwork.  In some ways it is more exhilarating than weaving because robes and necklaces can be completed in a matter of days, whereas weavings can take up to two years to complete. The Chilkat style of weaving is deeply embedded in our Tlingit culture, and historically these pieces have been made for ceremonial purposes — thus only infrequently brought out for public display. In contrast, button robes and necklaces are contemporary and are made for public celebration and show.

Having taught school for many years, passing knowledge on to others is in my blood, and this is reinforced by my sense of responsibility to my Native heritage, to pass on my knowledge and skills.  Because of this, I have chosen to teach beginning Chilkat weavers and button robe makers, and take great delight in watching them discover their own artistic voices.