Clarissa Rizal

Clarissa Rizal

Clarissa was born in 1956 to William and Irene Lampe in Juneau, Alaska, a few years before Alaska became the 49th state. Her mother, Irene, is a Tlingit Indian, T’akDein Taan Clan Raven, of the Snail House, in Hoonah, Alaska. Her father, William, is Filipino American from Seattle, WA. Clarissa was introduced to Alaskan Native art while in high school, when she produced her first carved cedar box. During the next year, she met master Tlingit dancer and regalia-maker Harry K. Bremner, Sr., with whom she apprenticed in Tlingit song and dance while touring with his dance troupe, the Mt. St. Elias Dancers from Yakutat, Alaska. Clarissa was a self-taught artist of Northwest Coast carving, silk-screens, paintings, collages, sewing, button robes, beadwork, regalia, and costume design. She learned spruce root basket weaving from Selina Peratrovich of Ketchikan and cedar bark basket weaving from Jennie Thlunaut of Klukwan and also apprenticed in Chilkat weaving with Jennie Thlunaut.

After the birth of her first child, Clarissa began making custom clothing and hats for family and friends. She and her then-husband, Bill Hudson, started decorating their house and furniture with Northwest Coast Indian art, teaching themselves the intricacies of formline design along the way. A few years later, she became interested in landscaping, and soon found herself the owner of Kahtahah Landscape Gardeners, a company which developed and maintained a lush, naturalized garden for Sealaska Corporation, one of the largest companies in Juneau.

Throughout her career, Clarissa focused most of her energies on artwork inspired by her Alaska Native heritage. After apprenticing with master Chilkat weaver Jennie Thlunaut in 1986, she began teaching Chilkat weaving to local Native women and organizing yearly gatherings of the Shax’saani Keek’ Weavers’ Circle. She studied clothing design and metal-smithing at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, NM. Many of Clarissa’s pieces have won awards at various shows around the country. Her Chilkat and Raven’s Tail complete regalia ensemble won “Best of Show” at the Heard Museum Indian Fair in Phoenix in 2000. Clarissa also spent four years working with the Naa Kahidi Native Theater, as costume & set designer, tour manager, stage manager, actress and singer/musician, touring the US, Canada and Europe.

“In my 25-year career as a multi-faceted artist, I continue to be a traditional Chilkat and Raven’s Tail weaver, a maker of button blanket robes and ceremonial regalia (yet I am also a painter, carver, sculptor and collage artist working in more contemporary styles which allow me to have freedom of expression not bound by traditions and techniques). My regalia, on the other hand, are bound by Northwest Coast tradition. Button blanket robes are a traditional part of just about any Northwest Coast ceremony and are worn by Natives from all walks of life. These robes are usually made of appliquéd wool on wool; although I continue to make the traditional red and black robes, I have branched out to include the use of antique and modern Pendleton or Woolrich blankets. The making of Chilkat robes and tunics is a highly specialized method of hand weaving, which is presently practiced by perhaps as few as a dozen women. The Chilkat robe is the most prestigious article of clothing among my people and is traditionally worn only by the chiefs and other highly regarded leaders. In my work as a weaver of Chilkat robes, I carefully stay within the traditional rules given to me by Jennie Thlunaut. These weavings are hand-twined, using thigh-spun mountain goat or merino wool with thin strips of cedar bark.

Since 1989, I have taught many intensive weaving workshops and apprenticeships throughout the Northwest Coast and Western Canada, and have spearheaded the annual Indigenous Chilkat Weavers’ Circle gatherings, sharing Jennie Thlunaut’s teachings with a new generation of weavers.

My present major goals include: 1) attending Ft. Lewis College in Durango, Colorado (2002-2006) for a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in art and a minor in language studies; and 2) preparations for the publication of my book in 2006, featuring all 50 dance robes I’ve created since 1983.”

Clarissa Rizal passed in December 2016, and is deeply missed by her community, family and friends.