Clarissa Rizal, Chilkat and Ravenstail Weaver
“If all of the Tlingit elders I knew as a child and young adult such as my Hoonah maternal grandparents Juan and Mary Sarabia, all my aunts and uncles, my first Tlingit “teacher” Harry K. Bremner Sr. and my Chilkat weaving teacher/mentor Jennie Thlunaut saw the Tlingit ceremonial regalia and contemporary art I have created for nearly 40 years, would they be basically pleased with my work? If so, then I know I have listened to them and followed through with their guidance. If not, I wonder what additional guidance would they provide for me?” — Clarissa Rizal, April 2015.
Clarissa Rizal Lampe was born in 1956 and passed on December 7, 2016. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts with the Business Certificate from the Institute of American Indian Arts, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Clarissa held true to her clan identity as a full-time, multi-faceted artist working in fiber, painting, music, printmaking, and sculpture. She specialized in design and creation of Tlingit ceremonial regalia. She was a member of the Raven moiety and a T'akdeintaan (black-legged kittywake) clan member originating in Glacier Bay and Hoonah. Many T'akdeintaan are noted for their strong traditions, culture and world class examples of Northwest Coast art. Beginning in 1983, Clarissa designed and created more than 60 Chilkat, Ravenstail and Button blanket robes.
One of the last robes on which Rizal worked was a collaborative effort, Weavers Across the Water. At least fifty weavers either submitted squares or helped Rizal in other ways. The squares were woven together into a single robe. It was first worn by master carver Wayne Price at the dedication of a new Huna tribal house in Glacier Bay. Rizal then took the robe to Washington, DC, for the NEA award event.
Clarissa was an artist who gave back to her community, working with and for other artists. She initiated and co-directed many projects and events including: the Shaax’SaaniKeek’ Weavers’ Circle (the gatherings of indigenous Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers), the Northwest Coast Native Dance Regalia Documentary project and the Navajo & Chilkat weavers’ cross-cultural exchange. She spearheaded the Biennial Northwest Coast Native Artists’ Gathering and Evening concert.
Clarissa continued to fulfill a promise to her teacher/mentor, the late Jennie Thlunaut, to help revive Chilkat weaving by conducting workshops and apprenticeships. She authored “Jennie Weaves an Apprentice – A Chilkat Weavers’ Handbook” which received a HAIL (Honoring Alaska’s Indigenous Literature) Award in 2008. Other awards include several Native American Art Markets’ Best of Show for Clarissa’s traditional contemporary art, the 1992 & 1994 Lawrence Indian Art Show in Lawrence, Kansas, the 1994 Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico, the 2002 Heard Museum Indian Market in Phoenix, Arizona, and the 2004 and 2006 Sealaska Juried Art Show in Juneau, Alaska. Her Fellowships and grants included 1st Peoples Fund, Evergreen Longhouse, Pilchuck School of Glass, Smithsonian, National Museum of the American Indian, Vermont Studio Center and the Rasmuson Foundation Fellowship. She won a 2013 Artist Fellowship from the Rasmuson Foundation; in 2015, she received a Native Arts & Cultures Foundation National Artist Fellowship. She was a 2011 and 2016 First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital Fellow. Rizal was a recipient of a 2016 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Her mentor Jennie Thlunaut received the same award in 1986.