Rhiannon Norton-Davis paints in a stencil formline design onto a shirt for Native History Month at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The healing hand design was by Wayne Price, Associate Professor of Northwest Coast Arts and Sciences. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rhiannon Norton-Davis paints in a stencil formline design onto a shirt for Native History Month at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The healing hand design was by Wayne Price, Associate Professor of Northwest Coast Arts and Sciences. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Formline Friday lets folks decorate wearables, celebrate culture

Contemporary designs made by artists and UAS professors

Carefully they pried the stencil away from the black T-shirt.

“Oops, I smudged your purple,” said Kolene James, coordinator of the Native and Rural Student Center for University of Alaska Southeast.

Nathan Block, a member of the Alaska Native cultures student club Wooch.een, said it was fine, his cosmic design could stand some smudging.

The purple streaks were meant to be asteroids on the margins of a large, celestial formline design at the center of a T-shirt.

Block and other members of Wooch.een were creating custom formline shirts during a 1-hour, weekly block of time known as Formline Fridays.

From 1-2 p.m. every Friday during Alaska Native and Native American Heritage Month, except for Nov. 23, students and supplies will be on hand on the lower floor of the Mourant Building on the UAS campus helping folks apply formline designs to clothing or clothe they bring in.

James said the first Formline Friday drew in about a dozen members of the public. The second one primarily featured students taking time to create detailed designs.

Claire Helgeson opted to apply a marbled-purple rave design on a T-shirt, and Rhiannon Norton-Davis outlined a healing hand design with vibrant, solid colors. Inside the hand’s palm and fingers, she swirled colors. The resulting design on a black shirt looked like a chalk drawing on a blackboard.

“There are really cool ideas coming out,” James said.

The designs the stencils are based on came from local artists and UAS professors.

Helgeson’s design was created by associate professor of Alaska Native languages arts and sciences Lance Twitchell and Norton-Davis’ came courtesy of associate professor of Northwest Coast arts and sciences Wayne Price.

Once the designs were made, stencils of them were created, which allows them to be applied to wearables via paint.

“These aren’t clan specific, so there’s no cultural appropriation,” James said. “These are fun, contemporary designs in formline.”

The idea for Formline Fridays came from Davina Drones, UAS Northwest Coast Native Arts Coordinator, who said when she worked for Sealaska Heritage Institute casual Fridays picked up the moniker Flannel and Formline Fridays.

“Guys usually showed up in flannel and the women were in formline,” Drones said.

With the name as a jumping off point, a recurring activity was planned that fit in with the idea of resiliance through an environment of change.

“It’s such a fun time of year to do this with the sun starting to disappear,” James said. “We can make our own sunshine.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


Native & Rural Student Center Coordinator Kolene James, right, helps Nathan Block, center, and Rhiannon Norton-Davis work on stenciling formline designs onto shirts for Native History Month at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Native & Rural Student Center Coordinator Kolene James, right, helps Nathan Block, center, and Rhiannon Norton-Davis work on stenciling formline designs onto shirts for Native History Month at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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