Rico Lanáat’ Worl’s design ‘Raven Story,’ shown here, is thought to be the first Tlingitp-designed art to be featured on a stamp, available beginning in 2021. (Courtesy Image / Sealaska Heritage Institute)

Rico Lanáat’ Worl’s design ‘Raven Story,’ shown here, is thought to be the first Tlingitp-designed art to be featured on a stamp, available beginning in 2021. (Courtesy Image / Sealaska Heritage Institute)

Putting his stamp on it: Tlingit artist creates Northwest Coast design for USPS

The stamp will become available in 2021.

In 2021, the United States Postal Service will release what is though to be its first stamp designed by a Tlingit artist, depicting Raven, a being represented in many traditional Tlingit stories.

Rico Lanáat’ Worl, artist and co-founder of local company Trickster Company, designed the stamp, titled “Raven Story,” modeled after a traditional Tlingit tale.

“The story I’m referencing is ‘Raven and the Box of Daylight.’ It’s probably one of the most depicted stories in Tlingit art,” Worl said in a phone interview. “It’s a national platform, so I wanted to make sure there’s a good entry point for others to learn from.”

“Raven Story” will be Tlingit culture’s second showing in the medium of American stamps. The first was Tlingit artist Nathan Jackson’s performance of a Raven dance, released in 1996. This will the first Tlingit design to be featured on a stamp, one of only a few Alaska Native or Native American designs featured on stamps, Worl said.

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“I think, right now, there’s this very big movement for authentic representation. “It’s absolutely an honor to be a part of that movement and to have such a big platform to represent,” Worl said. “It would be great if there was a series where more Native designers were featured. I think that would be really empowering for Native people.”

Rico Lanáat’ Worl, Tlingit artist and founder of Trickster Company, is the designer of a new stamp featuring original Northwest Coast art that will be released in 2021, the first of its kind. (Courtesy photo / Donavan Johnson)

Rico Lanáat’ Worl, Tlingit artist and founder of Trickster Company, is the designer of a new stamp featuring original Northwest Coast art that will be released in 2021, the first of its kind. (Courtesy photo / Donavan Johnson)

The process of working with the United States Postal Service to design the stamp took about seven to eight months, Worl said. Worl worked with art director Antonio Alcalá, designer of many other stamps, including a series dedicated to the all-Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II renown, to be released in 2021 as well.

“It was a huge honor to be invited to participate. I also felt the weight of needing to represent well since I was showcasing as a Tlingit artist on a national platform,” Worl said in a Sealaska Heritage Institute news release. “I hope that as a designer I can represent on a national scale the modernity of Native people — that we’re engaged in modern culture while still carrying forward our traditional heritage.”

Worl said he selected a moment in this raven story that many people would find relatable, the razor edge between success and failure as Raven escapes from a clan house as he’s transforming back from his human into raven form.

“For sure as an entrepreneur, I run a business with my family the concept of success or failure weighs on me a lot with having my family involved and their investment in it. It’s a theme,” Worl said. “I wanted to tap into the drama of it. I wanted to bring out that one little aspect, where there’s excitement and drama and moments of risk in traditional culture.”

Where can you buy them?

Nowhere yet.

The stamps are scheduled to be released in 2021 but a date is not yet set, Worl said. An event was scheduled to recognize the stamps amid Celebration 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic led to it being canceled, Worl said. SHI spokesperson Kathy Dye said a date has not yet been set for the rescheduled event.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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