A collaborative weaving project is coming together and expanding in scope.
Weavers worked this week to create a border for a crowd-sourced robe meant to honor survivors of gender-based violence and talked about a planned companion piece for the not-yet-finished traditional garment.
“It will either be a child-size robe or a dance apron,” said Lily Hope, the award-winning Tlingit weaver and teacher, who is helping to lead the project. “If we end up with a guardian-child team, then both of them are wrapped in our strength, the strength of all these weavers.”
The Giving Strength Robe is a project featuring 54 and counting 5-inch-by-5-inch squares made by Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from throughout the U.S. and Canada. It’s the inaugural effort of planned nonprofit Spirit Uprising, which intends to help perpetuate Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving.
Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving are complex art forms traditionally practiced by Northwest Coast Alaska Native peoples, and make use of hand-twined textiles.
Hope said making the project something with multi-generational impact would be a positive response to the often multi-generational effect of abuse.
Ursala Hudson, Hope’s sister, who was visiting from Colorado to assist with the project this week, said weavers shared the stories behind each of the robe’s squares, and it helped underscore the prevalence of domestic violence.
“Everyone here is someone who has been affected by it,” Hope said.
Most people, they said, are only one or two degrees removed from a survivor, even if they don’t realize it.
“At first, I was like, ‘Oh that’s something that affected my great-grandmother,’” Hudson said. “Then, I said, ‘Wait, and my grandmother, and my mom, and me.’ I had to be honest with myself.”
She said it was an odd feeling to realize how commonplace domestic violence is. Half of Alaska women experience intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both, according to a 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey.
Hope, Hudson and weaver Patty Fiorella of Douglas worked on the robe Friday at the Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE) shelter and said it is their hope that’s where the robe will come together. That is their work space because once the robe is completed — possibly this fall — it will be gifted to AWARE, Juneau’s gender-inclusive shelter for survivors of gender-based violence.
The weavers said they are still accepting help with the project and would encourage experienced weavers interested in helping to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
People who would simply like to bring their good intentions and sit with the robe are also welcome, Hope said. Typically, work will be underway at the shelter from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sundays. Additional weekday weaving sessions will be shared on Spirit Uprising’s website.
Help can also come by donating to the project’s crowdrise page —GoFundMe for nonprofits — and Hope and Hudson said enough has already been raised to purchase materials for the Giving Strength Robe’s companion piece. The cost of those materials was $450.
While finishing the robe ahead of Domestic Violence Awareness Month — October — is the goal, the inclusion of a companion piece means other ideas are also being considered.
“We’ve also talked about Celebration 2020,” Hudson said in reference to the every-other-year celebration of Southeast Alaska Native people held in Juneau.
That date would provide ample time for the companion piece to be completed and line up with a planned announcement of Spirit Uprising’s next project.
Hope and Hudson said the organization’s next two projects are planned, but they were tight-lipped about what they will be.
“Not to be released until Celebration 2020,” Hudson said.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.