Thousands of hours of work and hundreds of years of history are coming to Juneau.
A Gathering of the Robes, which will bring together newly completed and ancient ceremonial dancing blankets as well as a robe meant to honor survivors of domestic violence, is planned ahead of Celebration 2020, the every-other-year Southeast Alaska Native culture festival held in the capital city.
“There will be over 50 robes, ancient and contemporary,” weaver Lily Hope said in an interview Sunday. “We’re going to have hundreds of years of creation.”
Hope is the daughter of late acclaimed Chilkat and Ravenstail weaver Clarissa Rizal. She is also an award-winning Tlingit weaver and weaving teacher and president of Spirit Uprising, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the integrity of Ravenstail and Chilkat 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 all of the robes that will be present at the June 9 event will be danced.
“That will be stunning,” said Pattie Adkisson, a weaver who was part of a dozen-person group Sunday working on zipper pulls that will become commemorative favors for those who attend the Gathering of the Robes.
Hope described what they were making as Chilkat tunic fringe zipper pulls since the woven objects were made to resemble the dangling material at the edges of the traditional garments.
The small, woven zipper pulls had the same white-purple-teal coloration of The Giving Strength Robe, which is a Chilkat and Ravenstail robe dedicated to survivors of domestic violence and destined to be kept at Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies’ shelter in Juneau.
The Giving Strength Robe will be made up of dozens of squares made by weavers from both the U.S. and Canada. Hope is leading the project.
The weavers were kept company by the in-progress Giving Strength Robe as well as some completed works by Kay Field Parker that will be danced during the gathering.
“It took about eight months of working at it like a part-time job,” Parker said of a tunic that rested on a table near the working weavers.
Hope said she prefers not to know how much time she puts into a project but 1,000-1,200 hours for a Ravenstail robe is fairly typical. A Chilkat robe can take up to 2,000 hours.
Hope, who is leading the Giving Strength Robe project, said the ultimate goal for the accomplished group is to produce 400 of the Chilkat tunic fringe zipper pulls.
It’s expected to take several full days of work for the weavers to complete that project.
Once that’s done, Hope said they’ll have produced keepsakes that will unify and identify people who attend the Gathering of Robes.
“For years to come we can identify each other and identify the experience,” Hope said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.