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Revitalizing Cottage Industry and Intergenerational Work in Rural Alaska to Strengthen Community, Self-Reliance, and the Northwest Coast Weaving Traditions

Grantee: Friends of the State Library, Archives and Museum
Story from Weavers of Chilkat and Ravenstail, Photos by Sydney Akagi Photography

Seasoned Weaver, Lily Hope (Tlingit), is a full-time artist, teacher and weaver of Northwest Coast Textiles. Through her constant teaching work, she realized there was a shortage of suppliers: only three artisans who thigh-spin daily to sell warp needed for the handful of Chilkat blanket makers, and hundreds of students and textile lovers of both Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving, the premiere finger-twined textiles of the Northwest Coast. Additionally, there are very few persons who dye using the anthropologically recorded natural dyes for woven ceremonial textiles.

Hope partnered with TCF, Sealaska Heritage Foundation (SHI), Friends of the State Library, Archives and Museum, and a few creative allies to bring about six FREE instructional videos on SHI’s Youtube channel, for easy access. She also compiled, ordered, bundled, and shipped all needed materials for thigh-spinning and natural dyeing to weaver teachers in six rural Southeast Alaska Communities, including Angoon, Yakutat, Sitka, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Kake. These weaver teachers agreed to share their materials and watch the videos together with younger weaver students in their communities, supporting intergenerational learning. The aim is to empower rural Alaskan weavers to become self-sufficient in material preparations, and hopefully find some weavers or youth who are interested spinning and dyeing regularly, selling much-needed warps and weft yarns to support full-time weavers across Alaska and Canada, while supporting their own families with cottage industry income.

Feedback from the YouTube video tutorials so far is tremendous, with over 1600 views! Many weavers in Alaska and beyond feel like they can support their own weaving by spinning a little bit each day, building up supply for their next projects. We have yet to find the spinner or dyer who loves spinning more than weaving, but the knowledge is permanent now, so we are confident our needed people will connect with us soon.

Gunalcheesh, TCF, SHI, and the Friends of the State Library Archives and Museum, Authentimedia (Scott Burton Productions), Sydney Akagi Photography, and Graphic Designer Ursala Hudson. Many Thanks to Weaver, Lily Hope, who shares with deep generosity of spirit. Our textile art forms will be carried into the next hundred years with strength and integrity, with heart and community support. Thank you again for your help.