Tlingit Jewelry Making: Virtually
Story by: Mary Goddard
A Journey To What Matters and ASCA Partnership- ARTShops 2020 Tlingit Jewelry Making: Virtually
The ARTShops program is a collaboration between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and The CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Arts and Culture grant program. Established in 2016, ARTShops support emerging Alaska Native arts leaders to develop their skills in leading community-based arts programs.
If 2020 taught us anything, it was to use the tools that we have to continue on, to adapt and overcome. My first initial thoughts for teaching jewelry virtually was to avoid it, wait until COVID-19 passes, then get back to hands-on teaching. However, if I did that I would have missed the opportunity to teach jewelry making to two ready individuals. Sometimes, timing is everything.
I want to start off by thanking The CIRI Foundation, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and the Alaska State Council on the Arts for creating this opportunity for me to teach. This ARTShop has really become a jumping-off point for both of the students to receive guidance and valuable tools and materials (to keep) to begin their craft.
With the jewelry making starter kits and lessons that I put together for Josh and Jason, they were able to learn how to create copper and spruce root earrings, copper and abalone earrings, hammered pendants, and a keychain with leather and trade beads. Each of these projects had to be made from hand, start to finish by the students. They both had dentalium, extra spruce root, copper, and trade beads to experiment with. For both the students, this was their first time working with traditional materials. The chance to have hands-on experience with these traditional materials really gave them an opportunity to connect with Indigenous knowledge and begin to learn what makes the traditional materials so special and meaningful in our Tlingit culture. This was an opportunity for me to share stories about how spruce root is traditionally prepared, what dentalium was valued for, and reminding them to get to know and understand their materials and supplies when creating with them.
The virtual part of the learning was not as challenging as I originally thought it would be. Due to schedule differences, I chose to offer 5 lessons with a total of 13 short videos, with corresponding lesson plans, and with follow-up weekly zoom meetings. The videos were made available and both Jason and Josh online, at their convenience. In order to finish the lesson, they each had to text or email a picture of their finished lesson project.
To share with others about the ARTShop project, I created 8 posts and 6 stories that I shared on both my Instagram and my Facebook page over the span of a week and a half. It was a lot of fun, as the jewelry that I created for each lesson was given away in contests.
The response from my followers about classes was super positive, with at least ten others wanting to take classes virtually and learn this style of jewelry. It was really encouraging and I was really pleased with the feedback.
ARTShop was really successful. Both students received a foundation in working with essentials tools and traditional materials to create jewelry from start to finish. I am confident that through the lessons and the tools that I provided through ARTShop 2020 both Jason and Josh can take their newly learned skills and have their own culturally-based business, or at the very least, hobby.