Lily Hope (right) teaches a student how to weave Ravenstail on the Youth Pride Robe project. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hope)
Lily Hope (right) teaches a student how to weave Ravenstail on the Youth Pride Robe project. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hope)

Lily Hope has spent the past four years teaching the traditional craft of Ravenstail weaving to students throughout North America. Now she’s asking her students for the results of those lessons to be exhibited during a show-and-tell on Tuesday.

About 40 child-sized robes are expected to be worn by dancers with Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy Program during the event titled “History & Future of Yeil Koowú, Ravenstail Weaving” from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall. Earlier in the day the public will be able to watch and try their hand at the craft during a weavers’ gathering at the convention center from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Hope, who has made Ravenstail weavings for more than a decade as one of Juneau’s most notorious artists, said in an interview Thursday the upcoming show is one of the largest collections of Ravenstail robes to be presented in one place in modern times.

“There’s a moment when the robe comes off the loom that we creators, we artists benefit from experiencing the first dance of our work because we can spend anywhere from 600 to 2,500 hours on a piece, a single weaving,” she said. “That connection and time that we put in is similar to gestating a human baby, growing a child. So when that robe comes off of the frame and goes out in the world, if we can witness the first dance of the blanket and witness the fringe come to life, witness it move for the first time, it is similar to watching a child take its first steps or watching your child graduated from college.”

Ravenstail ceremonial regalia were historically created and worn by the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples of the Northwest coast of North America, according to a press release for Tuesday’s event.

“These techniques ‘slept’ for 100 years, until researcher Cheryl Samuel, woke them up by researching the few historic robes housed around the world,” the release states. “One of her students, Kay Parker of Juneau, has taught with historical integrity and kindness for over 40 years now, motivating hundreds of students to share story and identity through geometric woolen weavings.”

The ceremony will honor Samuel and Parker, and feature a presentation about the history of Ravenstail by Ruth Hallows, a Ksm Lx’sg̱a̱n weaver and teacher currently living in Arizona.

“She’s been diving deep into research in the Chilkat tradition and is passionate about that,” Hope said, noting Hallows has been a student of hers since 2020. “Her whole heart is in the research and telling accurate history.”

While all of the robes in the show are woven with the same technique, Hope described the patterns chosen by the weavers as “a collection of short stories.”

“It was really up to each artist to weave the patterns that inspired them,” she said. “We talked a lot about ‘What is your robe? What is the story that your robe is telling? What patterns are you using to help tell that story?’ Many of the blankets are using historic and contemporary designs. Some of them are largely inspired by the historic blankets that are in museum collections prior to the work being woken up in 1985. So that was a consideration in whether to be largely inspired by historic pieces, or to really pull patterns from contemporary works and historic works, and blend a new story.”

Many of those artists will be at the weavers’ gathering before the main show putting finishing touches on their robes, since most of them will be worn for the first time when the dancers take the stage, Hope said. There will also be a spinning station so “people can try their hand at spinning the fibers that start all of these works.”

“There will be so many pieces to look at, ask about, talk to artists and really get a spontaneous ‘what are you making, what did you make, what’s the story of this’ opportunity,” she said.

Also at the gathering will be the “Weaving Our Pride” Ravenstail robes that have been in the works since last July with the goal of finishing them by this year’s Celebration will be on display — with an opportunity for visitors to contribute to that project.

“We make slip knots in our work so that as we’re weaving along a wingspan weaving from the left side to right the yarns don’t tangle,” Hope said. “So we’re going to need some support doing that. People can come and learn how to make slip knots in support of this community project.”

The child-sized robes featured at Tuesday’s event will then be displayed at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum in an exhibit titled “Yeilk’: Ravenstail Regalia for Our Future Clan Leaders,” which debuts May 3.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at [email protected] or (907) 957-2306.