An ancient weaving style used to create bold and dazzling geometric designs will be on display as ʔaʔk̓ʷustəƞáwt̓xʷ House of Learning, Peninsula College Longhouse presents “Kay Field Parker, Ravenstail Weaver” January 9 - March 27, 2020. The exhibit will kick off with two events, one in the evening on Wednesday, January 8, at 6:00 pm at the Lower Elwha Klallam Heritage Center, and the other at 12:35 pm on Thursday, January 9 at Peninsula College. The Heritage Center is located at 401 E. 1st Street in Port Angeles, and Thursday’s Studium Generale presentation will be held in The Little Theater on the main campus of Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd, Port Angeles.
By the late 18th century, Ravenstail weaving’s geometric style had become highly developed, then seemed to disappear with the emergence of Chilkat weaving, a technique used to create curvilinear “formline” crests on robes and regalia. By the early 1800’s, Ravenstail’s historic form and techniques were absent from the northern Northwest Coast, according to Parker.
Parker learned Ravenstail weaving beginning in 1990 from teacher-researcher and fiber artist Cheryl Samuel who studied the surviving Ravenstail robes in museum collections, reverse-engineering the technique in the process. Samuel returned this traditional knowledge to the coast, and over the past three decades, weavers have helped Ravenstail weaving become part of the living culture, held in high esteem among the arts of the Northwest Coast. Through shows and demonstrations, a new generation is encouraged to participate in the weaving and dancing community, thereby fostering a respect for Native cultural traditions. In honoring ceremonial regalia of the Native culture, Parker says she hopes to foster respect among diverse cultures.
“I enjoy the challenge and excitement of the research and development necessary to apply traditional techniques in the weaving of both new, original objects, like hats woven in the round, as well as traditional objects, like a tunic with sleeves,” Parker said. “I also invest my time in making the art of Ravenstail accessible as a living art form through teaching at UAS and communities around Alaska, and in the creation of weaving materials. Ravenstail weaving has been my passion for the past 29 years.”
Parker has been teaching Ravenstail weaving since 1994 in Juneau, Barrow, Anchorage, Cordova, Yakutat, Klukwan, Hoonah, Sitka and Petersburg. She is President of the Ravenstail Weavers’ Guild and has been an officer in the Guild since its formation in 1990.
She has completed five Ravenstail robes and has finished weaving a second tunic with sleeves. Her designs include many creative pieces including hats, dance bibs, headbands, checkbook covers, coin purses, leggings, tunics and aprons in three shapes. Parker has weavings in the collections of Juneau-Douglas City Museum, the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Museum and several private collections. Her most recent shows were at the Alaska State Museum-Juneau and the Kenai Convention and Visitors Center. She was awarded a Rasmuson Fellowship in 2015 and a Rasmuson Project Grant in 2013.
Kay Parker lives in Juneau, Alaska, where she was born.
The events are free and open to the public.