Most of these projects were created in collaboration with Alaskan artist Clarissa Rizal.
This piece was commissioned by the Mt. Roberts Tram in Juneau, Alaska to hang in their main stairwell, and was created in collaboration with Alaskan artist Clarissa Rizal. It portrays the yearly return of the Salmon People, shown swimming up a cascading waterfall made of approximately 180,000 glass and crystal beads. The sculpture is approximately 21 feet long, and about 5 feet wide at the bottom.
The artistic style was inspired by the classic totemic art of the Northwest Coast. Halfway up the waterfall, a bear leans into the stream with an outstretched paw. (You can barely see her in the upper left corner…half of her face and her paw reaching into the waterfall…)
How long does it take to string 180,000 glass beads? Well, that all depends on how many friends you have. We had twenty friends help us with this sculpture, and it still took two months to make.
Following Our Ancestors’ Trail
Cedar, mother-of-pearl buttons & beads, copper, brass nails, acrylic paint; 7 ft x 11 ft.
©1997 by Bill Hudson & Clarissa Rizal
This carved wall mural design is based on an original poster Clarissa and I designed for Sealaska Heritage Institute for their biennial event “Celebration”. The artwork was commissioned by the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska, and hangs on the wall outside the Mediation Room, a circular room intended as a private grieving or prayer space, so the carving is curved to match the curve of the room’s outside wall.
The sculpture was created n collaboration with Clarissa Rizal, and is decorated with hundreds of mother-of-pearl buttons, just like the button blanket robe design upon which it was based. Naturally we couldn’t sew the buttons on, so we fastened each button on with tiny brass nails, hammered into the cedar.
With the sculpture finally installed, we stood back and realized, in surprise, that the sculpture wrapped around the room like a comforting button blanket robe. An unexpected surprise. Definitely one of my all-time favorite sculptures.
The large Face is the rising Sun, another day of life; also the Creator; life everlasting. The People are, in a spiritual sense, like the rays of the Sun; each of us carries a portion of that bright Light within us.
The People are following a Path; like the path of the Sun, our Ancestors’ Trail:
The Person with the Spear represents gathering from the Sea; the Person with Basket of Berries; gathering from the Land; the Person with T’Naa (ceremonial copper shield) represents History, Arts, Culture & Wealth; the Person with Child on back represents Families, Generations, Clans; the Person with Staff represents our Elders, leading the Way, on the Path of our Ancestors’ Trail.
Around the border are Salmon, going in the same direction as the People; they represent subsistence, living with the seasons, the Circle of Life.
Going to the Potlatch
Cedar, wool fabric, mother-of-pearl buttons, beads, paint; 4 ft x 11 ft.
©1998 by Bill Hudson & Clarissa Rizal
I designed this 3-piece wall panel, commissioned by the Alaska Marine Highway for the new ferry MV Kennicott, in collaboration with Alaskan artist Clarissa Rizal. The Alaksa Marine Highway runs from Bellingham, Washington up through the inside passage of Southeast Alaska, stopping at many of the larger towns and smaller villages.
I was tasked with creating the artwork for the carved panels — a canoe design with several totemic land animals paddling through a sea to Northwest Coast sea animals — and Clarissa came up with the beadwork patterns, based on some patterns she’d been “handed down” from her mother.
The main center panel shows a Tlingit canoe headed from its home village to a neighboring village — the site of a potlatch. The canoe is paddled by (from left to right) five of the more prominent Totemic Animals: Eagle, Frog, Bear, Beaver, and Raven. Below the canoe we see sea creatures such as Seal, Halibut, Dogfish and Killerwhale, escorting the crew on its journey. At the end of the trip, these Totemic Creatures will join the dancing and singing at the potlatch, where we see people circling around the fire.
The second photo shows a close-up of the canoe, with Bear and Beaver paddling hard. Inside of each figure is a human face, indicating that the Totemic Creatures are actually humans from different clans.
In the water swim Dogfish, Halibut and Salmon. The sculpture is a relief carving, echoing the carving styles of the Northwest Coast Indians of Alaska and British Columbia. The border of the piece is made of red wool fabric such as Clarissa uses for her button blanket robes, with mother-of-pearl buttons nailed on.
The two smaller end panels have flowers beaded into the fabric in the style of the Alaskan Native bead artists. The flowers represent the abundant vegetation of the Northwest Coast rain forest.
At one point, during the creation of this panel, we realized the significance of the design “going to the potlatch” and how in the “old days” people arrived at their destinations in cedar canoes. Now, at the end of the 20th century, the main mode of transportation between the small towns and villages in Southeast Alaska is by ferry. This carved panel is, in a way, a representation of the meeting of two time periods for the Northwest Coast tribes of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia.