Sydney Akagi, Chilkat Collar, 2021; Wool and Cedar. Naturally dyed. 15×24″. 2021
GRANTEE: Sydney Akagi
NATIVE HERITAGE: Tlingit
LOCATION: Juneau, Alaska
AWARD: 2022 LIFT – Early Career Support for Native Artists
DISCIPLINE: Traditional Arts
SOCIAL MEDIA: Instagram
Sydney Akagi resides on Lingit Aani, where she is known in her community for her photography and passion for weaving traditional Ravenstail and Chilkat regalia. Her work as a weaver began as an interest in fiber arts and has revealed itself as a vital part of healing her identity with her Tlingit culture. During her journey into traditional Tlingit Northwest Coast Arts, Akagi was introduced to Ravenstail weaving and later Chilkat. She is also a professional photographer. The color and tones she are drawn to are inspired by the warm moody colors found in Southeast Alaska. In her textile and dyes, the materials she uses are all sustainable, foraged and sourced from its lush summer forests and sleeping winter wonderland.
Initially, Akagi was drawn to fiber work and quickly found joy in the repetition, mathematics, and the patterns involved with the processes. Each element of weaving connected her to the land that she was already so deeply fond of. The patterns she chose were that of crashing waves or her ancestors’ faces, the fibers from mountain goats and tree bark, and the dyes from collected plants. The pieces Akagi creates include both modern and historical elements, revealing a narrative of resilience and adaptation for Northwest Coast peoples. With the desire to always learn more, she has been working to create traditional pieces that will help further her knowledge of regalia techniques and construction. She is a recipient of a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award and has showcased her work at Alaska Fashion Week.
My art, in all of its forms, is inspired by nature.”
—Sydney Akagi (Tlingit)
Akagi’s LIFT project, Ceremonial Woven Tunic, Ravenstail and Chilkat, will feature woven a ceremonial sleeveless tunic using both Ravenstail and Chilkat techniques. Ravenstail robes predate the well-known Chilkat robes, woven by the native peoples of the Northwest Coast. These intricate ceremonial garments can take up to one-thousand hours to weave. Today there are less than fifteen weavers who have created full size woven Chilkat pieces, and even fewer still doing it today. This project will require extensive studies of historical weavings, an understanding of the planning and mathematics of woven designs, and the documentation of progress and findings. This tunic will provide a glimpse into how weaving styles naturally evolved from Ravenstail into Chilkat techniques. The findings will then be available to other weavers, students, educators, and those interested in weaving.