2017 Mentor Artist Fellow Lani Hotch (Chilkat Indian Village) comes from a long lineage of weavers starting back with her great-great-grandmother. She began weaving with her grandmother and is using her opportunity as a Mentor Artist Fellow to ensure that the tradition is passed on to younger generations.
When master Chilkat weaver Jennie Thlunaut (Tlingit) died in 1986, Lani Hotch says she felt a sense of sadness and at the same time felt moved to begin weaving again. Thulnaut was one of Lani’s first teachers alongside her maternal grandmother, and over the years had been present in Lani’s life in the community of Klukwan, Alaska.
Lani began by joining a Ravenstail weaving class taught by Cheryl Samuel in 1990, which led to some additional classes, and in 1992, Lani, with Cheryl’s help, initiated the Klukwan Healing Robe, a group project that took them eight years to complete and helped her community in the path of healing from historical trauma.
Since then, Lani has led and participated in many weaving group projects. The loss of two traditional weavers in 2016, Clarissa Rizal and Teri Rofkar, both her own age, made Lani reflect on her own mortality and the importance of carry forward this knowledge to future Klukwan generations. Once she set that intention, everything fell in to place and in 2017 she was awarded NACF’s Mentor Artist Fellowship, which has allowed her to work one-one-one with an apprentice for a full year. “When you’re doing a group project, not everybody gets all of the skills and you depend on each other to do different parts of it,” Lani explains. “I really wanted to pursue the mentor-apprenticeship so that I could pass on every step [of the weaving process] to one individual.”
Over the past twelve months Lani has worked diligently with her apprentice Carrie Durr weaving a dance robe. From choosing design elements and creating a schematic layout of the design, to measuring and cutting weft yarns, Lani has guided Carrie through the entire weaving process. She believes that learning these techniques will enable her apprentice to create her own designs and work through the process of designing and creating her own weavings. “These skills will benefit her as an artist and will benefit the community as the artform is carried forward into a new generation,” she says.
The Mentor Artist Fellowship inspired Lani to want to do more. She was able to convince her tribe to apply for a grant to document the Chilkat weaving tradition in Klukwan on film and work with another apprentice. Lani says that she will be able to transfer the structure she was given by NACF’s Mentor Artist Fellowship Program and the skills she’s acquired as a mentor to her new project. “I’d never been a mentor before where I’ve worked one-on-one [with an apprentice], so it’s been a learning process for me too.”