Native Artists x Tea Collection: Meet Crystal Worl

Artist Crystal Worl, based in Juneau, Alaska, is a child of a Thunderbird and from the Chilkat region in Southeast Alaska.  From her mother’s side, she is Deg Hit’an Athabascan from Fairbanks Alaska.  She is co-owner of Trickster Company with her brother, Rico Worl, which promotes innovative indigenous design focused on Northwest Coast art.  We were thrilled to partner with Crystal for several winter product collaborations including storytelling tees featuring her original artwork.  Read on for more of her story and the inspiration behind her work!

Crystal’s original artwork is featured on storytelling tees this winter

 

You were introduced at a young age to traditional arts, practices and storytelling from your parents’ tribes.  Can you share more about these experiences as a child?

My family recognized and nurtured my interest in art.  My mother showed me how to bead, sew and encouraged my creativity. Every Saturday morning, I would watch my favorite cartoons.  And, I would also watch the artist Bob Ross on the public TV channel.  Because I loved watching Bob Ross, I would often get a Bob Ross painting kit.

I was raised with my Athabascan family in the Interior of Alaska during the winter months.  My mother has a big family so we were surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins for family gatherings, potlatches, traditional dances or harvesting berries and/or salmon and meals.  Moose soup is my favorite!  My mother nurtured our interests in dance, gymnastics and art.

When summer came, we headed to Southeast Alaska to stay with my father’s family and my Tlingit grandmother. Visiting with family and playing with cousins was the highlight.  Our Uncle would take us out on his boat to fish and harvest traditional foods like salmon, cockle clams, and gumboots.  We would also learn more about our clans, family history and traditions through storytelling and hearing and speaking Tlingit.  It was important to my grandmother that her grandchildren know their tribal identity and how to introduce themselves in a public event, especially when attending sacred ceremonies.

Looking back, I see how valuable my unstructured time with my brothers was in nurturing my creativity.  We have great memories of building intricate cities made of Legos that even included telephone poles with wires.

All my family supported me in different ways.  My dad’s skills are finance and management.  He is teaching me about business and art.  He would get excited about my art and encourage me to create a business.  It helps when you have parents that tell you that you can do anything and everything is possible.

In our collaboration pieces this season, you highlight stories of animals: deer, raven, porpoise and polar bear.  How do these stories resonate with you personally?

Tlingit and Athabascan people have identified themselves as unified with the land and animals that gives them life.

Tlingit kinship is based on a clan system or extended family groups.  Tlingit clans are associated with specific animals, birds or fish.  Oral traditions and songs record the interaction between humans and animals and how clans obtained the right to use their images as crests on their ceremonial regalia or jewelry.

In Tlingit and Athabascan culture, we maintain both physical and spiritual relationships with the environment and animals.  Animals have given us life through feeding us, clothing us, and teaching us to co-exist with the environment.

The paintings with the Deer, Raven, Porpoise, and Polar Bear are used in the Tea Collection collaboration. I hope that when a viewer sees these paintings [see original works below] that they gain an insight into the relationship that I have to my culture and the connections we have with the land and animals.

 

 

 

 

 

You work with many different types of media in your art.  What are some of the materials that you have been most interested in recently and why?

I have explored multiple mediums from jewelry, sewing, beading, glass-making and even film production and more.  My favorite is painting. Recently, I explored tanning fish skin for various uses.  I taught myself how to make resin molds for bangles and earrings.

Fishing is important subsistence activity for our family and I have participated in helping on the boat and processing the fish. I explored the use of using natural dyes, like berries, to dye my fish skins and my wood laser cut earrings.  I am following my heart and the heartbeat of my ancestors that tanned fish skin for everyday household objects like bowls and used berry juice to create color in their life.

What are some of the themes and issues in Native culture that you are most interested in highlighting through your work?

Trickster Company was started by my brother quite by accident.  He was hand-painting skateboards for our cousins with Northwest Coast art formline.  Rico saw a way for youth to connect their culture through the use of  everyday objects such as skateboards, basketballs and playing cards.  Trickster Company was born to bring culture and pride into everyday experiences – our culture is alive and thriving today.  It is not just symbolized by relics in a museum.  It lives in our hearts, minds and daily activities.  We show our pride by wearing our clan crests and art every day.

Trickster Company is proud to partner with the Tea Collection to honor our ancestors, our culture and the beautiful gift of Northwest Coast Formline Art.

 

 

 

Citizenship: Time to Vote

A post from Tea Collection co-founder and CEO, Leigh Rawdon. 

This is Matthew in 2008, just about five weeks old, joining me when I voted in the 2008 Presidential election.

 

Since the founding of Tea, we have built our company for little citizens of the world.   We respect the power of the word “citizen,” understanding that with it comes a commitment to engaging in the community whether local, national, or global.  There are many ways to engage, and certainly one of the most important roles we have in our country is as voters.

I’m happy to share that Tea is officially part of the Time to Vote campaign, originally initiated by Patagonia and a group of similarly committed companies.  We want to be sure that everyone at Tea has the time to exercise our right to vote every year.  Everyone on the Tea team can take up to a half day off to vote.  We want you to have the time to take your kids with you to the polls if you can, so that children can see from the earliest ages how important it is to be an engaged citizen.

At Tea, we understand the power of images.  When we see a foreign place or language or food, it can become familiar and even a small part of us.  Similarly, when a child sees a parent voting or speaking up for what matters, the experience becomes a part of them.

As a part of our commitment to the Time to Vote campaign, we are asking our Tea community to also take the time to vote and to share pictures of your families engaged in citizenship.  We would love to see kids at polling places or with an “I voted” sticker or any other activity where they have an experience of citizenship.  We’ll select our Little Citizen of the Month for November from these images, celebrating the importance of taking the time to vote – and taking the time to include our littlest citizens when we do.

I’m the first to understand that this isn’t easy.  When it’s not a Presidential election year, it’s sometimes hard to prioritize getting to the polls or submitting your mail-in vote.  It’s not easy to study up on the California ballot measures, and it’s not easy to get home in time from work to pick up the kids and get to the polls just so they can see democracy in action.

But I hope our commitment at Tea for the Time to Vote campaign inspires each of us to make it happen.  I’ll admit that the Time to Vote commitment is the extra motivation I needed to figure out where I can take my kids with me for early voting since I’ll be visiting our factory in Thailand on Election Day.  Otherwise, I might have just mailed in my ballot without much a mention to the kids.  Instead, I’m going to jump through a few hoops to talk to them about the election and take them with me to drop off my ballot.  They might prefer Fortnite or soccer, but I have a feeling that the experience will stick with them.  They will grow up remembering going to the polls every year with their parents and understanding the importance of being a good citizen.

Tag your citizenship photos on Facebook and Instagram with #timetovote to support the nationwide campaign and #Teacollection #LCOMvote to share with our Tea community and to be eligible for our November Little Citizen of the Month contest (see more details below).  Someone will win a gift certificate for Tea, but more importantly we can all inspire each other to be role models for our kids and to be engaged citizens in our country!

To learn more about the Time to Vote campaign, click here.

To register to vote or to learn more about your polling place, click here.

Voting with Adam in 2016

 

To enter our Little Citizen of the Month program to win $100 gift certificate to Tea, follow @tea_collection on Instagram, post a photo of your kiddo wearing Tea and engaged in civic activity – volunteering, joining you to vote, etc.  Use #teacollection and #LCOMvote.  Winner will be selected and notified on 11/9/2018.

The Journey Continues

Dear Friends of Tea,

Today I am announcing my retirement from my day-to-day roles as Chief Creative Officer and member of the Board of Directors at Tea.

Seventeen years ago, Tea started as my vision for developing lifestyle products with context and meaning – actually creating products with the mission/vision built inside each piece. I co-founded this company for customers who want mindful choices about the brands they bring into their lives. I am immensely proud of how our products and brand create connection for the many. And I am most proud of the powerful connections made with just a few – with every person who has touched this power as an employee of Tea.

I was fortunate to have Leigh join me on the realization of the vision and to make it into the wonderful organization it is today.  Now, I confidently pass the torch to Laura Boes for creative and design leadership at Tea. She has been by my side for 13 years, upholding high standards. Leigh will absolutely thrive at the helm of our dynamic leadership team. She is driven to work hard and succeed! I am excited for the magic the leaders will create together, and I’m profoundly inspired by the opportunity to build the future of Tea.

Recently, I embarked on a new journey of training for non-profit and civic leaders. Over the past few years I have volunteered in my children’s elementary school, specifically in a program that focuses on the social-emotional development of kids, building positive connections and relationships by reading theme-specific books and leading classroom activities. I have loved it. I’m excited to grow and learn and lean into my aspiration of supporting this work for children and families.

I cherish the opportunity to have paved this path. Most of all, I am grateful to have been on this journey with all who have touched Tea, from employees and customers to partners and investors. I appreciate the epic adventure this has been, for the forum of creativity we have built, and for my own personal and professional growth. It has been the experience of a lifetime!

I will always be a part of the brand’s DNA. And it, mine. I will always be a founder and advocate for Tea. And I have faith that the brand and business will continue to excel.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for loving Tea,

 

Native Artists x Tea Collection: Museum of Indian Arts & Culture Textile Designs

While in Santa Fe, we had the opportunity to visit The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, home to an extensive collection of Native art and material artifacts. The Museum opened in 1931, with a mission to collect and preserve Southwest Native American material culture. In partnership with the museum, our latest winter styles feature products inspired by textiles in the collection.

What significance do textiles have as an art form among the Southwestern natives?

Weaving is integral component of life, identity and creative expression amongst the Southwestern Indian peoples — and has been so for thousands of years.

The Navajo, Pueblo and Hopi peoples of the Southwest are all known for and regarded for their weaving traditions. Though their weaving styles and designs differ, they all share in the belief that weaving was a gift given to them by Spider Woman. Through her communication these Southwestern Indian people learned how to spin and weave and, in so doing, gained the ability to create beauty and share both a personal and cultural expression.

To learn more about the Myth of Spider Woman visit:  https://youtu.be/c_Tj4lr8i_k

The first weavers were the Pueblo people of the Southwest and cotton and yucca were the initial fibers they used to make clothing, ceremonial dress and blankets. When the Spanish arrived in the early 1500’s they introduced the churro sheep and their long staple wool became the main weaving fiber.

In the late 1880’s trading posts opened up throughout the Southwest; and shortly thereafter the railroad arrived, delivering to the region new materials, new styles and new, and more frequent visitors. With so much fresh information and increase in demand, the focus and style of weaving changed. There was less need for woven basics and more demand from collectors and tourists for weavings to buy. Responding to the changing tastes and trends of the time, Southwest Native weavers produced more rugs than the traditional wearing blankets. A full 130 years later, the weaving tradition continues, with the native peoples of the Southwest making ceremonial dress, belts, and rugs both for personal use and for sale to collectors.

Stylistically, what are Southwestern native weavers known for?

There is no one style of weaving or pattern for which the Southwest is known, as every weaver approaches their craft differently. The one concept that does unify all weavings is the sense of balance, beauty and harmony with which all weavers approach their creative process. From gathering wool, to spinning, dying and weaving, gratitude and honor is accorded to the animals that provide the wool, the natural elements that nourish both the animals and the plants from which dyes are made.

What is life like within Southwestern Native communities today?

In New Mexico there are 19 Pueblos – or villages, located along or near the route of the Rio Grande River. The Pueblo people have lived in these towns or ones close by for over 1000 years. The ancient traditions of pottery, weaving, basketry, and jewelry making – are very much alive today and still practiced by the current generations.

The Navajo were originally a nomadic people who tended sheep. They moved as needed based on the season and the availability of good feed and water for the animals. That sheep were so integral to the Navajo way of life, it is understandable that they would become great weavers. While the Navajo are no longer nomadic and live in towns scattered across their 27,000 square mile reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, herding, wool processing and weaving is still practiced.

The Hopi people live in northeastern Arizona in small villages or settlements that have been there since time immemorial. Like the Pueblo people and the Navajo, the Hopi weaving traditions continue to thrive.

What types of tools and techniques do these artisans use when crafting their pieces?

Weavers the world round use the same tools – shears for harvesting wool from the sheep, carding combs to clean and separate the fibers, spindles to make the fiber into yarn, and looms for weaving the fibers. To learn more about the weaving process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyw93hJt__g

Shop Museum of Indian Arts & Culture x Tea Collection here.