Published on January 27, 2014 by Amy
Anna Brown Ehlers was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska. Her parents’ ancestral home is Klukwan, Alaska, in the Chilkat Valley.
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Northern Tlingit are renown as the cultural heritage bearers of the indigenous art form; Chilkat blanket weaving. Jenny Thlunaut, the last Chilkat weaver of Klukwan, took Anna on as a student at the age of 92. Jenny was the best friend of Mary Betts, Anna’s paternal grandmother. Anna grew up watching Jenny and Mary do beadwork, skin sewing and weaving. Feasting on Indian food was a favorite past-time.
Jenny and Anna traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1984 to demonstrate the art of Chilkat weaving at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
“Jenny taught me the technique of making the Chilkat tunic, a knee-length sleeveless garment woven in one piece,” Anna said. “I have made eight full-size Chilkat blankets in my career, an adult tunic, a child-size tunic, four aprons, numerous wall hangings, bags and Chilkat attired porcelain dolls.
Anna has taught Chilkat weaving in classroom settings and one-on-one apprenticeships. She has taught and/or demonstrated the art of Chilkat weaving in the following locations:
● Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
● New York Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation
● Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
● First Annual American Indian Art Festival, Portland, Oregon
● Seattle Center Folklife Festival, Seattle, Washington
● Seattle Art Museum
● Legacy Gallery, Seattle, Washington
● Low Angeles County Museum
● Gene Autry Historical Museum, Burbank, California
● Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
● Boston International Festival, Boston, Massachusetts
● Tongass Heritage Museum, Ketchikan, Alaska
● Auke Bay Elementary School, Juneau, Alaska
● Juneau-Douglas High School, Juneau, Alaska
● D’zantkheeni Middle School, Juneau, Alaska
● Petersburg High School, Petersburg, Alaska
● University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska
● Koostayee Institute, University of Alaska, Juneau, Alaska
● Tokyo International Trade and Gift Show, Tokyo, Japan
“I plan to spend the rest of my life creating Chilkat art, and I strive to become a credit to the Alaska Native community,” Anna said.