'It's important to me': Emma Hildebrand passes on traditional Alaska Native art skills at Anchorage Museum
Emma Hildebrand is passing on traditional Alaska Native artwork skills.
Hildebrand, who is a traditional skills instructor, taught a two-hour introductory quillwork class Sunday in the Anchorage Museum Art Lab where she showed a group of six adults how to make a lapel pin using quills.
"I don't know if we will be able to finish it in two hours, but they'll get down the basic techniques and hopefully finish the project on their own," Hildebrand said before the class started.
She has been doing beadwork and skin sewing for about 50 years.
"I did learn to use quills as a form of bead, I would say, as I was growing up, where you would cut the ends off and then string it on a thread," she said.
But on Sunday, the quills were soaked until each one was pliable enough to flatten. Hildebrand says she has only been using that technique for about 25 years.
Hildebrand, who is part Koyukon Athabascan, grew up in Northway. She said passing on skills is very important to the Athabascan culture.
"As part of the Native American culture, you pass those skills on to your children and anyone else who might ask you to do so," she said. "It's important to me because we have to pass these traditions on, and doing that means teaching."
Her mom learned the traditional crafts while growing up and passed the skills down to Hildebrand.
"She grew up in a very traditional subsistence lifestyle," she said. "So it was out of necessity that, you know, you have to make your own clothes and ornamentations."
Hildebrand has mostly taught in the university system; they would send her to outlying communities. She has been teaching classes since the 1990s.
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