Teri Rofkar

Sitka
2013 Distinguished ArtistFolk & Traditional ArtsAward Amount: $40,0002009 Fellowship AwardFolk & Traditional ArtsAward Amount: $12,000

About the artist

Teresa Rofkar was introduced to Tlingit weaving by her maternal grandmother, Eliza Moses Mork, when she was a child. In the 1980s, she became aware of the deep connections and significance of art in her life. Decades of weaving opened her eyes to the pure science and math that is embedded in Tlingit art. She died in 2016 at age 60.

Read her full obituary in the Sitka Sentinel.

2013 Distinguished Artist Award

Teri Rofkar (1956-2016) was an explorer of Alaska Native weaving traditions. A member of the Sitka Tribes, Teri “Chaas’ Koowu Tlaa” Rofkar was known for her Tlingit spruce root baskets, hats and Ravenstail robes, but she also investigated and practiced the weaving techniques of neighboring cultures to expand her understanding of fibers and their properties.

Rofkar spent thousands of hours studying basketry in museum collections around the world, collecting and processing her own materials, and weaving. She spun and dyed sheep and wild goat wool; dug, roasted and split spruce roots; refined cedar bark; plaited, knotted, and plied; and shared her knowledge broadly with other weavers and the public. Rofkar’s works have been widely exhibited and collected in the United States and honored with numerous awards, including a Governor’s Award for the Arts, a National Heritage Fellowship, a fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, a United States Artists Fellowship, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska Southeast.

Rofkar was known for her holistic approach to weaving—her respect for trees that have sustained Sitka weavers for thousands of years and for creating items that are both useful in daily life and beautiful works of art. She was of Hoonah’s T’akdeintaan Clan. To Rasmuson Foundation, Rofkar wrote, “I am following the steps of my Ancestors, striving to recapture the woven arts of an Indigenous people. The ancient ways of gathering spruce root, with respect for the tree’s life and spirit, are a rich lesson in today’s world. Traditional methods of gathering and weaving natural materials help me link past, present, and future—links with a time when things were slower paced, a time when even a child’s berry basket was decorated with care. It is through sharing and exploring that this old art form shall take on new life.”

2009 Fellowship Award

Rofkar will focus on networking with her artistic peers, complete her studio, attend a spinning retreat, and explore other west coast weaving and fiber arts opportunities.

At the 2013 Rasmuson Foundation awards.