Formline Design

Formline Design

Voices on the Land

Voices on the Land provides literacy-based, artist residencies in 4th and 5th grade classrooms, with Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian languages and cultural values forming the basis of instruction. The program integrates visual, performing, and digital arts with traditional knowledge. Through the experience, students use storytelling to create stop motion animation videos; learn the elements of Northwest Coast formline design, while keeping an artist’s journal and making a traditional drum; and use the skills of the actor’s toolbox and reader’s theater to explore and perform Raven Stories handed down through the ages. Voices on the Land also provides an in-person summer and winter arts intensive program for students in grades 4-8, as well as a virtual summer intensive program for students in grades 4-8 who live outside of Juneau.

Northwest Coast Arts Degree Program

SHI has partnered with the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) to develop and offer an Associate of Arts (AA) degree with an emphasis on Northwest Coast arts. The undergraduate program includes a wide spectrum of classes—from tool making to design, basketry and weaving among others. The program, which will be offered this fall at the university’s Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka campuses, is part of a larger effort to establish a four-year degree track through UAS and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thanks to an MOA between SHI, UAS, and IAIA, students who earn an AA degree with a NWC Arts emphasis have the option to transfer credits and pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from IAIA. Students can also work toward a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences or education at UAS or the broader University of Alaska system. In addition to art classes, the program requires students to complete courses in Alaska Native studies, Indigenous performing arts and a language class on beginning Tlingit, Haida or Tsimshian, as well as Northwest Coast design, art history and culture, art theory and practice, and career development for artists.

Campus Classes

SHI offers instruction on Northwest Coast art at the Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in Juneau. The program provides beginning, intermediate, and advanced training to individuals interested in learning about these unique and culturally rich art forms. Led by experienced instructors, these classes offer teachings in a wide variety of subjects, including basket weaving, beading, formline design, metal engraving, skin sewing, spruce-root and cedar-bark harvesting, tool making, and wood carving. The classes are part of SHI’s goal to establish a bachelor's degree in Northwest Coast art through its partners, the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Many of the classes at the campus may be taken for college credit through UAS, which offers an Associate of Arts (AA) degree with an emphasis on Northwest Coast arts.

Kit & Curricula

Formline design is part of a living culture and integral to the lifeways of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. “It surrounds us, and it holds us up. Our Northwest Coast art is ingrained in the social fabric and oral histories of our clans.” —Rico Lanáat ́ Worl, A Basic Guide to Northwest Coast Formline Art In this project, we give students an introduction to formline design shapes and definitions, the importance of balance in the design form, and to ways an experienced Native artist would compose a formline design. We then provide them with tools to create their formline design. A key to this project is to see both the positive and negative aspects of a design and how each type influences and serves to shape the other. SHI offers materials to teach Northwest Coast art, including an online textbook, flashcards, and curriculum boards. To order a hard copy of the textbook, contact the Sealaska Heritage Store at thestore@sealaska.com or 907.586.9114.

Instructional Videos

SHI has posted numerous videos online, including a two-day formline workshop taught by Steve Brown, ovoid construction with David R. Boxley using Adobe Illustrator, and how-to video series showing spruce root weaving in practice, from harvesting the roots to weaving and finishing the basket, as well as some time talking with Delores Churchill, a master Haida weaver. This series was created to help revive the endangered art form of spruce root weaving and features several apprentices. The video documentation was gifted to SHI by Lindblad Expeditions as a way to give back to the cultures that their clients (tourists) are exposed to. Instructional videos on how to make horn spoons were created in an effort to save this endangered Northwest Coast art practice. Horn spoon instructor Steve Brown narrates the videos. Videos are posted online on our YouTube channel and on our Vimeo page.

Lecture Videos

Watch lectures on Northwest Coast art by renowned Native artists and scholars, including Robert Davidson, Delores Churchill, and David Boxley. SHI videos are posted online on our YouTube channel and on our Vimeo page.

Go to Top