In Alaska Native culture, Raven is known as The Trickster.
“He’s either always bored or always hungry and is always looking for something to do, and in the process of doing so, he’s accidentally creating worlds and opportunities for life to happen,” said Tlingit/Athabascan artist and Juneau resident Crystal Worl. “Tricksters are mischievous, but they have a deep meaningful purpose.”
Born into the Raven moiety (descent group), Worl feels a kinship with the flying rascal.
In Tlingit and Haida culture “you’re born into either an eagle or a raven moiety,” Worl said. “Ravens tend to be people who are creative, attracted to shiny things and multi-faceted; always wanting to try this and that. We’re maybe not as focused as an eagle would be, because we want to try everything. That’s totally me.”
In 2012, Worl, 29, and her brother Rico, 33, created Trickster Company, a fashion and art world where traditional and modern design mesh into bold and playful styles featuring formline ravens, eagles, salmon, killer whales, and even Ewoks.
Through Trickster, the Worl siblings also provide their fellow artists and collaborators — including William Kozloff, Alison Bremner and Ronnie Fairbanks — the opportunity to have their designs seen and sold at trickstercompany.com and in around 200 specialty stores in Alaska and the Lower 48, including the Trickster Company store in downtown Juneau.
“Part of Trickster Company’s mission is to get involved with the community and provide a platform for indigenous artists,” Worl said. Trickster fashions recently stalked the catwalk at the fashion show accompanying Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Tináa Art Auction.
This year marks Trickster’s debut at the AFN Convention’s Arts & Crafts Show. The Trickster pop-up shop will be a potpourri of apparel and accessories.
“We’ll have leggings, notebooks, iPhone cases, bags, totes, pouches, hats, crop tops, skirts…” Worl said. “It will be really exciting to be selling next to all the other artists. I usually go to AFN to stock up on supplies and materials and get inspiration for my next wave of products. I hope I get inspired again this year and that a lot of people get inspired by us.”
Worl, a performer, painter, bead worker and graphic designer among other things, earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Jewelry Metals and an Associate’s of Fine Art in Moving Images from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She recently contributed Raven clan illustrations to the children’s book “Baby Raven,” part of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Baby Raven Reads early-literacy program.
Worl is naturally drawn to formline, the indigenous art of the Northwest Coast of North America, characterized by flowing curvilinear lines, S and U forms, and egg-shaped forms known as ovoids.
“A lot of formline pattern is based on Athabascan bead work,” Worl said. “It’s a combination of my mother’s Athabascan side and my father’s Tlingit side and where they meet in term of graphic design. Formline can be very geometric and it has a whole math and science built around it. “
Worl is a disciplined and determined student of formline. She’s attended formline workshops and apprenticed with master formline artist Preston Singletary.
She practices her technique daily.
“I’ve studied hundreds of books of the masters’ artwork and replicated, just copying and copying and copying,” she said. “I’m just learning. I can’t say I’m a master by any means.”
Worl finds formline visually and philosophically fascinating.
“Formline is about the space and how you use it. How you use the positive space is as important as how you use the negative space. It’s the creating of balance and harmony visually. It’s so philosophical,” she said. “If you applied formline philosophy to your life how amazing would our world be?”
She is serious about the art and science of formline, but Worl and her collaborators also delight in applying it to pop culture, hence Trickster’s formline Ewok t-shirts and onesies.
“We totally have an Ewok. I had to do it,” Worl said. “Formline is timeless. It’s meant to fit in any space or time, and it will look amazing as long as your formline is good.”
Worl said she’s been waiting a long time to bring Trickster’s vibrant vision to the AFN Convention, and she’s stoked to see how folks react to it.
But first, she wants to make sure everyone knows where to find her.
“I hope everyone comes over to booth number eight,” she said. “It’s going to be great. We’re going to have fun. It’s going to be crazy.”