Skip to content

Protection: Adaptation and Resistance, Peter Paul Kawagaelg Williams: Fur sewing Zoomshop

Make a pattern and sew a traditional “trapper hat”. Indigenous participants will be provided with otter fur. Non-Natives will be provided with beaver. This class is sponsored by Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska and Alaska Community Foundation Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief Fund.

Saturday, October 24th, 1pm-4pm
Thursday, October 29th, 5:30pm-8:30pm

Sunday, November 1st, 1pm-4pm
Thursday, November 5th, 5:30 pm-8:30 pm

Workshop is nearly full.

Contact Peter Williams via

“Yup’ik culture embodies reciprocity between human, plant, animal and spiritual worlds. I assume responsibility for this by practicing an endangered art form disrupted by colonization: sewing the skins of mammals and fish. My work challenges anti-Native policy, the lingering colonial mindset of divine right to rule America’s original inhabitants, and the role that mindset has in climate change and ecological collapse threatening Indigenous peoples and the natural world we depend on. My pieces intentionally discomfit viewers who subscribe to mainstream, non-Indigenous views of conservation, believing that we must “preserve” nature by minimizing human interaction with it. This is in contrast to Indigenous perspectives: We must build reciprocal, intimate relationships with plants and animals, as we nourish ourselves and adorn our bodies with them every day.

My process perpetuates Alaska Native protocol of developing a personal relationship with ‘the materials of place’: I source by hunting and fishing; I alter by tanning; I construct by the time consuming yet cathartic labor of hand sewing, each stitch a prayer. The start-to-finish intimacy of my work underlines the ethos of Indigenous practice: Our environment and its inhabitants are not to be treated as disposable resources, but as critical relationships. Before a hunt I smudge and pray, asking the animal for its life; after the hunt I honor the animal by giving it its last drink of water per Yup’ik custom. Catches are shared as nourishment for my community, then repurposed into a reflection of Native experience. By hand-sewing garments, sculptures and paintings out of fish and mammals that I hunt, I bind the human, natural and spiritual realms into traditional and new art forms, creating a capsule of Indigenous knowledge and a warning siren to the balance of humanity that ignores it.”

Peter Paul Kawagaelg Williams (Yup’ik) is a culture bearer, artist, designer, filmmaker, and educator originally from Akiak currently based in Sitka, Alaska. His hand-sewn works repurpose skin from self-harvested traditional foods, bridging worlds of Indigenous art, fashion, and subsistence.

Williams completed artist residencies at Santa Fe Art Institute and Institute of American Indian Arts, and has guest lectured and/or taught skin sewing at Yale University, Stanford University, UCLA, Portland Art Museum, 516 ARTS and Alaska State Museum, among others. His art has been shown at museums and galleries across North America.

His presentations at New York Fashion Week and Fashion Week Brooklyn in 2015 and 2016 led to profiles in The Guardian and The New York Times. He co-produced the documentary Harvest:Quyurciq, which received a Native Peoples Action project grant and screened internationally. In 2018-2020 Williams became a Cultural Capital Fellow, a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow, and received an Individual Artist Award Project Grant from Rasmuson Foundation.

Note* Due to Federal regulations all students working with sea otter fur will need to provide a copy of their CIB documenting that they are Alaska Native with a blood quantum of ¼ or more. All other students will work with beaver fur. workshop audience (to whom the artist will teach, i.e. intergenerational, teens, adults, etc) This is a in depth and challenging project for a beginner but it is manageable under guidance. Given the challenges of teaching hands on art forms over Zoom I will work with Bunnell Arts to determine the best number of students, their age, duration, dates and frequency of sessions. However an audience of adults is recommended with the possibly of some teens attending depending on circumstances.

Learn about other Protection: Adaptation and Resistance Zoomshops

Back To Top