Ribbon Skirt Workshop
Tuesday, March 21st, 2023: West Campus
The sun sets the southern mountains aglow, slowly burns the blue sky to a deep dark crusted orange. It is 6pm at West campus at Labriola Center. Graciously supplied by the Design Lab at Arizona State University West Campus at New College, each study table in the Center houses a Singer sewing machine. White bobbins and thread are wound, fabric shears shine, ready for patrons to snip, stitch, and design their ribbons to their fabrics.
Five registrants are in the room, one of whom identifies as an Indigenous student at West campus, previously unaware of the Labriola Center. Many who enter the Labriola Center at West campus are unaware of our space. That is why we are hosting the Ribbon Skirt workshop, to usher in Indigenous students into our library space and utilize the books, research, and archive materials. On the long wooden table next to a wall of Open Stacks, fabrics cut into two yards each are stacked, eager to be picked and designed in honor of Women's History Month. Accompanied by the patrons is Cassie Harvey and Katonya Begay. They are both a part of the Research on Violent Victimization Lab (ROVV), whose goal is to "find solutions to complex problems surrounding victimization among underserved populations. [Their] values center on social justice with an emphasis on promoting safer and healthier communities for all people. [They] conduct research in partnership with communities, agencies, and interdisciplinary teams using a strengths-based approach." They introduced themselves and their program, emphasizing the importance for speaking out for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Peoples. To learn more about ROVV, check out their page here: https://ccj.asu.edu/rovv-lab.
Baylee LaCompte (Hunkpapa/Sicangu Lakota), one of our Library Aides, has been designing ribbon skirts for five years. She is facilitating tonight's workshop due to her experience. She greets everyone in her language and briefly introduces the history of ribbon skirts. Within her culture, sewing is an essential skill because when you have a ceremony, it is a skill to be able to create your own ribbon skirt. This ribbon skirt lasts beyond the initial ceremony. Holding up her personal skirts she's created, Baylee reveals her humble beginnings and initial approach towards making a ribbon skirt. One of her skirts she displays shimmers in an ombre of pink satin that cascade up the fabric like a blushing ice glacier. She emphasizes the importance for men to sew their own clothes as well, as sewing is a life skill all people ought to learn.
Vina Begay (Diné), the archivist at the Labriola, is also an avid seamstress. She assists in cutting and troubleshooting the sewing machines. Vina demonstrates the Singer machine and its capabilities. Everyone measured and cut their skirts, used glue sticks and pins to design their ribbons. Flashes of pink, white, orange, and lime green satin pour over the table, igniting a flurry of rainbows in front of the wall of books and call numbers against the background. Everyone is determined. A low chorus of sewing machines hammer hums throughout the room.
The evening ends with smiles as ribbons are attached. Most bring home their projects but some almost finish. The event ends blanketed by a dark night sky.
Thursday, March 23rd, 2023: Tempe Campus
For this next session, Baylee took the helm again and led the attendees into the process of ribbon skirt making. The 8 or 10 guests each had their own designated station complete with sewing machines, ribbons, cloths, and measuring instruments to aid the creation process. At the start, Baylee herself, as the main instructor of the event, introduced the meaning of the ribbon skirt in her culture and emphasized that it’s not gender specific in some ceremonies. After Baylee, ROVV Representative Chris Sharp introduced himself and expressed the commitment to ending the epidemic of victimization and harm of all people, but especially Indigenous women.
Starting off the event, Baylee went over the calculations integral to using the right amount of fabric for the skirts. Next, the attendees chose their fabrics and were then instructed by ASU Makerspace on how to use the machines to sew the material together. Afterwards, Makerspace and Labriola staff went over to each of the stations to see which participants needed help and answered questions about this process.
From the very start, both this iteration at Tempe campus & the previous workshop at the West Campus were created to bring students into the Labriola space, as well as honor Women's History Month. Equally as important, and some might argue as more important, is the history of Indigenous Women: Those in the present and those from the past. This act of ribbon-skirt making was/is to show resilience in the face of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women. Participants for these workshops came from all different parts of life. Female, male, & non-binary individuals were in attendance and learning skills that help keep certain Indigenous traditions alive for different tribes all across the country. It’s events like this one that gives a glimpse into what could be a bright future for Indigenous people.
Labriola’s Beatmaking Workshop
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
On the evening of Wednesday, March 29, 2023, Labriola hosted its first Beatmaking workshop. This workshop was created by and facilitated by Labriola student worker Nataani Hanley-Moraga (Navajo/Húŋkpapȟa Lakota). Nataani first brought up the idea of this workshop during the first months of his employment at Labriola. Often, Nataani would discuss and talk about music with staff, which led to him sharing his deep knowledge of all types of music. He’d talk with students and staff about the heaviness of metal music, the deep roots of Hip Hop, and his experience with composing his own music. You’d often find Nataani working on his beats in the Labriola, where he would bring in his own music equipment and create music for our social media. In an effort to help Nataani share his passion for music, we decided to move forward with a beatmaking workshop.
The workshop started out with a historical review of Hip Hop, what social environments it was born out of, how it was used to empower people, and how Indigenous people have used Hip Hop as means of cultural expression and resilience. Afterwards, Nataani reviewed the complex software and hardware used to create beats from MIDI Controllers and Digital Audio Workstations, such as MPC Beats. Additionally, he reviewed how he created MIDI Controllers out of Play Doh, cardboard, and Makey Makey kits. With the help of ASU’s Makerspace, Nataani and Alexia Lopez created these DIY MIDI Controllers and worked out how to best wire the Makey Makey kits to the Play Doh, and how to connect these MIDIs to a computer. Armed with the DIY MIDI Controllers, software, and hardware, participants then worked on creating their own beats and music. Alexia created a piece of music that she downloaded and shared with the Makerspace staff. Tait Wilson, another Labriola student staff, created a short EDM beat and another participant, tried out the different MIDIs and created a variety of beats. At the conclusion of the workshop, participants were able to download their own music and take it home with them.
This Beatmaking workshop is another workshop we may add as an annual event. So, stay tuned for the next Beatmaking workshop!