Tommy Joseph

Tommy Joseph, My Ancestors, 2009-2015.
Tommy Joseph, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, My Ancestors, 2009-2015. Digital print on wool. Variable dimensions. Edition of 2. Collection of The Fabric Workshop and Museum. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

Belonging to the Eagle Moiety of the Kaagwaantaan Clan, Tommy Joseph works primarily with wood, producing objects such as totem poles, warrior helmets, and bentwood boxes. Informed by the traditional art of the Tlingit peoples, he utilizes simple hand tools and time-honored methods of woodworking. However, Joseph works fully in the present, telling stories about those around him through the language of Tlingit iconography.

Joseph collaborated with FWM to produce My Ancestors, a men’s suit, cut to his measurements and made of custom-designed fabric, creating a modern, wearable representation of Tlingit totemic motifs. The resulting exhibition featured Joseph’s Eagle and Wolf sketches, which provided the basis for the repeat pattern of the fabric, as well as an array of wood helmets he carved and painted in the fashion of ancient Tlingit warrior armor.