Its a tough job hunting and harvesting the animals you use to make your fashions. Remembering the smell of tanned seal fur when my grandmother would stitch a smoked moose hide moccasin. That great memory is where the basis of my business started.
My first pattern that I made in 2010, was an evening purse. I made a few fur purses to go along with selling seal skins to the native elders. Much to my surprise, people liked the quality and uniqueness of my fashions. Which spurred me on to make a few more unique patterns. 10 different patterns later a lady stepped up to my table while at a craft fair and asked, "do you make seal mittens?" I said, "no". "Can you make me a pair?" "I can try". Two weeks later, she was wearing a specialized, difficult to make, pair of unique seal skin mittens while watching the Iditarod mushers cross the finish line in Nome, Alaska. It's these people, my customers, that make the difference in my life.
This is one of the most rare opportunities left in the U.S.. I get the privilege to work with our ancestral animals and I'm able to share such a rare gift with you...my future buyers.
Featured in the USFW Sea Otter Brochure
“Taa Daa” Sea otter Caplet
Created March 2020
By Christy “Klanu” Ruby
Alaskan Native Tlingit Eagle from the
Keet Gooshi Hit House, Killer Whale Dorsal Fin
Designed with dyed black and white sea otter I created in 2017,
this caplet is made from furs harvested only in Alaska. After the North American Fur Auction went bankrupt, it’s now extremely important to support our pioneer trappers and the skills needed to preserve our local fur art.
“Taa Daa” is a lighthearted funny play on the serious shield Taa Naa. We need a shield of humor to defend today’s turmoil. But don’t let the silly name fool you into thinking a joker glued this fur thing together. 65 hours went into constructing this unique caplet; starting with the bone chilling hunt. Rain with sleet and 30mph winds during the winter is the best time to harvest a sea otter. The hides are prime and the summer sunburn on the fur has been molted out. The day isn’t over yet after a split second shot is taken. The 100 lb. animal must be taken out of the skiff and skillfully skinned. Salt is used to store the rolled up sleeping bag sea otter up to 6 months. Next, the hide soaks overnight in a trash can bath of cool water. After receiving a grant in 2011 to teach pressure fleshing, the technique quickly spread and was the simplest way to make backbreaking work easier. Babysitting is involved when drying the hides to make sure skin-to-skin isn’t touching while hanging over a 2x4. And last, is the costly shipping to a special tannery. After a year, and with several pleas, a special tannery agreed to acquire the overzealous federal permit to tan and dye sea otters. The adventure began with several costly trial runs of my hides being used as guinea pigs. But after what seemed years, the amazing one of a kind sea otter hides in black and white were born.
Taa Daa’s middle section is made of seal that I harvested in Ketchikan and is tanned by one of the last/best tanner who is 90 this year. Polar bear from Shishmareff is tufted in the dentalium. A Native elder in Kotzebue harvested the silver fox. Wayne Grant carved the walrus ivory beads. Benjamin Schliefman made a solid silver Taa Naa from a sketch I designed. Homemade shoulder pads and hand sewn blue satin lining complete the look.
Honorable Mention "Taa Daa" Alaskan furs Caplet. Purchased by Indian Arts and Craft Board, USFW Department of Interior
Featured in the USFW Sea Otter Brochure https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/iacb-fws-sea-otter-brochure-web.pdf
First Place in Textiles with "Eagle Equality" black and white totemic scarf -2019
Honorable Mention in Diversified Arts with "Taboo Lovebirds" Caplet-2018
First Place in Diversified Arts with Dress Vest, "Alaskan Lady"-2017
Best of show in Contemporary Fashion contest with dress vest, "Alaskan Lady"-2017
Second Place in Diversified Arts with a V-neck collar in Alaskan materials-2016
First Place and Best of Division in Textiles with a sea otter vest-2015
Anchorage AK, in October. Designed six unique sea otter fashionable looks. Sold one of the designs at the pop up.
Innovation Award for "Taboo Kusax'an (Love) Birds, Sea Otter Capelet-2017
Third Place for "Alaskan Lady" Sea Otter Dress Vest-2017
Showcasing latest fur creations for the east coast in lower Manhattan
Donated and sold seal and sea otter apparel to local residents in my home town. Ketchikan, AK
Sold seal and sea otter fur apparel and networked with senators on "significantly altered" issues. Anchorage and Fairbanks
"Sea otter are rebounding, not everyone is happy" 2 photos by Kiliii Yuyan
Learn about colored sea otter, "A Coat of Many Colors" written by Alexander Deedy
"Hunt, Eat, Sew"" written by Jennifer Nu.
Laws and defining information for visitors wanting to purchase sea otter wearable art.
The Fashion Issue, "Who's Who in Fashion" An amazing mention of being one of the 24 Native fashion designers
Working with Fur, According to Christy Ruby, written by Kelly Holmes; chief editor
"Ketchikan Fur Artist Wins at Santa Fe Indian Market" written by Leila Kheiry
"Kindred Spirits," Saskatchewan Meets Alaska, Biography on the amazing style of Christy Ruby, written by Tara Lynn Barks
Alaska Women: Making the Most of Their Game, written by Christine Cunningham
Sea Otters: An Alaska Political Predicament- written by Jill Burke
4 page article relating to sea otter issues with Don Young's bill and federal prosecutions of Natives.
I guess I've wanted to be an artist since I was 5 years old. I was very happy to get paid to work in such a unique field where many starve, lol. I had no idea that all of those jobs; window painter, coin designer, sculptor, computer graphics, illustrator, and fly tier...would lead me to where I am now. A very happy real fur fashion designer.
2.5 x 3 inch painting
Taking measurements is easy with charts
I sold on Etsy since 2011 with never less then a 5 star review. In 2017 Etsy banned my sea otter products. But I kept the account active for the 100+ amazing reviews.
Go strait to the shop to buy your unique wearable art!
Save hassle, have it wrapped!