By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
In 2013 Crystal Worl (Athabascan Tlingit) earned a Bachelor of Fine Art in jewelry metals and an Associate of Fine Art in moving images from the Institute of American Indian Arts. The majority of her art consists of painting, printmaking, graphic design, and clothing design. Her work explores the relationships and bonds between her people, the land, and the animals. She lives in Juneau, Alaska, working as a co-owner of Trickster Company.
Swimming in an ocean of projects every day, all over the world, Crystal embodies the creative lifestyle. Aerial dancer, visual artist, and now, Indigenous clothing designer.
At Trickster Company co-owners Crystal and her brother, Rico Worl, strive to represent a prestigious lineage of art in fresh and energetic ways as a celebration of Northwest Coast culture as it lives today. They launched their first clothing line in October 2016.
With all the new and hip work, Crystal still looks to mastering the ancient Northwest Coast formline design. It is essential to run a modern business while keeping the heart of her culture in the forefront, which is why she travels to meet with masters of formline design.
“I want to be fluent in it, to continue to study and better my formline for the rest of my life,” she said. “That applies to my business, too. I exist between traditional and modern worlds.”
When Crystal began her 2017 Artist in Business Leadership fellowship, she had just started to design clothing. But she learned by doing and kept growing into whatever was in front of her, never letting an opportunity pass by.
This led to a collaboration with Jared Yazzie (Diné - Navajo) of OXDX. They set up a pop-up shop at the Santa Fe Indian Market where Crystal was a featured designer. She looks forward to more collaborations with artists like First Peoples Fund fellow John Pepion (Piikani).
“Part of Trickster Company’s mission is to work with other Indigenous artists,” Crystal said, “and create a strong platform for artists who are into fashion and putting their designs on modern products.”
With Alaska undergoing growth, Indigenous fashion is catching on. “I’m excited to be involved with helping Indigenous fashion be recognized here,” Crystal said. “I think my business and clothing line has helped uplift Alaskan Native fashion.”
Her creative lifestyle is overwhelming at times, but when Crystal is at a show and youth come up and say how her work inspires them, it’s all worth it. She said, “I hope that’s what young people see — that literally, anything is possible.”