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A few years ago, Rico Worl sat in his grandmother's garage, hand-painting his skateboard with formline design.
Lanáat' Rico Worl, Kaakeeyáa Crystal Worl open store 070914 NEWS 2 CAPITAL CITY WEEKLY A few years ago, Rico Worl sat in his grandmother's garage, hand-painting his skateboard with formline design.
Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Story last updated at 7/9/2014 - 2:11 pm

Lanáat' Rico Worl, Kaakeeyáa Crystal Worl open store

A few years ago, Rico Worl sat in his grandmother's garage, hand-painting his skateboard with formline design.

Last week, he opened a store in downtown Juneau.

"I don't know what happened, but now I have a shop," he joked.

Worl describes Trickster Company, which has been around for about two years, as "a company promoting innovative indigenous design."

"I wanted to be able to show that we can represent local in a stronger way in our tourist economy in Alaska," he said.

His sister, Crystal Worl, who got a Bachelor of Fine Arts in jewelry metals from the Institute of American Indian Arts, has been involved from the beginning and is opening the shop with him.

Crystal has been studying and practicing formline all her life. Recently, she's begun to lean more toward contemporary work, she said.

"The majority of my artwork is raven paintings, and it's always based off of stories from my clan," she said.

In the contemporary vein, she has been working with the recycled glass from car windshields, casting it into totem pole molds.

"I've been really experimental in looking into sustainable kinds of art, but that's not what my art is about. It just is naturally a part of it," she said.

Rico makes jewelry. He designs T-shirts, playing cards, sunglasses and prints inspired by Tlingit culture and art.

The sunglasses, which will be out in August, feature a design called "town meeting" and are an example of how Worl's values and his artwork meet.

"I want to represent the culture - the success of Native people - and I also want to encourage public involvement ... encourage Native people to be involved in the public, such as things like town meetings," he said.

Worl has served on the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council board and the Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

"The cultural values I was raised with and the training I got while working at Sealaska Heritage Institute (as Arts Director) are two things that drive this business," he said. "For me, it's really important to be engaged in the community, and community development, and the growth of our community as a whole."

Some of his most well-known creations are playing cards, which got a good kick off from Kickstarter. Worl aimed to raise $7,000 - he raised $17,000.

"As an artist I didn't just want to do skateboards," he said. "I wanted to design a broad number of things. That's when I changed the name to Trickster Company (initially, Trickster Skateboard Company) and started designing whatever opportunities made themselves available ... I'm in a constant state of creative hustle."

The Kickstarter effort provided a good lesson in the cost of shipping, he said. On Kickstarter, people pledge money and are rewarded with different prizes depending on how much they contribute.

"It wasn't a huge profit making venture," he said.

But it did allow him to design and digitize the cards, and then work with a playing card company to figure out how to manufacture them.

"It really brought me to the next level ... I was able to do more products on a larger scale more frequently than previously," he said.

That also meant, however, he needed to figure out how to sell them. His family, led by stepmother Dawn Dinwoodie, started a partner company that is helping to place Trickster Company art all up and down the northwest coast. Though the partner company has a name - Hotglaa, LLC, which means "Gee Whiz, LLC," Dinwoodie said - the focus is on Trickster Company.

"Right now it's really about just trying to market, develop relations and see what gift shop owners are doing, what they need and what their customers need," she said.

Each face card on the deck has "a beautiful piece of artwork," she said. "Northwest coast form line is challenging, and for him to be able to use it in that space with those constraints - I think true artists would really appreciate how special the cards are."

Haa Aaní LLC, a Sealaska subsidiary that seeks ways to support Southeast Alaska's economy, also helped Trickster Company out with a loan, allowing Rico to leverage Kickstarter momentum to bring the company where it is today, he said.

Friend Christy NaMee Eriksen, who is also opening a downtown business this summer, helped him with the company's name and logo, designing the raven "r" in "Trickster," he said.

Trickster Company features different artists from around the region. Some are Allison Bremner of Yakutat, who has "just really become an awesome artist," Rico said. He's also worked with Ronnie Fairbanks, who designed some skateboards; Sonya Kelliher-Combs, who was one of the live auction artists at the Tináa art auction, Mary Wheeler-Goddard, and Shaadootlaa Tinaa'Yeil Gunaaxoo'Kwaan.

He'd like to increase the number of artists the company works with, as well as the product line.

"I imagine doing pop-up shops in other cities," he said.

If he expands, someday he'd like to open an art studio, he said.

Trickster Company opened in downtown Juneau in early July. Worl plans to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days in the week during the tourist season, changing in the fall, though he'll be using the space as a studio and said he expects it will be open just about as much.

Rico and Crystal Worl are members of the Lukaax.adi (raven-sockeye) clan; their clan house is Yeil Hit. They are also Shangukeidi Yadi - children of the thunderbird clan.

"Come by and say hello," Crystal said. "We're about networking and creating a creative community here - a network of artists, and local community as well."

Find out more about Trickster Company at www.trickstercompany.com, or by following it on Facebook.


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