Sunday, December 20, 2020
It is the holiday season, and a great opportunity to support local, Native-owned businesses, artists and entrepreneurs. Sealaska invited its shareholders, descendants and others in the Alaska Native community to share their businesses and artistry with our audiences so we can help promote them during an otherwise very difficult year.
We were flooded with submissions from all sorts of artists, crafters and makers in Alaska and beyond. Their business profiles, photos of their work and links to online shops and/or social profiles are below. Please consider supporting them if you can!
Gunalchéesh, Háw’aa, T’oya̱xsmt ‘nüüsm!
Amiah Johnson, who is Tlingit and Filipina, beads, weaves chilkat, ravenstail and cedar, and sews to create earrings, headbands, pendants and qaspegs. She said that she began beading when she was young, after her maternal grandmother and mom taught her how.
The name of her small business is Little Bear Designs, as her indigenous name, Xóotsk’, means ‘little bear.’ Amiah does not accept customer orders, but you can find products available for purchase on her Instagram @xootsk.
Autumn Shotridge, Yaandakin Yeil (Tlingit), creates unique beaded seal fur jewelry and accessories such as handbags, purses, wallets, headbands, hats, pop sockets, and more.
Eva Rowan, sx̱een (Tlingit and Pueblo), is currently working on a project that involves beading earrings inspired by album art from Native music artists. She said that she sees this as an opportunity to “promote other Native artists’ craft while creating her own.”
Eva, who is from Klawock, said that her work is driven by her love of making regalia for loved ones. She started beading earrings in 2016, and now sells them via Instagram (@yeilgirl). “I truly enjoy creating for others,” Eva said.
One of Eva’s recent collections was inspired by Dakota and Boricua hip hop artist and producer Tufawon. Profits from all pieces inspired by album art are shared with the music artist.
Gertrude Ezell creates soaps, lip balms, face masks, and smoked salts with her mom, Deborah Hudson, and the help of her two sons through their small business, DragonQueen Creations. The team hopes to venture to bath bombs and lotions in the near future.
Joshua Clark recently started up Creative Native Marketplace, a platform to support small Native-owned business and individual sellers.
The marketplace helps vendors in the U.S and Canada to share their creations and products with the world in an effort to “make a cultural connection that we can all be proud of.”
Products available for purchase range from jewelry, to face masks, to salves and balms, and more. The website has a built-in share function to allow anyone to easily share marketplace products to Facebook, and a giveaway system that all sellers can utilize to promote their business.
To shop or learn more, visit creativenativemarketplace.com
Deisheetaan Designs is owned by Kylie Kookesh, Kyalxtin (Tlingit). She creates mostly jewelry but recently started to bead ornaments, keychains, and headbands.
Kylie said she decided to learn how to bead after seeing other passengers crafting their beadwork while traveling to Thorne Bay via ferry for volleyball practices. “I told myself I need to learn how to bead like that,” she said, “I have been doing this for about four years now, and I’ve improved, to say the least.”
In the market for a unique holiday gift? She is currently accepting orders through Facebook messenger.
Liane Crosta and her husband Chris create salmon leather jewelry and accessories using salmon byproducts, as well as halibut, rockfish, and seaglass and shells gathered from beaches in Alaska.
Lifelong Alaskans, they were both taught from an early age how to catch, clean, smoke, cure, and jar wild salmon. More than a decade ago, they realized how beautiful the salmon skins were, and decided they could find a purpose for materials that are usually wasted or thrown away; Liane and Chris also utilize bones and vertebrae for jewelry and art.
Through their business, From the C, the pair sells unique items such as journals, travel bags, boot bling, in addition to earrings, necklaces, bracelets, purses, and more. Their newest line of products is a wedding and formal wear collection. Find Chris and Liane on Instagram (@FromTheCAlaska) and Facebook (facebook.com/fromthecalaska), or check out their website at https://fromthec.com/.
Lisa Anderson said she is fortunate that elders noticed and nurtured her interest in traditional remedies. Their support led Lisa to start Tlingit Botanicals, a small business through which she sells all-natural and sustainable salves, balms, and topical skin care goods made in Hoonah, Alaska.
One of Lisa’s most popular products is the Devil’s Club 2x salve, a traditional handmade healing salve that can be used to treat eczema, burns, scratches, and dry skin, or aching muscles, arthritis, bruises, and small wounds.
Native to the arboreal rainforests of Southeast Alaska, Devil’s Club—Sʼáxtʼ (Tlingit)—is an adaptogenic plant, meaning its compounds strengthen the body’s ability to manage various stressors. The plant has been used for centuries by our Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people, as well as other Pacific Northwest indigenous cultures, for a wide range of medicinal and spiritual purposes.
Highly potent and culturally relevant, the Tlingit Botanicals Devil’s Club 2x salve has a five-star rating from nearly 80 reviews. Other products available for purchase include a spruce lip balm, itch relief oil, seaweed lotion bar, beard salve, and more.
Shop Lisa’s handmade products online at tlingitbotanicals.com.
Miciana Alise (Tlingit) said that she was inspired to become an artist by her grandmother, Alberta Aspen, who is a renowned button robe and regalia artist. “Watching her create beautiful traditional work growing up made me want to create my own, but with a modern twist,” Miciana said.
She strives to acknowledge her mixed heritage through her work—she makes and sells leather and suede earrings, assorted jewelry, digital art, stickers, and photography prints featuring unique form line designs. Miciana has even created new form line emoji GIFs that you can add to stories and posts by simply opening the GIF search bar and typing in @tlingitstickers (must include the @ symbol).
Myrna Gardner, who is Tlingit and Haida, designs and creates fur clothing, jewelry, accessories, and homegoods using traditional wild furs from Alaska including Northern Sea Otter, Mink, and Ermine.
Ketchikan gets an average of 14 feet of rain per year. That’s why Rayana White, who is Tsimshian and Tlingit, decided to start making her SLUGS fleece rain boot liners. “We live in our rain boots,” she said.
The purpose of the fleece socks is to “prevent that annoying problem of socks slipping down your boots,” as they are long enough that the top cuff can be folded over. They are available in a variety of colors and prints sure to jazz up up a pair of XtraTuffs, though they also fit leather or snow boots. There are styles for the whole family, from neutral plaids to bright florals, as well as children’s sizes. Most of all, they keep your feet warm, dry, and cozy!
Rayana has been in business for ten years, and she sells her boot liners on Etsy—where she has a five-star rating from nearly 1,500 reviews—and at the world-famous Pike’s Place Market in Seattle. She started making face masks in the wake of the pandemic, which are also available for purchase.
Through Alaska Soles, Reine Pavlik (Tlingit) creates and sells beaded and skin-sewn accessories. As she continues to practice her craft, Renee said that she is excited for the opportunity to expand her product range, which currently includes moccasins, purses, wallets, and more.
Reine was recently commissioned to make a pair of moccasins for a newlywed couple in Minnesota. Her approach to custom orders is intentional and careful, so before getting started, Renee did her research. Hoping to learn more about loons, she said found it interesting that a bird’s plumage, or the pattern and color of feathers, is not too different between males and females.
Reine said that this made her think of Tlingit Lovebirds, the Raven and the Eagle, both of which are monomorphic species that lack prominent gender differences—at a glance, you cannot tell if you are looking at a male or female. Stitch by stitch, Renee created a pair of moccasins to reflect that same theme of coequality and balance.
While the beadwork features loons, the story of the Tlingit Lovebirds is woven into the fabric. Coincidentally, though loons do not mate for life, eagles and ravens do—the final product, pictured, is not only beautiful but symbolic.
Trickster Company is an indigenous owned design shop founded by siblings Rico and Crystal Worl with the goal to promote innovative indigenous design. As designers we strive to represent the way in which traditionally rooted people represent themselves in modern context and fashion.
We focus on Northwest Coast art and explore themes and issues in Native culture and strive to represent a prestigious lineage of art in fresh and energetic ways as a celebration of Northwest Coast culture as it lives today. We are active advocates of diversity in community and work to promote diversity in civic engagement.
We hope to provide products which act as cultural objects which modern indigenous people can represent their heritage, create products that non-native people can wear and appreciate without appropriating via cultural exchange, and to represent modern indigenous lifestyle to a broader audience.
Violet Sensmeier Aandayeen (Tlingit and Koyukon Athabascan), said that she loves documenting and taking photographs, as well as creating jewelry with beads, metals, and natural materials.
She graduated from The Rocky Mountains School of Photography in 2013. “It is by far the best thing I have ever done for myself” Violet said. “Follow your dreams and do more of what makes you happy.”
Creative from a young age, was taught to bead and sew by her grandmother, Lillian Olin, and her mother, Eva Olin Sensmeier and MaryAnn Portner. “Sitting around the table learning how to string beads and untie knots while enjoying tea and homemade rolls is a nice memory,” Violet said. She shares the skills with her own daughter, Amiah Grace Johnson, who is now a successful Native artist.
Additional Native-owned businesses: