Native-made arts

Posted: Friday, February 09, 2007

For a truly distinctive reminder of your trip to Alaska, Native-made arts and creations are the ideal way to take a piece of Alaska’s culture as a keepsake. The Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center offers a variety of pieces for sale, as well as galleries throughout the Kenai Peninsula. Native Alaskan Artist, Cathy Gerold, who makes her home near the banks of the Kasilof River, offers a few pointers on assuring authenticity when purchasing Native art or crafts.

· Basketry is an art form. A tight weave and symmetrical shape are good indicators that the piece is quality.

· Sewing stitches that are uniform and clean. The stitching should enhance the design or be carefully laid so as not to detract from the item. In beading, look for symmetry and a flat lay in the design. Many of the beaded designs are characteristic to a region.

· The finish on a carving. Ivory, soapstone, jade, whalebone and soapstone are common mediums used in decorative and historical pieces. A crafted smooth finish overall or texturing that individualizes the piece would be distinctive elements in an authentic piece.

· Documentation. A reputable shop or gallery where you purchase your piece should be able to share the artist’s name, cultural background, village or region of origin as well as the materials used in the piece.

· Materials used in pieces, such as feathers on masks, must be legal and comply with the Migratory Bird Act. Eagle and duck feathers are not legal. If you don’t recognize the feather, ask the artist or shop clerk. Look for the symbol of authentication.

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