Emma McMillan pauses from shopping to give her daughter Molly a drink Thursday afternoon at the Arctic Winter Games arts, crafts and informational faire at the Kenai Mall.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Eskimo doll pins with faces of reindeer leather and seal fur for coats, cribbage boards with bears, moose, caribou and conifers, nature photos, salmon-themed mosaic art, Inuit-inspired jewelry and jars of fireweed jelly are all on display and sale at the Kenai Mall through Sunday as part of the Arctic Winter Games cultural festivities.
Nikiski’s Karen Jones has a booth full of her favored folk art: stained-glass mosaics. Jones retired three years ago after years of running a flower shop in California and started making the mosaics and visiting craft shows. She received notice for the upcoming craft fair in the mail and brought along a selection of her work, as well as the work of her daughters, Jan, who makes purses, and Tracy, who with makes dicroic glass earrings. Dicroic glass is glass that mixes colors and metals, Jones explained.
“It’s different kinds of glass you fire in a kiln,” Jones said. “It’s the latest craze.”
For Clam Gulch’s Sue Moore, the craft fair means she can sell her wares close to home. Moore makes hats, mittens and moccasins from beaver, rabbit, mink, coyote and fox fur. These are the sorts of hats that go over well at the opening of the Iditarod sled dog race, and Moore is usually selling her stuff to dogsled fans this time of year.
“Had this not been going on, I probably would have been in Wasilla,” she said.
Moore’s work, along with most of the vendors with booths at the fair, focused on the flavor of Alaska’s natural environment and its culture. Others took the opportunity to let Games visitors experience Alaska’s flavor more literally.
Alaska Tribal Cache, a Seldovia jam, jelly and syrup company, is represented at the fair by manager Kris Burt and cook Kathy Giles. Giles, as a jam cook, knows how to steep fireweed petals and make sweet, magenta-hued products with the result. The recipes, which include products made from high bush cranberries, elderberries, salmonberries, blueberries and kelp, as well, come from the Alaska Cooperative Extension and elders in the village and are tweaked by the cache.
The kelp marmalade recipe came from an elder, Glies said, and surprises fans of marmalade who expect something strange.
“If you’re a marmalade person, you’ll like it,” she said, but cautioned, “you have to keep it refrigerated, though, it’s not like regular jams or jellies.”
Others took the fair as an opportunity to teach. San Diego art teacher Liz Siskowic, who learned about the Arctic Winter Games through a friend, is running the Kid’s Activity Center, where children are given crayons, oil paints and other implements to make some art. Siskowic brought along some paintings from her students at Bird Rock Elementary to display at the booth.
“They’ve been studying Arctic animals and the Arctic Winter Games and things about the Kenai Peninsula,” Siskowic said.
The Dena’ina Health Clinic’s booth is educational, as well, with information on diabetes, smoking cessation and an exhibit comparing the nutritional value of traditional Alaska foods, such as salmon or moose, to beef.
“Traditional foods are the healthiest foods,” said Deborah Nyquist, a booth organizer.
There are sights and smells all around, and there are a few sounds, as well. J.D. Uponen got his band Synesthesia involved in the crafts fair after helping his son, Ian, put together some music for a luncheon at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Musicians are welcome to entertain crafts fair visitors, he said.
“It’s kind of a go-with-the-flow sort of feeling, which is fine,” Uponen said. “That’s my specialty.”
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