A pun of words: Artist's work spans the alphabet

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2007

JUNEAU A zeal of zebras. A flutter of butterflies. A scourge of mosquitoes.

Juneau artist and graphic designer Sarah Asper-Smith can name a collective noun for an entire alphabet's worth of animals, but it was just one phrase that inspired her to write a book and create a line of stationery: A business of ferrets.

That term launched the 27-year-old entrepreneur into a creative frenzy last winter that evolved and branched out into different projects.

She started with a book she's trying to get published. Then she made prints to offer at her city gallery, the Ruby Room. She also created a Web site to promote her stuff, smackofjellyfish.com.

She even attended a national stationery trade show recently in New York, where she set up a booth and showed her wares to potential buyers.

"It's definitely been a surprise, the direction it's gone in," she said.

Born and raised in Juneau, Asper-Smith credits the natural beauty of the area for helping mold her personality and art. A graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, she left for a few years to go to college, graduating from Earlham College in Indiana. She was drawn back.

"Juneau gets in your blood," she said. "I didn't really realize how much I loved it as a place to live until I went away and tried other places."

Now she lives on a houseboat in Aurora Harbor downtown. It's a setup that poses some challenges at times. In winter, for example, the harbor froze, locking her house in ice.

"It was kind of nice because then the wind wouldn't rock me back and forth," she said. "But I had to shovel it quite a bit."

She spends much of her time with a group of friends who also operate out of the Ruby Room. One of their pursuits focuses on a Web site, AKrobotics.com, that features short films and comics. Together they form a "great little artistic collective," she said.

Many Juneau residents have encountered splashes of Asper-Smith's imagination without realizing it.

For the last four seasons, she has designed posters for the productions of the local Perseverance Theater. She's working on another one now, though she's a little tight-lipped about it. All she'd say is she'll be "experimenting in white and multiple icons."

Smack of Jellyfish, on the other hand, was born in a moment of inspiration, stemming from one intriguing collective of nouns. A business of ferrets.

"I was reading this novel in my cabin in Haines, and I read that term, and I was like, 'Whoa! That's awesome. I need to find out more.' And that's when I got the idea for the book."

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