- Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012
Alaska’s artists and artisans offer unique and beautiful gifts that will bring back wonderful vacation memories for years
When winter arrives in Alaska—and by November it’s a downright winter wonderland for us—holiday shopping is often met with enthusiasm. After a summer spent soaking up everything Alaska’s long days outside offer, this time of year is an excuse to get inside, out of the cold. It’s a chance to meet with friends for hot chocolate at a local café and leisurely wander the shops.
Holiday gift shopping is easy, too, because there are so many “uniquely Alaska” items from which to choose. Rather than foist yet another tie on Dad or jigsaw puzzle on Mom, this time of year gives Alaskans a chance to showcase their home state with pride. Many of the gift items that can be purchased here are not only usefu—try an ulu to cut pizza or chop onions, and you’ll fall in love with this ancient implement—but they also are beautiful. Artists here tend to have the ability to take the most everyday objects and transform them into something special.
Gifts can speak to the palate, too. Alaska is a land of plenty, with wild salmon, seafood, berries and others plants that can be harvested and sent right to your doorstep, no matter where you live.
Even if you don’t live in Alaska, holiday shopping can be easy. Thanks to the Internet, many Alaska companies now offer online purchasing, and can ship your items anywhere in the world.
For the food lover, two options are popular among locals, and both outfits can accommodate out-of-state orders.
Great-Alaska-Seafood.com is located in Soldotna, just minutes from Alaska’s richest fishing grounds. They buy salmon from local fishermen, process it within hours of being caught, and ship it free to households across the United States daily. They specialize in Copper River king, Yukon River king, troll-caught white king salmon, sockeye and coho salmon, and many varieties of alder-smoked salmon, halibut and king crab legs. They feature a large selection of unique and tasty wild Alaska seafood gifts under $79. (866-262-8846)
Likewise, 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage offers a rich variety of the freshest Alaska seafood available. From Prince William Sound to the Yukon River, they harvest salmon, halibut, crab and shrimp for their retail customers. In fact, some of Alaska’s finest restaurants and hotels order their seafood from these folks. 10th and M also will ship fresh and frozen seafood across the United States, timing delivery so the fish stays as fresh as possible. (800-770-2722)
For some, the best gifts to receive are those splurge-type items that you might not buy on your own but would admire in a window shop. The perfectly styled shirt or the most exquisitely designed jewelry can transform your mood and complement your wardrobe for years to come. For the Alaska shopper, the options are plentiful as well as unique. Gold nuggets taken from Alaska soil, wool sheared from Alaska musk ox and even functional workout gear designed by an Alaska artist are just a few of the options.
For clothing, Free Spirit LLC offers outstanding bike jerseys and jackets designed by Homer-based artist Kathy Sarns. Her graphic images are products of a vivid imagination, inspired by an interesting and adventurous lifestyle in Alaska. Kathy’s jerseys are made for cycling as well as other activities and are guaranteed conversation starters. (877-842-3429, 907- 770-6560)
Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers Co-op is a shop selling exquisite hand-knit qiviut garments. More than 200 Alaska Native co-op members create these wearable pieces of art, using patterns inspired by traditional Alaska Native artifacts or patterns. Knitting for the co-op enables members who live in remote Alaska villages to continue their mostly subsistence lifestyle while earning supplemental income where few jobs are available. (888-360-9665)
Fine jewelers throughout the state are eager to share their one-of-a-kind designs, too. Adamas Jewelry Company in Fairbanks designs and manufactures a unique selection of handcrafted jewelry in gold, platinum, Alaska gold nugget and sterling silver. They offer a variety of beautiful gemstone pieces, designs with nuggets from the heart of Alaska, and offer spectacular Canadian diamonds. Stop by their store when in town or check out their Website. (907-455-6055)
5TH Avenue Jewelers in Anchorage offers fine gold jewelry, among other creations. The family owned and operated company has been in business in Anchorage since 1967. Their beautiful and unique selection of natural gold-quartz jewelry is one of the largest in Alaska. They also carry other Alaska-made art and one of a kind jewelry, and it is definitely worth a stop. They are located downtown and open daily. Call for a free catalog. (888-983-2052)
Jack Wade Gold Company offers natural Alaska gold-nugget jewelry made with nuggets they mine in the historic 40-Mile Mining District. Use one of their designs, or provide your own. This holiday season, trust a certified gemologist and goldsmith, with more than 35 years of experience making jewelry in Alaska. Give a unique, one-of-a-kind Alaska gift: Gold! (907-883-5887)
Glacier Silt Soap is so unique it has been granted a patent! For over a decade, from their base camp in Juneau, this local family business has combined fine glacial silt with their special glycerin formula to produce the perfect balance of exfoliant and moisturizer. Skin care products are shipped worldwide with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. (888-456-8325)
It goes without saying that Alaska also attracts its fair share of artistically inclined residents. It’s no wonder because the beauty of the state is inspirational. On a clear day, the surrounding mountains are stunning. Watch a whale breach while cruising on a boat or a bear amble across an open valley while taking a hike, and those memories will stick with you. Even the simplest of days—when the rain drizzles steadily and low clouds hang in the air, or when the alpenglow shines on a snow-covered peak in winter—can get those creative juices flowing. The results are some of the most original artwork you’ll find, and they all make the perfect Alaska-themed gift.
The Art Shop Gallery is a gallery and frame shop that specializes in Alaska fine art, crafts and gifts that include paintings, prints, sculpture, pottery, bone and ivory, jewelry and ornaments. Located in the lively and very artsy community of Homer, the gallery hosts events year-round and ships worldwide. The gallery has a great selection of Alaska fine art and crafts in everyone’s price range. (800-478-7076, 907-235-7076)
Bell’s Nursery in Anchorage is more than its name implies. This greenhouse also features one of the finest gift shops in Alaska, and is a favorite among locals. Bell’s Nursery is open year-round and features a unique gift shop, garden store, and floral shop incorporated into a greenhouse environment. Bell’s is Alaska’s only retailer to feature See’s Candies, a favorite during the holidays. (907-345-4476)
Raven Eagle Gifts is part museum and part gallery. Located at the top of the world-famous Mount Roberts Tramway above beautiful downtown Juneau, visitors watch Native artists working on their projects and learn about the indigenous way of life. Find fine art and collectibles made by local artisans at their web site, too. (888-461-8724)
Regardless of your price range, there really is something for everyone when shopping for that ideal, Alaska-grown gift. The holidays come, year after year, right on schedule. But shopping doesn’t have to become a chore, and you don’t have to resort to old stand-by gifts to get you through. If you’re lucky enough to live in Alaska, take that day or two to frequent the Alaska-themed gift shops in our state and learn to appreciate them anew. If you live elsewhere, just go online, and enjoy the ease of your web browser. That will leave plenty of time for enjoying the other festivities that abound this time of year.