Skagway’s Artistic Heritage
Skagway has long been known as the “Gateway to the Klondike” referring to its strategic position to access the gold fields of the Yukon during the gold rush of 1896-1899. One important aspect of Skagway that has escaped most people’s attention is the depth and quality of its many artists and craftspeople.
This small southeast Alaska community has a strong tradition of art, dating back many centuries to the era of it’s original settlers, the Tlingit (clingk-it). The distinctive art of the Tlingit is reflective of their culture, ancestry, and collective histories. Detailed art was incorporated into almost all aspects of life, including house fronts, screens, totem poles, ceremonial staffs, hats and blankets, paddles and canoes, storage and eating utensils, and weapons. Carving is by far the largest example of Tlingit artwork seen, with a wide variance of materials used to create intricate pieces.
Skagway’s European art tradition goes back to the gold rush days. During the hustle and bustle of the stampede there existed a small number of artists/craftspeople who made a living creating and selling their work. Herman Kirmse opened a jewelry store in 1897 and his jewelry creations in gold, Alaskan ivory, and silver became world renowned and he won several awards at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909. At the turn of the century there was a furniture maker, and the music publishing house of Latimer Musigraph had artists on staff such as, photographers, etchers, designers and engravers. The house also produced half-tone and line-cut works including maps. Painters such as Vic Sparks continued to keep this artistic energy strong well into the 50’s and 60’s.
Skagway’s Contemporary Art
The closing of the railroad in 1982 led to a significant change in Skagway’s economy. The town moved from being a transshipment hub to a tourist destination. This led to a transformation of the arts in Skagway from being a small part of the economy to eventually becoming a significant sector in itself. Today, the art and crafts produced are many and varied, encompassing a broad variety of mediums and traditions, while the artists themselves come from as varied a background as the art they produce. The many different forms include candle making, skin care products, culinary treats, wood carving, ivory carving, painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, jewelry making, corset design and making, quilting, silk scarves, glass fusion, bead making, stained glass, and fine furniture & cabinetry. With as much variety as this, you will always find something you like.
The Made in Skagway Program
With such a rich history of art culture in Skagway, the Skagway Development Corporation became committed to helping increase exposure and sales of locally made products as an avenue to boost the local economy. Our efforts were further validated when the Southeast Conference came out with their September 2014 report, “The Arts Economy of Southeast Alaska” , which placed Skagway as having the second highest-earning self-employed artists in the region. With a successful artistic community, full of many talented individuals, the Made in Skagway program was brought to life.
All qualified local artisans are encouraged to apply for membership to the Made in Skagway program. Upon acceptance into the Made in Skagway program, members receive a profile on the Made in Skagway website, advertising & marketing, and most importantly, may identify their product/s as being “Made in Skagway” by using the Made in Skagway mark. The mark is currently under review by the U.S. Patent Office to become a registered certification mark held by the Skagway Development Corporation.
If you are one of Skagway’s many local Artisans and would like to become a member of the Made in Skagway program, submit the Annual Membership Application to SDC. For questions contact SDC at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Made in Skagway Artisans
Emily Willis – Maiden Alaska Herbals
By combining wild Alaskan botanicals with organically grown herbs and flowers, Maiden Alaska Herbals infuses organic oils with nature’s medicine. Skagway’s own, Devil’s Club Salve, is made by our family, carefully handcrafted to ensure high quality. We strive to produce great products at a reasonable price with positive therapeutic actions.
Courtenay Birdsall Clifford
Courtenay was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. With two artists for parents, she got an early start in the arts and has played with various mediums and subject matter throughout the years. After studying art at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and a short stint living in Eugene, Oregon, she heeded the call of her home state and moved to Skagway in 2007. Now working primarily in a blend of watercolor and acrylic, she finds unending inspiration in the Alaskan landscape and seeks to capture the lush textures and vivid colors of nature.
Skagway also afforded her the opportunity to branch out from painting into the realm of graphic design. She designed the Skagway Municipal Seal and logos for various local businesses and non-profits including Skagway Brewing Company; Dahl Memorial Clinic; Skagway Fire Department; Taiya Inlet Watershed Council; Good Neighbor Volunteers; Buckwheat Ski Classic; Garden City Market; North Words Writers Symposium; Glacial Naturals; Maiden Alaska; Tidal Drift; Lil Log Cabin Bakery; and Made in Skagway.
Her art also graces the covers of several locally and regionally published books: The Flying North by Jean Potter; Fish This! by Andrew Cremata; Still Points North by Leigh Newman; Beers of the North: A Field Guide to Alaska & the Yukon by Clint J. Farr, Katie Devereaux, & Colleen Mondor; and Nowhere Else to Go, but Dyea by Nita Nettleton.
Her latest venture has been illustrating a children’s book. Atlin Blue & Miss Scarlet, written by Emily Grace Willis, is due out Spring 2015.
Locations in Skagway where Courtenay’s work can be found: Original paintings, prints and cards available at Alaska Artworks; Some originals on exhibit at the Skagway Museum; Books, calendars, and some cards available at the Skagway News Depot; Art Cards available at the Skagway Brewing Company.
PO Box 833
Skagway, AK 99840-0833
Annemarie Hasskamp – Glacial Naturals
When her mom bought her a candle making kit 25 years ago, Annemarie fell obsessed with candles & the illumination they provide. From realistic beer candles to eco-friendly beeswax & soy candles with essential oil fragrances; she has refined her craft from rustic beginnings into the luxurious realm of the art. Then, after years of gift making projects, and out of necessity from increasingly troubled skin; her bath & body products emerged. For over 15 years, they have evolved from the kitchen cupboards, the garden, and the forests of Northern Minnesota & now Alaska. Now they have become an extensive product line centered around natural, organic, and responsibly cultivated oils, minerals, & botanicals. Crafted in Southeast Alaska, Glacial Naturals reflects the wild synchronicity of the surrounding ocean, mountains, air, & forest in our naturally luxurious products. Indulge the temple within!
Find us in Skagway: White Pass & Yukon Route gift shop, Richter’s Curios, Taiya River Arts, Klondike Doughboy, A Fine Line, Skagway Hardware Store, Broadway Jewelry, Red Onion Saloon, Skagway Brewing Company, You Say Tomato
In Haines: Dejon Delights, Forget me not gallery, Nelle’s Cottage Arts
Cori Giacomazzi – Lillith Moon
I am inspired by my environment. I love the outdoors. I recycle/upcycle fibers and textiles wherever possible. I thrive off of one of a kind, unique pieces of fashion and art. Creating is an intrinsic part of my life. The process starts with an idea and a direction but it is in fact the fabrics and colors that dictate the outcome. I am merely the hands with the technical skills that put the pieces together to create dramatic, functional wearable art.
With a love of color and texture, travel and adventure, an interest in multicultural and historical textiles, and a passion for unique fashions, I started creating my own lines of wearable art, accessories, and quilt patterns many years ago. Over the years, I have become known for the exclusive and custom corsets I create and the line of very functional yet fashionable handbags. For the winter season (or summer in Alaska), I have created a line of sweaters and hats fashioned from recycled wool knitwear and accessories recycled from men’s ties.
P.O. Box 712
Skagway, AK 99840-0712
Tamar Harrison – Tidal Drift
Tamar’s love of creative art using found and up-cycled materials began in the UK where she spent her childhood. After many years spent exploring the world she fell in love with Skagway (her home since 2009) and her creativity is now inspired by the beauty and sense of community she finds in the Alaskan Wilderness. Her work is based on the integration of natural materials sculpted by the elements combined with treasures such as antique beads and gemstones. When not creating pieces of art, Tamar can usually be found in the kitchen creating feasts for loved ones, working in the garden with her husband or roaming the rocky coastlines in her search for the perfect piece of driftwood. Tamar’s earrings and Driftwood Tree Ornaments can be purchased in Skagway, at Kirmse’s Curios on Broadway.
PO Box 595
Skagway, AK 99840-0595
Linda Van Houten – Fisknits & Fibers
Love of color is what spurs me to create vibrant, functional clothing. I use a variety of materials, mostly natural fibers. Yarns hand-dyed by Alaskans are preferred as they create a memory of this incredible place. Embellishments with buttons, beads and trims add additional elements of our natural world. Felted wool provides protection from Alaska’s extreme weather.
I grew up in arid Eastern Washington with vivid desert and farmland colors. After college in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii, I settled in Alaska and enjoy watching the seasonal color cycles of the local alpine, forest and marine environments. I have been making clothing most of my life. Trained as a home-economics teacher, a parent taught me to sew very early. Desiring a warm pair of socks, I taught myself to knit during college. I then taught sock and sweater knitting through Community Schools in Juneau for a few decades, a way of sharing color, fiber and texture with others.
I work with fibers almost every day, constantly seeking new combinations to reflect our world. I also am a consulting environmental health specialist, a vocation that takes me to other Alaskan communities. When traveling, I pack a knitting bag and meet many new friends in route on ferries and in airports. In Skagway, Kirmse’s Curios on Broadway carries my creations. I also have a Skagway show room with an ever-changing inventory.
PO Box 295
Skagway, Alaska 99840-0295
Andrew Cremata – Skagway Author
Andrew Cremata first came to Skagway, Alaska in 1996. He loves fishing, the outdoors and spending time with his friends and family. His first “Fish This!” column appeared in The Skagway News in April of 2001. Andrew is also a Contributing Editor to Fish Alaska Magazine. His photographs have also been featured in a number of print and online publications. Judged Alaska’s best sports and outdoors columnist for the past decade, Andrew has collected his “Fish This!” stories into one entertaining volume. Fish This! An Alaskan Story tells about life in a small Alaskan town and the streams nearby where one can escape to and enjoy time in the outdoors.
Jeanie Wendell-Vogel – A Fine Line, Porcelain
A Fine Line’s – Porcelain Jewelry is individually hand painted by Jeanie. Each piece is fired in a kiln three times, layering the glazes and 14K gold to ensure high quality color and durability. Jeanie has lived in Alaska for 25 years and owns a small gallery in the heart of Skagway’s Historic Business District.
P.O. Box 351
Skagway, AK 99840-0351
Tina Cyr – Inspired Artworks
Tina Cyr loves color! She works and plays in several mediums, experimenting with various materials and colors as revealed in her watercolor and acrylic paintings, printmaking, and beaded jewelry. A dynamic Northern energy radiates from all Tina’s work.
Tina was born in Skagway, Alaska where she maintains a summer residence and art gallery with her artisan partner, local fossil ivory carver Ralf Gorichanaz. She is appreciative of the flourishing tourism industry that allows her an opportunity to showcase her creative side to visitors from all over the world. Her artwork is available at Inspired Arts on Broadway.
Ralf Gorichanaz – Inspired Artworks
The summer of 1984, Ralf began carving in fossil ivory after working a summer job in Skagway. Inspiration & encouragement by other local artisans gave him the desire to start producing artwork selling his first fossil ivory carvings the next summer season. He finished his graphic arts degree in 1985 from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA and has called Alaska home ever since.
His work is eclectic with designs of human forms, animals in his free-form sculptures & jewelry, which are influenced by the shape and energy of New Zealand Maori and Alaska Native arts.
He enjoys the transformation of the fossil ivory from a rough and wood like appearance to the fine polished detail, as his works are created as much for their tactile as for their visual qualities.
His decision to make artwork stems from the love of working with his hands and the enjoyment others receive from his art. The past 13 years, Ralf has been casting his original designs using the “lost wax” method of casting where he applies the same ivory carving tools & skills to carve in wax to create his sterling silver designs which are available at Inspired Arts on Broadway in beautiful downtown Skagway.
Debbie L. Ackerman – Translucent Treasures
In January 1987, the Skagway Community Education program offered a Stained Glass workshop for beginners. I enrolled and have enjoyed the craft ever since. Fifteen years later, the Community Education program again offered Stained Glass for beginners for which I was the instructor, completing the circle.
My studio, Translucent Treasures ,creates autonomous panels, lampshades, sun-catchers and unique commissioned work. My work graces homes as far away as Florida and as close as my neighbor, Bea Lingle’s sun room.
I hope you enjoy your visit to Alaska and remember, all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold…sometimes it’s glass.
P.O. Box 79
Skagway, AK 99840
My art mediums vary greatly. Currently, my pottery has natural found relief objects such as porcupine quill, lichen, salmon vertebrae and alder cones featured in the designs. I also make lampwork (torch work) glass beads and fused glass pieces. A third passion is creating jewelry using semiprecious stones and, being an Alaskan, fossil mammoth ivory.
Astounding beauty surrounds us here in the north, but inspiration is also found in the many artists, friends and family that enrich my life.
Happy trails and enjoy perusing art in Skagway!
Skagway, AK 99840
Bruce Schindler – Schindler Carvings
My father was a cabinetmaker and my grandfather carved wood and silver as a hobby, so I guess my desire to carve stems from them. Carving fossil ivory drew my interest in the summer of 1993 when I first arrived in Skagway after graduating from college. Today, it is my livelihood and I’ve chosen fossil ivory because of its incredible beauty and agelessness. My goal is to carve simple yet bold designs that emphasize the beauty, age, and the varying conditions of burial of the ivory.
Michael Klensch – Alpenglow Photo
As a freelance landscape photographer, I look to the natural beauty that surrounds me everyday for limitless photographic inspiration and adventure. Exposure to the beauty of the natural world has created a personal passion for the preservation and stewardship of nature, which I express through photography. I feel that photography not only provides aesthetic pleasure for the eyes, but is also an artistic medium that delivers a very genuine understanding of who we are, and how we fit in.
My photographs have been hung in local and state museums. I have especially become recognized for aurora (northern lights) photography.
Terry Williams – Inside Passage Arts
Born in Seattle, Terry Williams began studying silver work in 1970. In 1972, he started selling his handmade jewelry at the Pike Place Market. In 1975, he was commissioned by the Washington State Senators to produce a gift for the Emperor of Japan. He moved to Skagway in 1984 to do gold work and ivory carving for David Present. He continues to create his ivory carvings in Skagway. His work can be found at Kirmse’s Curios.
Bua Williams – Bua’s Veggie Garden
Bua was born in 1964 in Udon Thani, Thailand to a Farming and Weaving family. She came to Skagway in July of 1999 with her husband, artist Terry Williams. Upon arriving in Skagway, Bua took up crochet hat making. Her items can be purchased at Alaska Artworks in Skagway.
P.O. Box 115
Skagway, AK 99840
The Wassman’s are a family of carvers accomplished in and known for their distinctive and unique carvings using mammoth and walrus fossil ivory and rare, exotic hardwoods from around the world. These ancient materials are used to create one-of-a-kind art including sculptures, wall masks, exquisite vessels and carved knife handles.
Their line of jewelry incorporates fossil ivory and amber, precious and semi-precious stones and silver into stunning necklaces, bracelets, earrings, pins and pendants.