This Thanksgiving weekend, 150 vendors representing 36 cities across Alaska and the Pacific Northwest will come for the 35th annual Juneau Public Market. This year will bring both familiar and new faces to the holiday retail event. It’s also the fourth year for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Holiday Market, which will feature Alaska Native artists and vendors at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.
The Capital City Weekly caught up with three artists to learn about the art they’re bringing to Public Market.
Bringing a Japanese art form to Southeast
This will be Jerry Wright of Sitka’s first time at the market, and he’s looking forward to seeing how Juneau reacts to his work. He’ll be bringing gyotaku prints for sale.
“Gyotaku” means “fish rubbing.” It’s a several hundred-year-old Japanese art form. Originally fishermen used it to record their catches. Traditionally it’s done by brushing a special ink on one entire side of a fish and then pressing rice paper on the body to make an image with details of the body outline, scales and fins.
“One of the reasons I got into (gyotaku) is because I’m a fisherman who loves fishing,” he said.
Wright learned about the art form from a gyotaku artist on the coast of Texas. She offered a workshop, and intrigued, he took it. He continued with it as a hobby off and on until he retired three and half years ago, and then he invested more time, increasing the quality of his art, he said. Now he has been selling his work, and he has had exhibited it at the Island Artist Gallery in Sitka.
“It’s a lot busier than I sometimes want it to be,” he said, adding that it’s almost like having a fulltime job again, keeping up with the demand. “But it’s been a fun thing for me and it’s been real popular.”
Wright has caught some fish to use for his art as well as purchased non-local species down south. He also makes gyotaku with octopus, crab and other kinds of sea life. He said he has experimented with vivid and iridescent paints and printing multiple animals on a sheet. He either eats the seafood after he is done using it or donates it to the Alaska Raptor Center and the Fortress of the Bear in Sitka.
“It’s something I really like and it’s been really successful so I’m glad people like it,” Wright said.
Charts, boats and the Northwest Coast
Brenda Schwartz-Yeager of Wrangell is a well-known maritime artist in Southeast Alaska, and she will once again return to the Juneau Public Market. Many will recognize her watercolor paintings of boats and other scenes involving the water depicted on charts. Over 35 years, she’s earned herself a reputation as the lady who paints on charts, she said.
“I had some guests on the boat up in Prince William Sound. I used the back of a navigational chart, essentially like a sketch pad cause I had run out of sketch pads on my boat. …It was the guest I had out that weekend that said ‘You should do that on the front’ which I thought was ridiculous idea at first, but then I kind of did it and enjoyed the challenge of melding the location I was at on the boat with the scene I was looking at,” she said. She usually paints a scene from the area the chart she’s using depicts.
Schwartz-Yeager doesn’t recall a time that she wasn’t painting, she said. She grew up on Alaska’s coast, and painted to amuse herself when on board commercial fishing boats. It gradually became a career. She’s “infatuated” with the lifestyle of Southeast: the boats, worklife, culture, and waterways. She spends her summers captaining a tour boat and commercially longlines while focusing on painting in the winter. Much of her work is created on site through watercolors.
“One time I quit skippering boats, thinking I was going to paint 100 percent of the time but I figured out ‘Oh, I paint because I’m provoked by the amazing things I see while I’m working on the water.’ I can’t untangle the two,” she said.
Her work can be found in galleries and shops across the Pacific Northwest, from Seattle to Kodiak. She’s particularly well-known in Southeast and her work can be seen in local places like Annie Kaill’s in Juneau. More of her work can be viewed at marineartist.com.
Alaskan Shores Art
Returning this year is Lisa LeMay Doyon of Alaskan Shores Art, based in Ketchikan. Her one-of-a-kind art is created through found seaside objects and other items. She’s created baskets, wreaths, rattles and wall hangings with an oceanic and natural flair.
Doyon grew up in Southeast Alaska on a floating logging camp with her family. They’d make stops in places like Francis Cove and Coffman Cove, and she’d play on the shore, making shell people or kelp rafts to go swimming on. When she became old enough, she went to school in Ketchikan. In her teens she became fascinated with traditional Haida cedar and spruce root weaving and took classes at the Totem Heritage Center, like with weaver Selina Peratrovich. She learned how to harvest materials, make her own dye and more. Her fascination with kelp from childhood continued, and she’d make kelp relish and dill kelp out of it. It wasn’t until a trip to Washington D.C. 15 years ago that she saw kelp baskets and realized she could use it for weaving too.
“I can still play with kelp and I don’t have to eat it,” she said she had thought.
With practice she learned how to dry kelp and use it for basket weaving and other art projects. She’s won Department Champion, Best of Class, and Division Champion ribbons from the Alaska State Fair in Haines for her baskets.
She also uses shells, sea glass, seaweed, and driftwood for her art. She goes beach combing in search of materials, and when travelling in the Lower 48, she swings by bead and shell stores for supplies.
“My idea of a vacation my whole life is anywhere with a beach,” she said.
To view some of her past work, go to alaskanshoresart.com. Her art is also available at Crazy Wolf Studio, The Soho Coho, and Starboard Gifts in Ketchikan.
The Juneau Public Market will be open Friday, Nov. 24 from noon-7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Three-day admission to Centennial Hall is $7.50. No admission will be charged for the Public Market Annex at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. For more information, see juneaupublicmarket.com.
The fourth annual Holiday Market, happening concurrently at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, will feature artists with products ranging from sea otter apparel to jewelry, textile weaving, woodwork, paddles, regalia and more. For more information about both markets, keep an eye out for the Thanksgiving day edition of the Juneau Empire.
• Clara Miller is the staff writer for the Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.