Alaska Makers | Supporting Them This Holiday Season Supports The Local Economy

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Alaska is filled with creative and talented artisans – and they need your support this holiday season even more than ever. The pandemic has stolen many Alaska Makers’ ability to sell their products in-person at craft shows, bazaars, and holiday gift events. A decline in tourism also has meant that many of our most talented entrepreneurs haven’t been able to sell their wares in local gift shops at the volume they were accustomed to pre-COVID-19. LiveBreatheAlaska has a shopping cart full of ideas to make a difference.

Why shop local? According to OneGreenPlanet, “when you buy local, it stays local. More jobs will be created in your town, the community will prosper and people will be more connected than ever to their own town.” A study conducted by the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development showed that shopping local DOES have a significant impact on our economy. The report estimated that if every Alaska household shifted $1,000 in spending from non-local businesses to local businesses, it would support an estimated 5,850 jobs statewide.

Another reason to support Alaska Makers this holiday season? They likely won’t be affected by supply chain issues, so you won’t have to wait for the perfect gift for your loved one.

Following is a list of a few of our favorite Alaska Makers, how they started their businesses, a sample of what they’re offering this holiday season, and how to find them.

 

Crow Creek Cool

Girdwood-based artisan Cindy Shake has been producing art for years. She offered metal art for many years, wrote a children’s alphabet book, and also makes amazing cakes. Her latest venture, Crow Creek Cool, came about when Shake and her daughter stopped to buy a growler and then ended up setting the bag on the ground where it got wet. 

“We thought, why not make little custom growler bags that are waterproof,” says Cindy Shake, owner of Crow Creek Cool. 

The growler bags became a hit, and have expanded. Crow Creek Cool has made custom wine bags for a winemaker in South Carolina and of course, for the local brewery, Girdwood Brewing Company. You can purchase Crow Creek Cool items, including the growler bags, as well as children’s books, garden flags, stickers, wall hangings, plushies, and textiles on the website at www.crowcreekcool.com.

Headband Happy AK

Annie Anderson started her company in 2015 and is known for her “headbands that stay on your head” and mountain-inspired clothing. She mostly sold through in-person and Facebook shows, but thankfully got a website up and running in January 2020, right before COVID hit. All of her headbands and clothing items are sewn and printed in Eagle River. She collaborates with local seamstresses and graphic designers who embody the HappyAK lifestyle.  

“Alaskans are so awesome about supporting local, unlike any other place,” says Annie Anderson, owner of Headband Happy AK. “I think that’s why there are so many Alaska Makers here, we have such a great support system. And let’s face it, Alaskans really like to wear Alaska things that are homemade.”

Headband Happy AK also offers special order headbands that can feature your company logo or a team mascot. You can purchase a variety of items including beanies, joggers, sweatshirts, T-shirts, hoodies, tanks, healthcare caps, dog bandanas, an eye mask, or notecards on the website. Headband Happy AK items can be found in Anchorage at Dos Manos or Bottoms Boutique in Anchorage; the Musk Ox Farm or Whimsy in Palmer; Alaska Chicks in Wasilla; the Eagle River Nature Center and Revive Home Market in Eagle River; as well as stores in Seward, Homer, Healy, Denali, Sitka, Skagway, Soldotna, Whittier, Kodiak, Valdez, and Fairbanks. Annie also will be at the Alaskan Christmas Show at Changepoint on Nov. 13, at Chugiak Elementary on Nov. 13, at the Alaska Vintage Market on the Palmer Fairgrounds on Nov. 19-21, and at Wonderfully Made at Cornerstone Church on Dec. 10 and 11. Learn more at www.headbandhappyak.com

Room with Shrooms

Fiber artist Kayo Bogdan started Room with Shrooms in 2014, selling crocheted mushrooms. Since then she has added knitting, spinning, and dyeing yarns to her offerings as she explores various fiber art techniques. Room with Shrooms opened an Etsy shop this year and offers a variety of items – from log bolster pillows to rainbow hedgehogs, snow cloud and rainbow cloud earrings, and Christmas ornaments. Find Bogdan’s work at the Anchorage Museum Store or Manos Gallery in Anchorage or at Brown and Hawkins Trading Co. in Seward. Shop online at www.etsy.com/shop/roomwithshrooms.

Warm Memories

Robin Henke Lindahl has been offering adorable fleece hats and baby apparel through her Anchorage-based company, Warm Memories, for nearly three decades. The company has expanded to offer hats, booties, blankets, jackets, and vests as well as antler buttons, ornaments and zipper pulls. This holiday season, Lindahl has added a bear pom hat that comes in infant/toddler or child sizes. Both have adjusters on the back so they can be changed to fit many size heads.  Lindahl also expects her pillbox hat to continue to be a popular holiday gift. Warm Memories’ unicorn hat also comes in different sizes, in pink and purple, and has an adjuster on the back. 

“I sell to a lot of stores around the state that are supported by tourists, so when the pandemic hit, my business came to a screeching halt when visitors stopped coming,” says Robin Lindahl. “It’s coming back, but most of my sales this year will be from shows or online.”

You can find Warm Memories at Changepoint on Nov. 13 and at Dena’ina Center on Nov. 21-21. Learn more and order at www.warmmemories.biz.

Ashley Olanna Designs

Born and raised in Alaska, Ashley Olanna started sewing about 10 years ago as a hobby but grew that into a business by 2014. She creates quilts, bags, headbands embroidered onesies, face masks, tote bags zipper pouches, designer stickers, and more. Ashley Olanna Designs also offers custom memory bears and longarm quilting services. You can find Ashley’s work at Bottoms Up, Forests, Tides and Treasures, and Blue Market Alaska.  Order from the website at www.ashleyolanna.com/

ElBee Designs

Laura Brooks works for the Department of Corrections full-time, but over the last year, she’s taken over her “husband’s garage” to produce fun, fused glass creations for the home and garden. You may have seen her at the Saturday Market at Dimond Center this summer. ElBee Designs has a variety of holiday ornaments to choose from (adorable penguins), as well as flowers, mushrooms, gnomes, bonefish, and ladybugs. Some are mounted on sticks for the garden. Creations can be used as ornaments, garden art, or sun catchers. You can find Elbee Designs on Facebook (Elbee Designs), or Instagram (@elbeedesigns907).

Elizabeth Ellis – Artist

Elizabeth Ellis is a born and raised Alaskan and is of Alutiiq descent from the Prince William Sound area. She started off doing traditional Native art but branched out into other areas later. She started painting mountain scenes, and one day got the idea of painting on skis, snowboards, and surfboards. She progressed to using older skis and snowboards as wall art and then transferred artscapes onto wood. 

“I started doing large commissioned wood pieces, mainly mountainscapes in an Alaskana graphic, abstract way,” says Elizabeth Ellis. “My color palette is bright, with a lot of bold, retro feels.”

More recently, Ellis is producing smaller-scale items that are perfect for holiday gift giving. She also is available to do custom wood pieces. Find her pop-ups on Instagram, she also has a Facebook page (Elizabeth Ellis Art) or learn more at www.elizabethellisart.net.


To support other Alaska Makers, check out several resources offered at www.buyalaska.com including a Buy Alaska Gift Guide, a Holiday Shopping resource, and a poster offering “30 Ways to 30 Days to Elevate Alaska.” You’ll also find a Local Alaska Shop Directory to find locally made unique crafts from across the state, the Alaska Federation of Natives Virtual Art Showcase, a great source for Alaska Native and American Indian artwork, and Voyij, a way to shop from vendors from all over Alaska. If you’re a local artisan, be sure to list your products on the Alaska Marketplace, a good place to show for Alaska arts and gifts.

To find local holiday bazaars, check out the 2021 Holiday Bazaar Guide by the Anchorage Daily News at www.adn.com/special-sections/2021/09/23/2021-holiday-bazaar-guide/

Can you make a living at being an Alaska Maker? Crow Creek Cool’s Cindy Shake says it’s more about a lifestyle choice than about making money. 

“Very few people doing traditional making in arts and crafts are making millions. You also have to realize that it’s 24 hours, 7-day-a-week work because you are making all week and selling all weekend. The E-commerce part is also really challenging for a lot of true artists.”

Shake says that it is her hope that one of the good things coming out of the pandemic is that people are re-evaluating what is important in life. So far, there has been a lot of support for the gig economy. People have realized that some of the big losers during the pandemic have been artists and performers and restaurant workers. 

Shake says that it is her hope that one of the good things coming out of the pandemic is that people are re-evaluating what is important in life. So far, there has been a lot of support for the gig economy. People have realized that some of the big losers during the pandemic have been artists and performers and restaurant workers. 

“My positive vision is that people will continue to put a higher value on handmade and that they’ll really think about where the things they buy are from and who that purchase may impact.”

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Kathy Day is a Content Creator for Live Breathe Alaska. She moved to Alaska from Colorado after college and is now braving her 36th winter. In addition to owning her own public relations agency for the last 20+ years, Kathy enjoys kayaking, women’s softball, swimming, giving Segway tours, and fishing on the Kenai River. She and her husband, Eric, are always planning their next Alaska cabin adventure. Kathy’s passions include mentoring other women business owners, caring for elders, hiking with her Chocolate Lab Zoie and being a mom to two high school/college-age sons. Bio Photo Credit: Diana Maioriello

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