Keeping it Alaskan: Fair reminds locals of home-grown goodness

Bachelor of arts student Lena Brown describes working with a wet belt sander to create cut glass pieces at the UAA Crafts Fair. Photo by Dan Duque.
Bachelor of arts student Lena Brown describes working with a wet belt sander to create cut glass pieces at the UAA Crafts Fair. Photo by Dan Duque.

With all the hubbub of new franchises and chains breezing in from the Lower 48, it’s easy to get swept up in the frenzy. But when the dust settles, there still exists the homegrown goodness that makes Alaska unique.

UAA hosted an arts and crafts fair last Saturday, featuring the work of more than 90 Alaskan artists and craftsmen. The event has a reputation for presenting premium quality handmade items exclusively found in Alaska.

Craft items include art made of rich Alaska furs, woods and ivories — items people from around the world spend fortunes on just to have shipped to their homes. Yet locals can simply purchase the treasures and walk home with them here.

Maragret Fetrow, founder of Fetrow’s House of Woodworking in Wasilla, featured the store’s custom-made wooden toys: trucks, trains and planes made of Alaska birch and spruce.

“We only buy the barrows and wheels from the Lower 48. We buy everything locally like our lumber from Pauper’s Mill off the Parks Highway. We keep it local,” Fetrow said.

Fetrow said that as a born and bred Alaskan, she does not like to see the new chains that come up from the Lower 48 and hopes the younger generation realizes that the quality of Alaskan-made products outlasts anything “boxed” and sold in masses.

Ken Lisborne, a renowned Inupiaq Esikimo artist, showcased his visually arresting portraits as well.

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Lisborne founded the business Ooyahtoan’s, and his work has been showcased at several events such as the World Eskimo and Indian Olympics. His colorful canvas usually has cultural stories behind it, like stories of whale hunting and life in Point Hope, his hometown.

With popular chains moving into town, some say local business owners should be worried. However, sometimes it’s easy to forget about the uniqueness of Alaskan-made products that makes the state stand out above the rest. Locals just need a reminder from time to time.