Alaska Mary

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Mary Goddard connects to her Tlingit culture through creativity.  The Alaska native is gifted in the arts of jewelry design and herbalism, embracing the traditions of her ancestors and presenting them to the modern world.  Mary studied her culture’s folklore and craftsmanship, inspiring her to publish the e-book collection “Tlingit Legends.” Each tale is accompanied by photographs featuring jewelry of her own design.  Mary is the co-founder of, a website dedicated to spreading awareness of traditional plant uses and delicious recipes local to South East Alaska.  It may sound like the mother, artist, and herbal guru has enough on her plate, but in 2019 she will be teaching at Sitka Fine Arts Camp.  Learn more about Mary and how culture, community, and connection inspire her in our Q&A below.


Tell me more about where are you from and how this impacts your work?

I grew up in Yakutat, a small fishing village in Southeast, Alaska. So much of where I grew up impacts my work.  My mother was my biggest teacher, teaching me to be resourceful and really use whatever natural resources we had. This was not foreign or unusual as this was the way of life for people raised in Alaska. It really is a natural cause for me to use spruce roots and other traditional materials, it comes easy for me to imagine these things in my art and to incorporate them.


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Why did you gravitate to jewelry design?

Honestly, one of my favorite images is of my grandmother and the older ladies in my village when they wore their jewelry. The native women would wear beaded jewelry, and Tlingit silver carved bangles. They would wear as many as they owned. The silver carved pieces really stuck out to me. My grandmother who was full blooded Tlingit, had her silver, but also wore a lot of blingy jewelry, and always had her makeup done. For a young girl it was enchanting to go through my grandmother’s jewelry and see her rock it daily. I think this is one reason I love to mix in a new vibe.  My grandmother wasn’t afraid to mix her styles and she surely wasn’t waiting for a special occasion to wear them.

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What techniques are your favorites to use?

That’s a good question. I don’t really think of what I do as techniques so much as I do an experiment. So much of what I have created has been purely through experimenting and figuring things out as I go. I think the most fun is creating a smoke print out of a finished piece of jewelry; it just gives me a sense of accomplishment and another element to work with.


Do you have any favorite jewelry designs?

From others or from my designs?

If it’s from others I would have to I really enjoy seeing other Northwest Coast Carver’s work. There is handful of jewelry artists in Sitka, including one of my sisters.

From my designs, I find it most enjoyable to carve fiddleheads and leaves. It just flows so freely when I do those designs.


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Can you tell me about your collections studies at the Burke Museum?  

My collections studies at the Burke Museum were invigorating. I had the pleasure of doing the collections study with one of my sisters, who is also a jewelry artist (Jennifer Younger), and with our Mother. I had seen similar items in books, which is not the same as holding and examining the items. It was most exciting to see my mother’s face light up when we viewed and handled the Spruce Root Baskets. That was worth it in itself!


How did this opportunity come about for you, and what did you find inspirational about it?

I used to be the Business Manager for the Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka. Through that time I worked closely with our museum Curator and learned how museum collections are available to be studied. The Curator and I put together several programs.  One of the programs included working with the Burke Museum. One opportunity lead to another.


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I’ve really enjoyed reading your e-book “Tlingit Legends.”  What inspired you to create it?

I am so glad to hear that. Tlingit Legends was pure joy for me! It really goes back to my childhood visions of how I saw my Tlingit Culture. Growing up, surrounded by Tlingit art, I honestly was scared of the strong images and did not understand it. This lead me to softening the images in my imagination and creating a fairy tale feel around the stories. That’s what I wanted to capture through Tlingit Legends, the enchantment, the fairy tale vibe.


Did you design jewelry specifically for the stories, or were your existing pieces already inspired by them? 

I designed jewelry specifically for the stories I chose for Tlingit Legends.


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The artwork in the book is a beautiful collaboration between you and Alaskan photographer Christal Houghtelling.  What do you admire about Chrstial’s work in “Tlingit Legends”?  Why did you choose her to be the photographer?

Christal was amazing to work with. She needed no direction and seemed to understand my vision instantly. I actually saw a photo that Christal posted in Instagram and it was exactly what I wanted to capture. Maybe you have seen it? It’s a photo of this beautiful lady in a blue dress, she is outside in Alaska’s elements. It was dramatic and dreamy at the same time. That’s how I knew I wanted Christal to photograph my vision. I was thrilled when she agreed and more than that, when she was excited to do this show with me.


What is it about storytelling and folklore that captivates you?

The Tlingit were storytellers. They still are. This is the way I tell stories, through my art. Ask me to repeat a story vocally and I am sure you would walk away bored. However, I hope I have captured amazing stories through my work. My grandfather and one of my uncles were amazing storytellers.  I spent countless hours listening to them tell stories. I think I am captivated because the possibilities are endless.


screen shot 2019-01-08 at 6.20.29 pm is a phenomenal source of information on the herbal and culinary uses of plants local to your region in South East Alaska.  What inspired you to co-found the site? 

Thank you! Currently I am not as active on Plant Guru as I want to be. Plant Guru is really something that feels so comforting and important to me. I lost my biological mother at birth, her sister (who I now refer to as my mother, as she raised me from birth) would tell me stories of how my biological mother would forage and create the most amazing dishes and dinner parties. I think this has a lot to do with my interest and passion for local plants and cooking. It’s my way to stay connected to her, even though she has passed on. It really is a deep love for me, this passion for indigenous plants and cooking, it fulfills such a longing that’s in my soul.


What are a few of your favorite recipes and remedies?

Oh man! I am terrible, I am constantly creating, so recreating is not something I do much. However, there is a salad I make every year, mostly because those around me love it and it marks such a special time of year. Its my Herring Egg Salad recipe, its posted on the website. If it’s a good year, we get herring eggs once a year, when the herring arrive (which is typically in March or April). The salad is tedious (but delightful) to make as you have to pull the eggs off branches.  It’s crunchy and bursts with flavor. It’s really like nothing else.


As far as remedies, the one I swear by is a tincture that is easily made with Elderberry flowers and vodka. Once the tincture is made, my favorite way of using it is adding it to hot water and honey. It’s simple, comforting and effective against colds and viruses.


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Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

I have many passions in my life, art and plants most know about. I feel like my other passion that really has yet to be expressed is film. I am excited to continue to explore this aspect and see how things unfold. I also have a passion for communities and the importance of being connected in a way that makes a positive difference. 2019 I am launching Community Cultural Classes, a program through the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. With this program I will have the opportunity to work with and within Alaska communities to set up classes to have Alaska cultural arts taught.


Learn more about Mary and her work:



Photography: Courtesy of Mary Goddard, featuring the work of Christal Houghtelling 

Alessia Brusco – Skogens Rymd

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“Well, I think I´m going to say an obvious thing, but nature is so rich that it is impossible not to be inspired,” says Allesia Brusco, aka Skogens Rymd.  Her painterly moniker means “the space of the forest” in Swedish, describing the world that she captures on the canvas.  The artist has made a name for herself by creating images inspired by natural phenomena that evoke the spirits of ancient myths.  Each painting is a Nordic landscape.  The ebb, flow, and crescendo of an epic tale is found in the depth and lights of colors, the movement of celestial bodies, and the steadfast presence of dense forests.

Brusco approaches the painting landscapes through her own eyes and experience.  A sense of awe on the cusp of otherworldly, her artwork interacts with her various wealths of knowledge. While she finds inspiration in the sky in Southern Sweden, the artist is originally from Northern Italy.  She was always an avid reader, managing to “devour” a book in a manner of hours.  Reading Tolkien spurred an interest in ancient and medivel studies, in which she has holds a degree.  “I´ve read a lot of medieval literature from many countries, mostly Italy, England, France, Spain and Scandinavia. I really like novels from Nordic writers.”  Her favorites among them are Sigrid Undset, Knut Hamsun, Selma Lagerlöf, and Mikael Niemi.  Philosophy, anthropology, and archeology are also of interest to Brusco.  All of her studies feed her artistry.  “Sometimes, I add a quote under the title of my paintings coming from a book that gave me something I wanted to transform in an image.”


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“Midvinter” detail

Sweden is her creative home, in a sense.  “I´ve always been fascinated by this culture and I felt at once home here and inspired by everything I paint.  The sky is so clear here in the countryside that I started to look at the stars more often.  Obviously not only the culture I got from books, but many of the legends and the environment here helped me to start to paint in December 2015.”

Brusco’s attraction to landscapes comes from her other home: “Where I was born, in the northwest of Italy, there is a lot of nature and I lived in little town by the sea.  Here in Sweden the nature is of course more dominant and I like it very much.  I really feel good in the countryside with not so many people, cars, buildings, and noises. When I have to come back to Italy, each time I just get to the train station or the airport, it´s like a little trauma to come back in a big city and I feel quite misplaced.”  The details of her paintings come from a peaceful study of her surroundings.  “What really inspire me are the colors of the sky at dusk or dawn.  There are so many tones that most of the time are so difficult to reproduce because the human eye is lured to think that, for example, a kind of pink is warmer but when you try it on the canvas it has another effect.”

In addition to her scholarly passions, Brusco finds endless inspiration in Ulver’s 1995 album Bergatt.  The experimental metal holds the steady rhythms, like the enduring myths and legends that she has studied.  An ambient quality brings sweeping and emotive movement, like the starry and misty forms against the dark skies in her paintings.

Brusco has an upcoming show in the spring of 2019 at an appropriately historical location.  Sala Silvergruva, formerly a silver mine is now an eclectic event space and tourist attraction.  The collection of work will feature Scandinavian folklore and fairytales.

See more of Allesia’s artwork and follow her on Instagram here.

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Alexis Carter – Runik Jewellery

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Runik Jewellery was created out of Alexis Carter’s desire to bring her own vision to life.  She began teaching herself metal work about three years ago.  “I was working full-time during the day and was teaching myself at night by a lot of trial and error.”  Using books and the internet, Carter successfully created jewellery that she herself wanted wear and found her preferred creative outlet.  “What I like most about it is, there is so much to learn, so many techniques and methods to try.  It’s a constant experiment and always exciting to see how a piece will turn out.”


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Carter is a Queensland native, born near Surfer’s Paradise in Australia’s Gold Coast.  But Carter prefers the country’s untouched woodland to the beach.  Runik Jewellery’s Instagram account has a strong following, awaiting new photos of her creations with Victoria, Australia’s rural Gippsland in the background.  She uses recycled materials, sterling silver, and a variety of gemstones to create pieces that are elegant and edgy.  The jewellery showcases the natural beauty of minerals and the subtlety of hammering techniques.  “Every design is natural, fairly straightforward and with subtle hints of my surroundings thrown in.”  The Gippsland forest is awe-inspiring.  “I am constantly trying to find ways to transfer organic textures into my pieces.”  Carter collects natural materials from the forest floor, then transfers the pattern to her jewelry hammers to create the impression.  Bark, eucalyptus leaves, agate, gum nuts, and moss are currently in her studio.  Carter also has an affinity for runes, ancient symbols from the Germanic alphabet most often associated with Norse history.  The mysterious symbols complement the gemstones and natural textures in Carter’s jewelry, and strikingly stand alone.  Visually, the runes have a quality that rests between the organic and the constructed.  The way that Carter approaches designing jewelry embodies this meeting of earthiness, freedom, and intent.


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Prior to designing jewellery, Carter was in the Army for eight years.  She returned from the Middle East in 2010 and began thinking about moving off the grid.  Carter appreciates her military experience, but it also created the desire for solitude.  “I think I had seen enough of what people are capable of and wanted to live in ignorant bliss…alone.  This is not to say that I had a brutally negative experience over there, it just helped me realize what was really important to me and what wasn’t.  So, when I got out of the Army, I bought a bush property in the middle of nowhere and started to prepare to go off grid.  I think I live in pure luxury and I am so lucky that my dream is simple and inexpensive.”  Carter’s Instagram photos paint a picture of an artisan who feels a connection to her surroundings.  Her appreciation for the natural world is what makes Runik Jewellery so unique.


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Moravian Armory – McKey Carpenter



McKey Carpenter is the chainmail artisan behind Moravian Armory.  The name comes from his interest in the Northern Scotland Kingdom of Moray that fell in 1130 A.D.  An admirer of myths and legends, he uses elements that harken to Pictish, Celtic, and Scandinavian designs.  Moravian Armory produces striking jewelry and dramatic costume pieces that can take months to complete.

Carpenter is a New York City actor and producer, currently creating his own pilot titled “Mormaer’s Saga: Fall of Moray.”  In between scouting locations and acting in other productions, Carpenter works away on his chainmail pieces (sometimes in between takes).  In a Q&A with Ordinary Artisans, he weaves together his creative pursuits and early influences to tell us more about Moravian Armory.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

Well I was born in a small town in Virginia called Tappahannock , kinda near Richmond.  Then when my parents split I bounced between there, Marblehead, and the Berkshires in Massachusetts.  After High school I made a mad dash for New York City where I live today.

Describe your art form.

Well, I like to create. Whether it be with my hands as a crafter or with my voice and body as an actor.  But with my jewelry and armor I would describe it as ancient techniques for modern wear.


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What made you interested in this initially?  

As a kid, my uncle Bob would always take us kids to the Medieval fair and one year he taught me to make chainmail.  Then I completely lost interest for at least ten years.  Then I met a leather artist and we started making armor in our spare time, and now that my brother is crafting leather as well its awesome to make something together.

Why do these materials speak to you?

Honestly it is because that is what I want to produce on film.  But also because I can.


Scathach Body Chain



In your product descriptions you often include summaries of myth and legends.  Do these stories influence your designs from the beginning? 

Yes and no. I usually get an idea for a design in my head, and as I am building it I do research.  Then about halfway through construction I find its name. Funny story about the Boudica Necklace. Both the leather artist [Kendra McDevitt] and myself where thinking on a name ever since I gave her the chainmail patch for it.  She told me she was going to include Italian leather and amber.  So, I sat thinking “Who uses chainmail? Well the Celts and Romans, ITALIA, ITALIAN, who fought Rome? Boudica! We both email “What about Boudica” at the same time. lol

Why do you like myths and legends?

All my mom’s fault. lol.  She brought me up reading “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”, “LOTR” [Lord of the Rings], plus I used to live next door to Salem Massachusetts.

Did acting come before chainmail?  

Yes and no. lol.  I learned chainmail around 11-12, lost interest, and then caught the acting bug around 14-15, but just recently at 32 started back up with chainmail.


Do these art forms inform each other?  Storytelling seems to play a role in the chainmail as well.

No but they complement each other.  When I am on set or back stage I am always waiting, hurry up and wait. So, I filled that free time.  For example, the Asgardian Guard Mantle I made on the sets of “Gotham” (Fox) and an “Uncut Gems” (A24) commercial.

What was your favorite project as an actor and why?
Actors dread this question. lol. In Manhattan we have a small theater company called The Drilling Co. and they are known for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.  We were doing “Love’s Labou’rs Lost” and I was playing Longaville as a crazed energetic drummer of a punk band. We even smoked fake pot during another character’s monologue and became part of his scene. I have never been so exhausted, focused, in shape, and thrilled to be doing exactly what I was doing.  But I have a feeling this pilot may blow that out of the water.


Queen Aethelflaed Necklace


Can you tell me about the film that you are working on?

It is actually the pilot to a tv series [“Mormaer’s Saga: The Fall of Moray”] which I created, wrote, will be producing and acting in. But I refuse to direct too! lol. Well as you can imagine it is set in the dark ages and my shop is making the armor.  But it follows two warriors in Northern Scotland fighting to keep English feudalism out of their country. There is also a dark element as we discover the demons of Scotland and those that hide within men. Thankfully this is BEFORE “Robert The Bruce” (Netflix) because I just saw the movie trailer and almost had a heart attack. lol

Chainmail seems like a time-consuming process.  What is it about this craft that keeps you going?

I just get obsessed with what it could be and have the patience to see it through. And you are correct it is time consuming.  The 6 in 1 shirt has taken me almost two years.

What projects do you have coming up soon?

I just got over my year-long injury and eagerly hunting for new projects.


Boudica Necklace


Shop Moravian Armory


Featured Photographers: Dave Grant and Micheal Bernstein

Melissa Sieling – Stained Glass Artist


A man lays sleeping over his scroll.  Behind his ear, a writing implement is carefully tucked.  A wheel of shapes in golden and cool colors form his halo.  Evidence of careful brush strokes lull the rich tones and soften the scene where the angel Gabriel enters Joseph’s dream.

The creation of all images relies on the balance of light and shadows, but stained glass must be seen through to exist with intention.  Illumination allows the true movement and life of each scene to unfold.  This image, inspired by a passage in the book of Matthew (1:20-25), is Melissa Sieling’s current work in progress at Beyer Studio in Pennsylvania’s Germantown.

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“Joseph’s Dream” in progress

When Sieling interned at Beyer Studio for one summer, she found that the art form exercised each area of her fine art studies.  “It’s a craft that’s so different from everything else that you kind of have to learn it from the bottom up.”  Programs at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology, including sculpture, painting, and figure drawing, prepared her to embrace the tradition.  “It’s produced the same way that is was in the middle ages, except we have electricity and OSHA,” she laughs, “those are pretty much the only differences.”  At Beyer Studio, fire, cadmium, lead, and the melted sands that become resilient and dangerously fragile glass are used to tell stories.

After graduation, Sieling pursued employment in the field.  She further studied the different aspects of stained glass window production on the job, before finding a niche in painting and illustration.  Beyer studio designs primarily for Catholic and Protestant churches, but their clientele also includes community centers, independent living facilities, and universities.  Start-to-finish design, restoration, and a process that they call adaptive reuse, are the design services that they offer.

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You may have seen Beyer Studio’s work in any number of establishments in Pennsylvania, but stained glass has traditionally been a business of import and export.  Many new churches and parishes are opening in the South and South Western US at a near comparable rate to the ones closing in the North East.  Beyer Studio communicates electronically with their clients to meet the color and décor preferences of a Pastor or Priest.  Historically, many of the antique windows in the North East are from Bavaria.  Originally, Bavarian windows were sought after in many nations.  “There wasn’t a strong tradition here until the arts and crafts movement,” says Sieling of the cultural embrace of decorative and fine arts from 1880-1910.  The romance of the Bavarian style is what drew its nearly global acclaim with it’s “high degree of realism.”  She describes the classical depictions as having “idealized” the figures and, “a lot of darker and muted colors.”  Trends in stained glass, as with any decorate art, change in style.  Over the past ten years, Sieling has seen a more abstract sensibility, color relationships and loose form, phase out as newer churches desire the classic styles.

Antique dealers often seek restoration services.  Sieling remembers one window that was “made in Basel, Switzerland in 1609.”   While re-painting the worn areas was “a little nerve-wracking,” Sieling expresses a balance of seriousness and comfort with this style of painting that allows no margin for error.  Any mistakes are expensive.  Her work requires the careful confidence of relaxing into the creative mode.


“Joseph’s Dream” in progress

Painting a stained glass window is a reductive process, meaning that form is created by first bringing forth highlights, instead of building the form with shadows.  Illustration are hand drawn, enlarged, then the outlines are painted onto the glass.  For each shape the darkest shade of paint is applied evenly.  Then, Sieling strategically brushes away the paint to leave the highlights, working around where she knows each shadow will be.  While the painting is traditionally done against a light table, Sieling prefers to connect the pieces with beeswax, then stand up the piece up to allow light to shine through.  Painting this way, she can accurately see the image as future congregations will – illuminated by the sun.

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The process of adaptive reuse at Beyer studio involves altering the design of a previously existing window to fit a new parish’s taste or style.  The Arch Diocese of Philadelphia contacts Beyer studio when a parish is closing to request that they remove the windows.  Beyer studio then photographs each one to catalogue on their website.  Windows that fit the category of adaptive reuse are repaired and sold to newer churches.  This design process involves fitting the windows by cutting them down, or expanding the design by adding new shapes.


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Some windows don’t age gracefully and are worn beyond the highest standard of renewal.  In this case, Beyer studio will cut them down to create new, smaller designs and sell them to the public.  “We’ll get a lot of people coming in who grew up in [a particular church] in Philadelphia,” says Sieling.  “People have a really strong connection with it.  It’s something they’ve seen every Sunday, or if they were in Catholic school, every day.”

When asked why the windows hold such significance and strike such emotional and spiritual chords, Sieling says, “In a way, I think some people kind of view it as a meditation.”  She imagines people walking around a sanctuary or parish and taking in each scene in the windows.  Sieling experiences this herself in her daily work.  “You can’t help but think about it as you’re working on it…all the characters, what are they feeling, what would it be like to be in that situation.”


image courtesy of Neil Cippon

Seen in the wall of a parish, the illumination of the colored glass reaches toward the congregation as the literal transparence invites the viewer to enter into the scene.  It is an invitation to meditate on the figure’s experience or your own.  “People can feel a connection with God in different ways.  For some people it’s visual, for some it’s music, for some people it’s nature.  It’s a different form of meditating on God.”  The tradition of contemplation in the Catholic religion has lasted for many, many years.  In work, church, and life Sieling has had this experience herself, and she says “I think some people view the windows that way.”

(Originally published on Collector – May 2016)

Wild Island Studio – Nannette Foster



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Nannette Foster began designing jewelry to reconnect to the creativity that she’d left behind in her childhood.  Whisking herself away from corporate America to Kodiak, Alaska became an unexpected transformational process.  It inspired the long-lasting theme of Wild Island Studio.  Collecting found materials that wash up on the shore, seeing the value and beauty in what has been cast aside, is symbolic of her creative and spiritual rebirth.

Foster’s creative process also speaks to her compassion for victims of human trafficking.  The artist was kind enough to tell me more about her creative journey and how her sales help support Priceless Alaska in the fight against human trafficking.


For starters, where are you from and where do you live now?

Originally a Midwestern girl from the Kansas City, Missouri area, I moved to Kentucky and Tennessee. I moved from Nashville to Kodiak Island, Alaska in 2012 after what was supposed to be a summer adventure only. That’s how Alaska gets you.


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Why is metalsmithing your art form of choice?

I’ve always loved both art and working with my hands, but never landed on a medium. Discovering of decades old brass and copper washed up on Kodiak beaches was the catalyst. I was so excited and kept thinking, “I can’t believe someone threw this out. There is value here!”

I started out with cold connections while I lived in a tiny cabin, then worked out of a suitcase the year our family lived in a camper. As soon as we got our current home, I took over a room to use as my studio and got addicted to using a torch. There’s something empowering about controlling a flame.


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I was reading about how you began designing jewelry.  You were a creative child but left your creative pursuits to make a career in corporate America.  Then, you felt the need to create again, and you started with feather earrings.  Why feathers?

Feathers strike a chord in my spirit. They represent freedom, which is super important to me. I have a small “free” tattooed on my left wrist. My next tattoo will probably be a Feather right above that. Being a fairly driven person, I can get wound tight sometimes. It’s a reminder to me of the freedom that was gifted to me through Jesus. It’s not just a pretty thought, but a state of being. Like John 8:36 says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”


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Why did you go from Nashville to Alaska?

My full intention was to spend one summer adventure volunteering with a children’s program in Kodiak. I had just gone through a divorce and was looking to branch out. I had the tropics in mind, but God had better plans. I still miss the warmth.

Transformation is a theme in your work.  Can you tell me more about that?

Transformation is my story in a nutshell, and I know I’m not the only one. My first summer in Kodiak I came to the island raw, vulnerable and insecure. Some people say that the veil between Heaven and Earth is thin here. My inner healing certainly accelerated that summer. The sea, mountains, colors of spring, soothed my soul.

I fell in love with life in Kodiak and came to know myself in a whole new way. I cried and danced my way through lively worship services, met the love of my life, unveiled my inner artist, and gave birth to my son here. After coming to Alaska broken, I am whole, confident, and unafraid. There is nothing I love more than to see beauty bloom through the mess.


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What is your favorite piece that you have made?

I spend so much time with certain statement pieces, they tend to be my favorites. I like my big dragonfly pendant. Dragonflies represent transformation, and I used almost every technique in my toolbox on that one.

What is your favorite color and why?

Definitely turquoise! It’s that color of clear ocean water from an aerial view. I could stare at it all day. My Cherokee grandmother passed on some of her Navajo turquoise jewelry to me. It’s been my favorite since childhood. That’s why I love working with US mined turquoise.


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Your long-term plan is to eventually teach survivors of human trafficking.  What inspired you to set this goal?

This issue has been on my heart for a while. Last year I was able to begin donating both time and a portion of my profits to Priceless Alaska to address this issue in our state and town. Because freedom is so important to me, I have a deep desire to support those taking brave steps toward realizing their own freedom. It’s one thing to provide a way out. But once that first step is complete, ongoing support is extremely important, especially with regards to replacing livelihood. My dream is to be able to employ survivors of sex trafficking and provide them with training in a new skill set.


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Human trafficking is a global issue – one that impacts communities without most people realizing it.  Urban settings have the highest rates of trafficking with people being taken off of the streets.  In a remote setting like Alaska, how does this take shape?  In the cities, or elsewhere?

This is such an interesting question. Most people think of trafficking as kidnapping and physically holding individuals captive, usually for a commodity in the sex trade. While this is sometimes true, captivity can manifest in much more subtle ways in small towns, villages and rural areas. In Kodiak, one example of a vulnerable population are 18yr olds exiting foster care. Those with no job and nowhere to stay are easily coerced into trading sex for a couch. This is an entry point to forced prostitution. After that, control/manipulation/fear tactics and drug addiction create an invisible fence. They appear free, but the captivity is real.


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What do you love most about Alaska?

I thought about this for a while. And what sums it up is connection. Up here, life is slower and simpler. It’s easier to maintain a connection to people and community. With the wild and untamed at your doorstep, connection is deeper to nature and wildlife. Spiritually, I am decidedly more connected since coming to Alaska, and I also find I am more connected to myself and my own story.


Join the mailing list and see more of Nannette’s pieces!


A. Recherche

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A. Rechere is Ashara Shapiro’s latest venture. Launching October 25-27, the jewelry and accessories are storied items that have gone through a transformation. Antique items that have lost their function in modern daily life are turned into pieces both elegant and edgy.  Shapiro is known as one half of the Bucks County, Pennsylvania creative duo ReClaimed.  The California native learned the art of woodworking from her father, leading her to eventually create functional, eclectic art in the form of furniture.  Six months ago, in the studio stocked with finds from antique malls and abandoned barns, Shapiro saw the potential for these items to become fashion.  “Throughout that process [with ReClaimed] I was collecting bits and pieces that I loved” says Shapiro, old machine tags, brass rulers and scales, among them.  “I just started making things for myself with those bits and pieces and then people were really interested in what I was doing.” A. Recherche began with a leather cuff adorned with the carefully curated piece of an antique brass metal ruler. When people began requesting custom orders, Shapiro knew that she was on to something.


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Each piece from A. Recherche is true to its namesake (“rechercheis French for ‘exotic, rare, or obscure.’)  To the designer, leather and metals have a personality of their own.  She calls the rawness and natural quality of leather paired with polished metal a “perfect marriage.”  When asked about her favorite found material, Shapiro can’t settle on one. Exploring each material, and discovering what it will allow itself to be, is an enjoyable interaction.  For example, different metals are more or less malleable and the grain of a piece of wood determines what design will take shape. She enjoys this process, bringing her own vision and meeting it with the design potential of the material.


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Empowerment is the theme of A. Recherche.  “Warrior meets modern woman meets function, fashion,” says Shapiro. The stamped words and phrases speak to women’s strength and experiences, “something that they can identify with in their life.”  Certain pieces are created for the purpose of forming community and offer part of the proceeds to charity organizations.  She currently works with A Love for Life, an organization that raises funds for Pancreatic cancer research.  “The best mission is to not only create things that women feel strong wearing,” she says, “but also supporting each other in our past and our future.”  Eventually, Shapiro plans to create designs that speak to other widespread issues.  She envisions women forming connections by wearing her jewelry, recognizing each other’s bracelets stamped with the phrases ‘Me Too’ and ‘Survivor.’


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Shapiro, an avid writer, former off-Broadway actress, and teacher, has expressed herself creatively throughout her life.  A common thread throughout each experience, from taking to the stage as a child to her current design work, is empowerment and connection. Of our busy, information driven world Shapiro feels that shared experience is forgotten.  “We are taking in so much information that has very little to do with us on a personal, deep level.”  Personal power and expression are at the core of her creative pursuits. She sees them as a way to create connecting threads that people can draw to their own stories.


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The launch will take place inside of “The Barn,” an eclectic space sounds like a perfect setting for the A. Recherche shopping experience. Philadelphia-based clothing line Plume and Thread will be joining the party at each date.

For the future, Shapiro plans to continue making custom orders and release a new collection every few months.  Each launch will be limited edition and unique.  Join the A. Recherche mailing list for a VIP first look at each collection.  Be the first to find your new favorite piece:

Thursday October 25, 6-8pm

Friday October 26, 6-8pm

Saturday October 27, 10-4pm


4658 Old York Road

Buckingham, PA


A. Recherche

Plume and Thread


images: A. Recherche instagram