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 

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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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