Native art market huge hit at Celebration

It’s difficult to walk through downtown Juneau right now without running into somebody toting bags filled with recently purchased furs, jewelry, beads, drums, blankets or boxes.

 

If the gift bags weren’t sign enough, the 14 artist booths set up at Sealaska Plaza make it clear that the Northwest Coast Art Market is back.

Having returned after its first Celebration two years ago, the market drew 45 artists from Southeast Alaska, Washington and even Canada to Juneau. Artists are set up in 39 booths, split between the Sealaska Plaza and the Juneau Arts & Culture Center.

More than a few of those booths, like Janice Limbaugh’s outside of the Sealaska building, are manned by family members.

Limbaugh, originally from Sitka, makes and sells beaded headbands, hairpins and pendants. She has been beading since she was 9, “and I’m older now,” she said with a laugh.

[Whip it! Bitter berries transform into whipped dessert at Celebration.]

Limbaugh learned her craft from her mother, with whom she used to come to Celebration to sell beads. Her work is based on traditional designs passed down through her family for generations. One day, Limbaugh hopes to pass the designs down to her daughter, Janelle, who was helping her sell the beads at her booth, like she used to.

“What I do here is very traditional; I stick with traditional colors and designs,” she said. “The designs were passed down to me from my mother from my grandparents, and everything I have here is going to be passed down to my children.”

Limbaugh has already begun teaching her daughter how to bead, and she hopes Janelle will be ready to display some work of her own at the next Celebration.

“It’s exciting, but I’ll be more excited when my stuff looks like my mom’s,” Janelle Limbaugh said laughing.

[Photos: Toddler Regalia Review.]

Mike and Edna Jackson, a couple from Kake, are selling abalone carvings and jewelry from their booth in the JACC. Edna Jackson recently retired from her job and now works as an artist full time. Mike Jackson said he hopes to follow in his wife’s footsteps when he retires. Until then, however, he plans to keep working on his carvings on weekends, “if I don’t have any honey-do’s that is,” he said with a laugh as he pointed at his wife who was chatting with a customer.

Zach Boxley doesn’t have any family members with him in his booth in the JACC, but he wouldn’t have a booth without his family.

Twenty years ago, when Boxley was 12, his father, David A. Boxley, taught him how to make the bentwood boxes he was selling from his booth.

Traditionally, the boxes were sought after because they were practical. They come in varying sizes — some only large enough to hold small trinkets, like earrings, and others large enough to store folded blankets. And because they are made of red cedar, they can even hold liquids, Boxley said.

Most of the people whom he sells his boxes to, however, buy them for their ornamental nature.

The most noticeable item in Boxely’s booth, however, are the 22 deer skin drums he made, which sell starting at $100. Boxley didn’t learn how to build drums from his father — he learned that from a family friend — but his father makes use of them regularly, as does his brother, David R. Boxley.

[David R. Boxley wins 'Best of Show' in Celebration art contest.]

All three of the Boxley men are in the Git-Hoan Native Dance Group — Celebration’s lead dance group this year — which uses Zach’s drums exclusively. David A. Boxley leads the group.

Over the years, Zach Boxley estimates that he has built three or four dozen drums for Git-Hoan. The group currently uses about a dozen of his drums.

Like an artisan who stretches blank canvases for painters, Boxley markets his work as “artist ready.”

“Everything I make is ready to be painted or carved,” he said.

His father and brother paint the drums he builds for the dance group. His brother even won best of show in the Celebration Juried Art Show for an acrylic formline painting on a deer hide drum.

Though Zach said he could probably make more money if he painted his drums, he said he doesn’t plan to start.

“I’m happy with what I do — supplying artists and my family with what they need,” he said.

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or at sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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