The Bentwood and Bead gallery, in big yellow building on Third Street between Starr Hill and the Historic downtown district, is a dream artists’ space that’s been a long time coming.
Jim and Salty Hanes created this his-and-her artist’s paradise, where they have space to create art as well as a gallery to show and sell it in, and no commute to get there — they live upstairs.
When their gallery is open, they don’t carry mass-produced tourist gifts, but rather offer one-of-a-kind items for locals and tourists, featuring their own work as well as that of other artists.
Visitors enter the Bentwood and Bead gallery on the ground floor gallery space, which features Jim’s engravings, Salty’s beadwork and two different guest artists every year. They like to carry diverse artists and mediums such as painters and potters to balance their engraving and beadwork. But after decades of running public shops, the most important criteria in considering guest artists is “ease of doing business with,” said Jim.
Also on the ground floor are two studios. One is Jim’s, with violins and engravings, and the other is Salty’s, with bead-working materials.
Over the last 28 years, Jim and Salty have had many different business arrangements and many different careers.
Salty had Taku Tailor in the Emporium Mall downtown and also Spirit Beads on Fifth Street, while Jim had his String Shop in a couple locations.
After being too big, too small, or too spread out, they now say they’ve got it right. The couple can work on projects separately but meet in the gallery to collaborate.
This ability to share ideas has led to inspired pieces. For example, Jim exhausted an engraving he was never quite happy with and he showed it to Salty, who beaded the image into an octopus purse.
During the Gold Rush days, Emery Valentine, Juneau’s sixth mayor, owned the building where Bentwood and Bead is located.
Valentine became a little cash poor in 1901, so the then 43-year-old jeweler gave the building to his business manager as payment for a year’s work. Valentine went on to build the Valentine Building and the Seward Building in 1913, which border the downtown historic district.
In 1997, Salty and Jim were simplifying and consolidating their lives so they formed a plan and bought the house. It was run-down, so they stripped it to the studs for a custom renovation, completed in 1999.
Now they arrange their gallery schedule around their travel plans, doing what they love.
Jim, originally from Seattle, graduated with a degree in marine biology from Western Washington University and worked at the Navy’s arctic research lab in Barrow on contract. When he found he couldn’t move further up without getting another degree, he looked around or a career change. He liked working with wood and wanted to learn how to fiddle so he put them together.
“I found out violins were all carved and not bent into the shape they are in. That just seemed fascinating to me so I sent letters off all around the country to see if I could get an apprenticeship, and I got one, on the East Coast.”
The apprenticeship, based in Washington, D.C., spanned two years. When he wasn’t making and repairing violins, Jim worked for the Smithsonian identifying arctic artifacts, and sometimes commuted back up north for periods to work. He returned to Juneau and opened a string shop in 1983, the same year he met his partner, Salty.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned. Instead of making violins as he had intended, he ended up providing instrument rentals and repairs for 18 years. So he closed his string shop in 2005, and started making violins again. Now he only repairs instruments in January and February.
After Jim closed his string shop, he had time to try new things so he took a few classes at UAS with Alice Tersteeg, a renowned printmaker. Engraving and printmaking have now become a passion.
“(Tersteeg) has taught so many famous Southeast Alaska artists over the years in printmaking. She’s an unsung hero as far as her contribution to artists,” Jim said.
Jim was also inspired by woodblock print artist and engraver Dale DeArmond, who passed away in 2006. Jim uses her old press for his art. He creates his images on finely polished blocks of wood using little chisel tools. Each piece is very labor intensive; a polished block of wood can take 50 to 60 hours alone to make because it has to be perfectly smooth.
He also does relief and reduction prints, wood boxes with carved lids and wood sculptures.
Salty, named after an adored aunt, was born on the East Coast. She grew up in a large family in which everyone worked with their hands. She started beading at an early age, went to school in Colorado focusing on sculpture and moved to Juneau in 1976.
She’s worked in Juneau as a carpenter, house painter and ski patroller, among other things, and was very handy repairing outdoors equipment, which prompted the opening of her business, Taku Tailors.
After meeting Jim in 1983, she started her beading store, Spirit Beads. Like Jim, she got so caught up in running a business, teaching and doing workshops, she was unable to work on her own things.
Salty said her interest in beads stems party from her belief that they tie us together; she uses and carries many vintage and antique beads, as is interested in their history through the bead trade routes that passed through Alaska.
Salty has kept her finger on the pulse of the beading community in Juneau over the years, holding beading circles at Spirit Beads, working with youth and teaching in schools in Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia. She has also had exhibits of her beadwork at the Juneau Douglas City Museum.
Jim and Salty have found a balance of work and play that works for them. Their philosophy is to try to live simply and not plan too far ahead.
“You don’t know what the future holds so stop dinking around with 10-year plans and just take it day by day,” Jim said.
“It’s a really great life and we are grateful,” Salty said.
Bentwood and Bead is open in the winter by appointment, and will resume its regular hours in the spring.