New Trophy shop staffer creates Native designs

Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Juneau Works has pulled off another match, resulting in a new product for a local business.

Oliver's Trophies & Engraving is now offering original Southeast Alaska Native art designs for its gold pans, medals, plaques, sculptures and traditional trophies. The designs are the work of Jerome "Jerry" Eldemar, a new employee who was hired at the instigation of Linni Esther of Juneau Works, an jobs program helping the disabled.

"When I was approached by Linni, I was looking for someone to fill in an engraving spot because an employee got married and moved to Montana," said Todd Luck, who owns Oliver's Trophies with his father Karl. "I needed an employee, period."

Esther knew that Oliver's has digitized and computerized all its engraving jobs, and that Eldemar had design talents as well as computer skills. Eldemar, 39, job-shadowed at the shop on Old Dairy Road for a couple of days and, during that time, showed Luck his portfolio. Luck immediately saw the possibilities.

"We were interested in his producing custom artwork that is not tied to a specific Native group - something in the Pacific Northwest style, and specifically Southeast Alaska, but something that would not be subject to copyright," Luck said.

"Jerry is a very bright individual who has done woodcarving before, but this is his first full-time job since he became a client of Juneau Works," Luck said. "Basically we are taking something he is able to do and turning it into something (the firm) can do."

Eldemar is working on designs and Luck plans to incorporate them soon. From the time a company logo is submitted to the time it could be reproduced would be less than a month, he estimated. "If all the planets line up right, it could be only a couple of days," he said.

As he walked in a crosswalk with his 2-year-old daughter in 1994, Eldemar was struck by a vehicle. His severe injuries meant he could no longer stand for long periods or lift, so he could not pursue his former trade as a mechanic's assistant.

The state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation sent him to the Alaska Vocational Institute to equip him for a change of career. He still needs an accommodation, and Luck was willing to supply that, Esther said.

"Because he is a single parent, he doesn't want to work on weekends. And Todd was willing to make that accommodation."

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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