Chachki; Also known as unnecessary, sometimes meaningless crap, cluttering up bookshelves, tables and walls of homes the world over. Whats more, it doesn’t matter where you go in the world, there’s a million shops bursting at the seams with cheap, made in China crap, slapped with whatever the name of the destination is, just waiting to be snapped up by Chachki collectors. I am definitely guilty of picking up the odd magnet, but on a recent trip up Alaska’s Inside Passage, I decided I was only going to buy authentic Alaskan gifts for myself and my loved ones. And while the ‘ol adage “collect memories not things” has long resonated, these days, my permanent Mommy-Brain makes recollecting every minute detail of a trip a little clumsy at times. Furthermore, the world is filled with wildly creative artisans who make beautiful things, and unless I’m actually in China, I would rather support a local artist and contribute to the local economy. So if you’re heading to Alaska any time soon and you’re one of those who never comes home empty-handed, here are a few authentic Alaskan made gifts and where to get them:
Handmade Tapestry Boots
Weavers, 317 Mission st Ketchikan, Alaska
First of all, Ketchikan is the quintessential Alaskan port town. With its maritime-inspired architecture, colourful houses dot the mountainous topography, the smell of the ocean unfurls across the city, and visitors are greeted by jovial shopkeepers and hearty Alaskan charm. There is an abundance of shops that sell authentic Alaskan gifts and the Weavers on Mission Street is one of those. I found them by accident while looking for a pharmacy to pick up some sunscreen for my little guy (It was 27 degrees Celsius the day we stepped off the ship!) The shop is beautifully laid out with a selection of handcrafted, locally made shoes, boots and textiles, all made from recycled materials. My boots are made from a recycled silk tapestry. These may set you back a couple of hundred bones, but they’re exquisitely made, unique and exceptional quality.
Fathoms (Award Winning) Gin
34 Blacksmith Street Haines, AK
Bet you didn’t know Alaska was home to one of the smoothest, most sophisticated gins you will ever drink. It’s slogan “London Dry, Alaska Delicious” is by no means an exaggeration. I don’t pretend to be a Gin aficionado or anything, but I’ve been around, and this is some of the best gin I have ever had. You can buy Fathoms in a few places around Alaska, but why not try before you buy? Located a couple of blocks up from the pier in the tiny town of Haines in the old Fort Seward, is the Chilkoot Distillery. There you can enjoy a gin tasting, snag a few bottles and say hi to Ozzie their resident Australian Shepherd.
Talkeetna Jerk Spice
(Any craft food store in Alaska)
When you think of Alaskan cuisine, you probably think of Seafood, but maybe not spice. That’s the beautiful thing about this wild west of a state; It’s home to a mosaic of cultures and ethnicities that have lovingly brought their flavours to Alaska. I started seeing Talkeetna condiments in just about every port-of-call, so I had to pick up a few of their seasonings. Our salmon, whitefish and steaks have never tasted better and it makes for the perfect gift for the food lover in your family.
Raven’s Brew Coffee
18 Creek St. Ketchikan AK
“The Real Alaskan Coffee For Real Alaskans And Their Real Alaskan Friends”, or so the story goes. I stumbled upon Raven’s Brew in Sam McGee’s along Creek Street in Ketchikan. I was drawn to the edgy artistry on the bags and clever names for each brew. But this sustainable, full-flavoured nectar of the gods was so much more than its pretty packaging. On the scale of authentic Alaskan gifts, anything that’s meant to be sipped, savoured and enjoyed is the best kind of souvenir.
Indigenous Card Art
108 Cannery Road Hoonah, AK
One of my favourite things to purchase when I travel anywhere is indigenous art. Anyone who’s been reading this blog for some time or who knows me, understands my passion for indigenous languages, art and culture. And while I can’t yet afford some of the masterpieces I’ve come across on my travels, all over Alaska are these beautiful Tlingit, Tsimshian, Aleutian and Haida inspired cards, postcards and wall mounts. Each one of these cards pictured above tells the story of the artist on their back, and they’re all printed locally. These authentic Alaskan gifts encapsulate the rich tradition of story telling and illustrate extraordinary relationship between the local Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples and Mother Nature.
I hope I’ve given you a few gift ideas for both yourself and those who are lucky enough to know you!