With every vacation comes the need to document moments and find representations of the sights in order to memorialize the time! Thanks to all the beautiful pieces of artwork Juneau is known to produce, finding a statement-making piece will not be a challenge. With the wilderness of the Alaskan landscape, the natural artistry of the Northern Lights, the abundance of wildlife, and the deep traditions of the Alaskan culture, the imaginations of artists have exploded into paintings, pottery, and jewelry that you’ll want to bring home with you! So whether you’re shopping for something realistic, whimsy, or even abstract, Juneau’s souvenir shops and galleries have something to strike your fancy! Read on to find out what to buy in Juneau, Alaska.
1. Matryoshka dolls
Matryoshka nesting dolls originated from Russia way back in the 1800s, and have hence found their way across the world to populate many a souvenir shop’s shelves! Traditionally made of wood and painted with explosions of color in the beautiful flowers, typically decorating the little babushka’s dresses, the set was originally created with eight dolls that would pop in half to reveal another doll inside. However, sets now vary in sizes, shapes, and colors, with some sets decorated to look like animals, while others still bear the image of the traditional Russian Matryoshka or “little maiden.” If you’re visiting Juneau and are specifically shopping with a niece or daughter in mind, these pieces of art are a great choice!
The beauty of the Alaskan frontier is hardly one to be captured, but Alaskan artists don’t shy from the challenge. Through their talent, they provide visitors with the opportunity to enjoy the vastness and mystery of Alaska from thousands of miles away. Maybe on your trip, you experienced the rare sighting of a whale or a grizzly and wanted to have a painting as a conversation piece through which you can relive it again and again. Well, local Juneau artists such as Dianne Anderson, Christine Lewis, and Lue Isaac, to name just a few, have shared their talents with the Juneau Artists Gallery to ensure that those experiences and moments remain immortalized in the brilliant colors and gentle brushstrokes of their artwork!
For those who want a wearable souvenir, jewelry is always a smart option and one which is relatively easy to find. Jewelry is adorned with all varieties of stones and gems, but if you’re looking for a stone distinctly Alaskan, opt for jade, the state gemstone. There are jade deposits all over the state, which make this common enough to find among shops, but if you’re really lucky, you’ll land upon purple jade - incredibly rare and highly valued! Jewelry shops also offer an assortment of wooden jewelry on which are carved various symbols important to Alaskan traditions and cultures, as well as hand carved, gleaming ivory pieces shaped into rings, necklace pendants, and earrings. Men and women alike are sure to find an accessory representing a rich piece of Alaskan culture.
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Pottery is always an elegantly versatile choice in souvenir as it can be used as a daily item or a more decorative statement piece. There are many artists in Juneau who have captured the rustic culture of Alaska and embodied it through handcrafted mugs painted in shades of the Northern Lights, serving bowls decorated with schools of salmon, and platters representing the sprawling, untamable landscapes. Amidst all the choices, there is sure to be the perfect piece to gift to your mother or to accentuate your own dinner table!
5. Comic book art
There is something for everyone in Juneau’s souvenir shops, including all comic gurus! Alaska Robotics is Juneau’s very own comic art company, offering a wide array of souvenirs on which their unique artwork is printed. From prints to t-shirts to postcards, Alaska Robotics offers a comic take on your vacation to Juneau. So whether you want to immortalize your experience of having your trash can raided by bears, or forever remember how a bear guards the state capitol building, the whimsy of Alaska Robotics is exactly the unique souvenir you’ve been wanting!
6. Glass work
For this kind of souvenir, be sure to pack some bubble wrap in your suitcase so that this one-of-a-kind artwork doesn’t come home as a mosaic! Glass is always an interesting choice of souvenir because it takes so many different shapes and forms and always has a story behind it. Unique to some of the glasswork created in Juneau is the capturing of natural phenomena found in the Alaskan landscapes. In particular, artist Linda Chase has chosen to depict the wildlife of Alaska, as well as Alaska’s rich vegetation accented by the backdrop of the notoriously breathtaking sky. Glass pieces are a striking alternative to paintings and photography when it comes to collecting a piece which will decorate your home with memories.
7. Christmas figurines
Brightening up traditions is always a refreshing thing to do, so while shopping in Juneau, consider picking up an addition to your yearly Christmas decorations. Whether you’ve accidentally broken all the pieces to your ancient nativity set and are searching for a new one, are an avid collector of nutcrackers, or just really can’t walk away from that jolly old Santa Clause decked out in fur-covered snow boots and parka, there is sure to be something to add to your collection. Even if you just want a statement ornament to document your travels for the year, the treasures you’ll find in Alaska will surely become what you look forward to decorating with year after year.
8. Wood carvings
If you’re looking for a more historical souvenir, opt for a wood carving! Some carvings come in the shape of totem poles, with each of the little faces representing various spirits of the Alaskan native culture. Another choice would be the wooden masks which the Native people believe can bring good luck to the wearer and good fortune during hunts. Traditionally, they were also used during ritual dances during which the dancer would be imbued with the spirit which the mask represented. Be sure to ask the shop attendant about the representations of both masks and totem poles alike so that you might learn more about these rich traditions!
9. Woven baskets
At first look, a basket is just that - a basket! You might look at these souvenirs and think they would be a nice addition to the living room. But what you might not realize upon first glance is that the pattern and symbols woven into the baskets actually have a meaning behind them. Few pieces of art are created without a story involved, and Alaskan baskets are no exception. When you pick up one of these gorgeous, handwoven artworks, be sure to seek out a description of the pattern, for you never know - your new living room decoration might also be a storybook about a well-known Alaskan river spirit!
Only a few hours left in Alaska and you’ve done all your shopping and, on no! You forgot about Mom! Well, never fear, for Alaska is a veritable wealth of all kinds of wild berries which locals have lovingly turned into jams. These make gifts not only delicious but perfect for that last minute souvenir stop. Jams are not only a perfect way to bring home the flavors of Alaskan culture but also a sweet way for you to reminisce about your trip each time you spread some wild salmonberry jam on your morning toast. And don’t forget to drop by the Juneau farmer’s market to make sure your jam is as wild as they come!
Historical, whimsical, delicious
A souvenir to remember the Northern Lights by? Check! Something to bring home to Mom? Check! A trinket to remember the history and bring home a piece of the culture? Double check! No matter what kind of souvenir taste you have, Juneau will not leave you empty handed! Now, get shopping!
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