- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - It’s a 32-year-old tradition, but it’s full of fresh faces, new passions and continues to expand its community reach.

The Juneau Public Market, alongside the Native Artist Market, brought out hundreds of people by the hour to discover what crafts and creations their neighbors - and some strangers from across the water - had in stock for them this holiday season.

Barbara Mitchell is a retired Juneau School District teacher with 25 years of experience, some of those years spent molding minds in gifted and talented programs. This weekend, however, it was her gifts and talents on display as a Southeast Alaska artist telling stories with her singular fiber designs.

“It’s really powerful for all of us who are artists in Southeast Alaska,” Mitchell said of the opportunity to see her artwork affect people in her own community, giving meaning to her post-retirement craft.

Mitchell’s work consists of collages made with recycled fabric fused with a soldering iron. The finished products are textured photos that let the viewer also touch Alaska.

“I had a lady come buy one of my pieces and she started crying,” Mitchell said. “She said to me, ‘That’s what it feels like to live in Alaska - that texture.’ That’s really powerful.”

More than 170 vendors presented their own crafts and passions during this weekend’s public market held Friday through today at Centennial Hall, with other vendors set up at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. This year also marked the second year for the Native Artist Market at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, where 20 vendors were on site.

Both markets heavily featured the work of local, well-known artists such as culture bearer Percy Kunz. She could be seen at the Native Artist Market working on cedar bark, crafting children’s hats in front of shoppers.

At Centennial Hall, established photographer Mark Kelly displayed captured moments of Alaskan landscapes on postcards and calendars, some he signed for customers.

But among all these popular faces, new ones also appeared, hoping to start traditions of their own.

Jess Lombard, 26, showcased her AKuatic Designs apparel, an extension of her love for marine biology. A giant pacific octopus was spread across one of her featured sweatshirts with its scientific name scrawled below, “Enteroctopus dofleini.” Fashion with an educational twist, she called it.

Another fresh face, Shale Kibby, 22, introduced gifts for shoppers’ four-legged friends at home. KIBBY’S Dog Treats offered customers organic treats for Fido.

“I’m really concerned with what I put in my body so I want to do that same thing for (dogs),” Kibby said. “Everything in my treats has a purpose. Coconut for the brain, parsley for their breath and so on.”

For a meal fit for humans, town favorites such as Panhandle Provisions, the Alaskan Crepe Escape and Heritage Coffee set up shop inside Centennial Hall. At the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, shoppers could enjoy fresh baked goods made by All Nations Children Dancers’ family members. Proceeds from the bake sales went toward funding for the dance group’s new celebration regalia.

For some, food and crafts aside, the real highlight of the three-day shopping extravaganza is the opportunity to say hello to neighbors all in one place.

Joani Pico, standing with her 15-year-old daughter Sasha between the JACC and Centennial Hall, waved at passersby entering and leaving the public market.

“Saying hi to friends, that’s our favorite part of the day,” Pico said.

Public Market and Native Artist Market events continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission into Centennial Hall is $7; entry is free for both the extended market at the JACC and the Native Artist Market at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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