SUN AND SNOW – Snow evaporates off the roof of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Thursday. More late season snow mixed with rain  is in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday. Sunny weather is in the forecast for the first part of next week. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Wearable Art Back, with ‘Awakening’ Theme


Sentinel Staff Writer

At Sitka’s popular artistic fashion show you’re just as likely to see tin as tulle on the models on the runway.

The Sitka Wearable Arts Show is back for the first time since 2019, with shows set for  2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The Greater Sitka Arts Council is making sure the event comes back with a splash, offering VIP seating along the runway, food and wine options, and a charcuterie box fundraiser.

About 15 designers have signed up to show off garments and collections, some of which have been in the works since the start of the pandemic.

“It should be a lot of variety,” said Caryn Kraft, who will have six garments to exhibit in the show.

The theme this year is “Awakening,” which Bobbi Jordan – a GSAC board member and liaison for the show – said captures the spirit of returning after four years without a show and more people taking part in the group events they enjoyed before the pandemic.

“We figured since everyone is coming out after being sequestered with COVID, it seemed like an appropriate theme,” Jordan said.

The Wearable Arts show is one of Sitka’s most popular events, drawing from a large cross-section of the community. Organizers put out a call for entries in the fall, and announce a theme that designers can use or not.

The materials are generally non-traditional, and the one-of-a-kind wearable creations in the past have incorporated found items such as baggage claim tickets, license plates, XtraTufs, fishing lures, vinyl records, coffee filters, newspapers, corks and clothes pins, to name a few.

“Anything is free game,” said Cyndy Gibson, a veteran Wearable Arts designer,

The element of surprise is a part of the show, and designers keep at least some elements under wraps until they’re paraded on the runway.

Kraft said designing was an enjoyable activity that kept her busy during the pandemic shutdowns, and she created a garment or collection each year to be ready for Wearable Arts to happen again.

Two of her entries this year are creations inspired by the “Awakening” theme: one is a dress made of old CDs that she debuted four years ago. Her son, Ben, who is almost 40, is making his first appearance as a Wearable Arts model.

Kraft has been in about 10 shows but at this point has lost count. She has missed only two since moving to Sitka.

“I just really enjoy the challenge of making unusual items work on a body,” she said. “It’s a lot of trial and error and I really enjoy the thought process that goes into it.”

Jeff Budd was on the GSAC board when he brought the concept of a wearable arts show to Sitka from Ketchikan, where it was already an established event.

Now there are wearable arts shows in Petersburg, Anchorage and Juneau as well as Sitka and Ketchikan. Show organizers and designers connect to feature selected garments and designers in each other’s shows. This year, an artist from Juneau, Rhyan Nydam, will take part in Saturday’s show.

Some Sitka designers have expanded their horizons: Gibson and Lois Verbaan have shown their work three times at the Alaska Trend Fashion Show in Anchorage. One of Gibson’s pieces – an haute couture garment made of salmon vertebrae – is in the permanent collection of the Museum of the North in Fairbanks.

Gibson recalls her first Wearable Arts piece more than a decade ago, when she joined Elizabeth Sutton and Angela McGraw to model the hoodie, dresses and shorts Gibson created with crushed glass from recycled bottles.

“All three of us were part of a glacier,” Gibson remembers. Her current focus is using fish skin and fish bones as the fabric medium, including a fish skin tutu, a collaboration with her daughter Veronica.

The two pieces that go together were inspired by the process of adding fish waste to her garden in the fall as fertilizer and seeing the pretty flowers and vegetables come up in the spring.

“That’s what the whole vibe is,” Gibson said. “It’s mostly a dress full of fish skin flowers but there’s also an outfit that represents a salmon carcass.”

Verbaan has a number of couture garments ready for Saturday’s show, including three that appeared in Trend shows in 2022 and 2023: a halter-neck evening dress and tailored cloak, both made of Heritage Coffee bags and police crime tape; and an evening gown made of longline fishing rope. In designing, she goes for both “simple” and “elegant,” she said.

This year’s producer is Tiffany Pearson, and emcees are Brooke Schafer and her mother Elisabeth Schafer. Pearson is expecting a diverse selection of designs and good variety of music.

When she spoke to the Sentinel today, Pearson was thrilled to have just received permission from composer Martin Phipps to use his composition from the series “Victoria,” to accompany her environment-inspired design on the runway.

Mt. Edgecumbe High School will have both models and designers in the show.

Also this year, GSAC is selling charcuterie boxes put together by Sitka High School foods classes, taught by Meggan Turner. National Honor Society students also will help out at the event, and Sitka Flowers will sell floral garlands as a Sitka Softball Association fundraiser.

As in previous years, a cookie reception will follow the show, giving the public the chance to meet the artists and models and see the outfits up close.

 Wearable Arts is the main fundraiser for the arts council, which is the umbrella nonprofit for the Monthly Grind, Sitka Community Theater, Sitka Strings and Porchfest.

Tickets for Wearable Arts are $25 for general admission, $20 for students and seniors. VIP tickets are $45 and include the charcuterie box and a beverage. Wine and beer will be available for the evening show. Non-alcoholic beverages are available at both shows. Tickets are available at Old Harbor Books.


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April 2004

Photo caption: Grace Larson holds one of the Easter breads she baked for sale at the annual Rainy Day Bazaar Saturday at Centennial Hall. Hundreds turned out for the event, sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard Spouses and Women’s Association.


April 1974

All youngsters from walking age on up to age 12 are invited to an Easter egg hunt Sunday. Ages 5 and under meet at the Centennial Building; ages 6-9 in front of the visitor center at Totem Park; and ages 10-12 at Totem Park. Some $150 in cash and merchandise prizes will be offered.


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