Kayla Christiansen – Alutiiq Artist featured in the Kodiak Daily Mirror

Nicole Klauss with the Kodiak Daily Mirror wrote a story about Kayla Christiansen, an Alutiiq artist. Kayla was taught how to traditionally sew sealskin at a very young age. She sews, beads, makes jewelry and other custom pieces. Please see the article that was originally posted in the Kodiak Daily Mirror on January 30th.

Kayla Christiansen holds up an Alutiiq headdress she beaded. Photo by Nicole Klauss.

Kayla Christiansen has been sewing with sealskin and beading since she was seven years old.

Now, 12 years later, she is still sewing and has turned her talent into a part-time business.

Christiansen, 19, first learned how to sew with sealskin during an Alutiiq week in Old Harbor, where she grew up.

“We had an Alutiiq week where we do all traditional stuff like sewing, traditional cooking, and carving masks,” Christiansen said. “I was taught by elders how to bead. I just kept doing it as a hobby.”

With practice she developed her skill. At first, she away her pieces for free, but people told her it was so good she could make money from it.

Christiansen started selling her pieces at age 12, after only five years of working with the material. She is one of the youngest people in her village who knows how to do traditional sealskin sewing.

“Not very many people do the traditional sewing,” Christiansen said. “The whole village loves all my work and everyone is really encouraging.”
She makes earrings, barrettes, checkbook covers, necklaces, bracelets and custom pieces.

Christiansen usually gets her sealskin from other people, although she did shoot one seal on her own.

“I’ve shot one of my own,” Christiansen said. “Usually other people go out and shoot them. When they don’t need the skin, they give it to me, and in return I make something for them or their wives or their daughters.”

Her creative process starts by picking beads. She matches them to different leathers and pelts and comes up with an idea for what she wants to make.

A small pair of beaded sealskin earrings takes around 45 minutes to make, while more elaborate projects, like her prized Alutiiq-style headdress, can take more than a week to finish.

Kayla Christiansen’s pieces feature beading and sealskin. Photo by Nicole Klauss.

Christiansen is living in Kodiak and attending classes at Kodiak College, where she is working to earn her associate of arts degree. Balancing the two work loads isn’t difficult for her.

“I make sure to get my homework done before I start a project,” Christiansen said. “It’s a reward if I finish my homework.”

To find out more information about purchasing some of Christiansen’s pieces, contact her at 907-539-2434. Her items can also be purchased or viewed at the Alutiiq Museum.

Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at nklauss@kodiakdailymirror.com.