Artists from near and far flock to the Dillingham Christmas Bazaar

Dec 9, 2019

The annual bazaar is a chance for local artists and craftsmen to display and sell their wares. 

Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

People flocked to Dillingham high school gym for the annual Christmas bazaar on Sunday. There was a long line of kids ready to take a picture with Santa, and the Dillingham Lady Wolverines Basketball team held a split-the-pot raffle.

Food stands sold fry bread, pickled fish, cupcakes and jam. Many people were selling locally-sourced items — from beaver skin mittens to ivory jewelry, and those vendors also brought a wealth of knowledge and skill. Annie and Todd Fritze were sitting behind a table laden with fur. 

Left to right: Annie, Ian and Todd Fritze.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

“I have a lot of fur product. I have fur hats, fur mittens, ruff, pillows, earmuffs, fur teddy bears, fur coasters, gloves lined with fur," Annie said.

The Fritzes have been working with fur for a long time. Despite this years’ warm weather, Annie said that business at the bazaar was good — people were still buying their warm wares. And they weren’t alone at the booth — their grandson, Ian, was helping out. 

Todd has been teaching Ian how to trap and process animals — some of the fur they used for the products at their table were made with fur from animals Ian had trapped. 

"Wolverine, fox, otter, porcupine, martin, beaver," he said. As far as what he has learned about harvesting so far, "Try to block animals off so they can try to go in your traps.”

A lot of work goes into the products. A pair of beaver mittens, for example, takes about six hours to make.

“Because you have to go and prep the material and the pattern, and get them all matched up and lined up,” Annie explained.

On the other side of the bazaar, Nicholas Heyano was selling delicate jewelry made of ivory and baleen.

“I’ve been carving since high school. That’s over 20 years ago," he said "I have earrings, some baleen with scrimshaw on them, some pocket knives and some bracelets.”

Nicholas Heyano brought ivory and baleen earrings, pocket knives and bracelets to the bazaar. He has been carving for more than two decades.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

Since he started carving all those years ago, he said not much has changed — except the tools. 

"I get better tools, and the better tools make it a lot easier and faster to work," he explained. "General tools: files, sander belts, sawzalls."

Not all items were from Bristol Bay. Dennis Sinnok traveled to Dillingham from Shishmaref with an array of jewelry, masks and statues. He held up a statue of a man ice fishing,

“This is a whale-bone rib,” he said, pointing to the body of the statue. “And it’s inlaid with baleen, and it’s got the ivory face, and the brown is mastodon ivory.”

Dennis Sinnok traveled from Shishmaref with a collection of items from local Shishmaref artists.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

Sinnok had traveled to the Dillingham Christmas Bazaar a few years ago, and he said it was a great way to share artwork from Shishmaref with another community.

“I know all the people there in Shishmaref, and what they do and I know how talented they are," he said. "And the airfare is just so expensive out there. So we take it outside, and move it.”

Fish skin jewelry.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG
A display of art from Dillingham students.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

Santa and Mrs. Claus visited Dillingham, and they brought their furry helpers.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200