Keith was starting to have back issues, packing firewood up to the remote cabin we had purchased on our return to Alaska. I had a chance to buy a place which had the weather station, and a job with the National Weather Service as a remote weather observer. It was a great opportunity for us. Keith used his carpentry skills working on our place. We had moved from living in one of the remote parts of the community to smack in the middle of town, across from the school.
I would come up with the ideas and he would run with them. He remodeled one of the buildings on the property into the cutest little “general store” for me. My main focus was on gifts – local handcrafted items made by the many local talented folks in the community. We also carried “sundries”, you know, the kind of things that if you need them, you need them now, not a week from now when the mail would come in once a week on a boat. Batteries, flashlights, rubber gloves, duct tape, birthday cards, the variety was interesting and pertinent to our remote location.
I had taken a stained glass class with the local arts council. I came home telling Keith that I wanted to make kaleidoscopes and asking if he would help me. I did not want to use patterns, I wanted to create original designs. We figured out how to make the three sided bodies and multi-colored disks. Using his carpentry tools and recycled wood he made stands for our creations. We carried them in my gift shop and started going to regional craft fairs at Thanksgiving, the kick-off of the Christmas season. Soon we branched into other amazing “usable art.” Again, I would come up with the ideas and he would make it happen. We made jewelry boxes, night lights, candle holders, liquid soap dispensers and many different styles of beautiful and fun kaleidoscopes. Our signature piece was a foot tall lighthouse where you looked in the bottom and twirled the “cupola” at the top. They were exquisite!!
Seventeen years after leaving the city, we sold our place and bought a beautiful live aboard boat. We relocated to a little bit bigger town, but still on an island accessed by boat or float plane. However, here we could drive from one little community to the other. We bought a place on land where we could store things and have a glass studio.
We switched roles and I worked outside the home and Keith took care of home chores and kept the stained glass business moving forward. We took our stained glass usable art around the island for the fall craft fairs. During the summer we used our boat to travel from one end of Southeast Alaska to the other, selling our wares, having our items in one store in every town.
We would load up our finished wares, our tools and pre-cut projects and find remote “one-boat” bays to anchor in. We would sit there and work on the projects, then travel from town to town, restocking the stores that carried our items. I worked for a school district, so had summers off. Those were some of our best years. Keith enjoyed what he was doing, I was working for the technology coordinator at the school and was loving the things I was learning and doing. Having summers off worked perfect for enjoying our boat and marketing our wares.