By Peter Metcalfe

The Alaska-Juneau Public Market may be the biggest Christmas retail event in Southeast, but the goods offered go well beyond typical Christmas gifts. Many of the vendors are selling one-of-a-kind items that make practical additions to homes, such as wooden bowls and vases; and decorative additions such as stained-glass windows, pottery for kitchens and hallways, and hand-dyed fabrics that can cover large open wall spaces.

The Public Market has been held every Thanksgiving weekend at Centennial Hall since 1983. Betty Bell, one of the longest participating vendors at the Public Market, remembers her first appearance 27 years ago. Bell’s daughter Katherine lives in Juneau, while Bell lives in the Puyallup Valley of Washington State. “The Public Market is my connection with Juneau; it is my way of visiting my daughter and three of my grandchildren,” Bell says. “It is such a wonderful social event. It seems I get to see the whole population of Juneau.”

Over the years, Bell has had the opportunity to see her pottery, some made decades ago, in the homes of Juneau friends. “It is fun to see things that endure. Juneau has been very dear to me. I’ve watched my grandchildren grow up there, and I feel I am a friend to all the people who have bought my pots.”

Les Howard and Dave Riccio, Juneau artists, have shared a space at the Public Market since 2003. Howard produces custom fine woodcraft as well as “kitchenalia” — knives, glasses, small cereal bowls — and many home-appropriate decorations. Riccio is well known for his hand-dyed fabric artwork, fine art prints, and ceramics. “All of our work is custom made, one-of-a-kind pieces,” Howard says, “everything from what you would find on a kitchen counter, to fine art for decorating living rooms.”

Potters Joyce Payne and Julie Koehler produce high quality hand-thrown and hand-built pottery. Payne is well known in Juneau for her work as art director of The Canvas, which helps people with disabilities express themselves through art.

People looking for unique kitchen pottery and tiles need look no further than Payne and Koehler’s Public Market booth. “The pottery we produce is functional ware for use in the kitchen, dining, and in the home,” says Payne. “For kitchen use, there is high demand for storage crocks that are used for flour, sugar, and other bulk items, and decorative serving pieces like large salad bowls. We also sell large vases and decorative pieces that could be displayed in rooms and hallways. And we produce ceramic wall tiles, and decorative plates that can hang on walls.” Payne says that she and Koehler are both open to custom orders. This will be Payne’s sixth appearance at the Public Market.

Two of the many new vendors who will appear at the 2011 Public Market are Teri Bastable-Podsiki and her daughter Melissa Ganey, both of Haines. Podsiki will be offering large format framed totemic prints that she calls art in depth. “I work with Greg Horner and use his designs, so each print is a unique item.”

The mother and daughter team will also be selling items under the name of Garden City Glass Works. “These are beautiful pieces of blown glass, vases, and goblets,” says Podsiki. “My biggest piece that I will bring to the Public Market will be a 14-inch tall vase.”

Melissa Ganey will offer unique wall decals that are large yet easily applied on walls. “The decals have adhesive on one side. To apply a decal, you just rub it on a wall with a credit card, and it can last for years, yet is easily removed. It peels off without chipping paint or leaving marks.” The options for these home decals are endless, including images, graphic designs, prose, and poems. Ganey custom designs each decal on a computer and sends it to her customers for final approval before producing it on vinyl. “I’ve done some that are probably five feet long, everything from big signs to small ones, for kids’ bedrooms and family recreation rooms.” Most of her products are purchased on-line. She says she has sold worldwide from Australia to Italy.

The 29th Annual Alaska-Juneau Public Market will be held this coming Thanksgiving weekend, November 25-27, at the Centennial Hall and in the neighboring Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Approximately 160 vendors are registered, many coming in from all points of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Doors will be open to the public from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, and from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Photos and story by Peter Metcalfe who, with his wife Sandy, produces the annual Alaska-Juneau Public Market. He can be reached by email at