Interview with Christie Abbott of Skinny Salmon Designs
Next up from the Kenai Peninsula box is Christie Abbott! She makes cool and extremely unique Alaskan jewelry, among many other things. We had a good chat about how she decided on salmon skin jewelry, the development of her process, and more! Enjoy. :)
Tell me a bit about yourself, Skinny Salmon, and how you got started?
I am a born and raised Alaskan. In 2010, I got the idea to try to put salmon skin under glass. It was mid-winter, fresh salmon wasn’t available, so I tried with year old frozen salmon. Over the years, I have switched a few things up, but the concept remains the same. I love fishing with my family. I am an artist, I am a gardener, and a mother. I love experiencing everything Alaska has to offer.
Wow, that's really cool! When you say switched things up, was it a kind of trial and error situation where you were trying to perfect the process? Were there issues that you were running into that you were trying to iron out?
I had to change dyes because early on they faded, and I changed adhesives to resin. I really got lucky and found a process that would work right away. Since nobody had ever made jewelry like mine before, I had to make it up as I went. I had a friend who was a taxidermist and he was helpful in developing the drying process so the skin wouldn’t degrade/rot.
That's awesome that you were able to find a working process so quickly, especially considering it was an unexplored path. You mentioned that you got the idea originally in 2010. What was it that was the initial spark?
My sister showed me a scrabble tile pendant under glass. She asked if I could come up with an idea like that. I initially thought of pressed flowers, but that was overdone. I had a butterfly wing necklace and thought that was neat, and I hadn’t ever seen salmon skin under glass. I was pregnant with my eldest son at the time, so I wasn’t going to use any chemicals (like in the leathering process), so I used old school taxidermy processes using household, safe “chemicals.”
Very cool! It's interesting to me how a combination of getting asked a simple question and just life in general can all come together to spark an idea. Regarding your various products, did you start out with just earrings and necklaces and then branch out to other things? And are some things harder to make than others?
I started out making the 1” circle (like the zipper pulls) as a keychain or necklace and made just that for two years. I started making the other shapes and found teardrop to be a very popular necklace shape and 1 1/2” circle for the keychain. Everything I make uses the same basic process, except my necklaces and earrings that do not have a metal tray/bail. They have glass on top and resin on the back and sides. Those take me a few more days since each step of resin takes 24 hours to dry.
Cool! I'm always interested to hear about how processes evolve over time. I saw on your website that you do custom work too. How much of your work is custom and how much is already made? And do you have a favorite custom piece (or pieces!) that you've made?
99% of my business is pre-made goods. I will do custom orders for anyone who wants something specific. I have incorporated ashes from cremated pets and family members and just made a pink pendant with a peace sign in it. I’m always open to suggestions!
Wow! Sounds like it keeps you on your toes! Are there any new products coming that you can tease? Or anything you’ve been wanting to experiment with and just haven’t had the chance yet?
I try to keep my product line somewhat streamlined. I like to offer variety, but sometimes I have too much. I don’t have plans to bring in new products really. One of the newer things I do is I dye the skin in an ombré pattern. I will often do white to blue or teal.
Awesome! I really like that gradual transition from light to dark. Where can we find you throughout the year? Do you have certain events that you make a regular appearance at?
I have product at High Tide on the Spit in Homer, Bunnell art gallery in Homer, Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna, Palmer visitor Center/Palmer Museum in Palmer, and Alaska Mercantile in the Anchorage airport. I also do some local festivals throughout the year.
Nice! Lots of options. :) Out of your different products, do you have any that are your favorite in particular? And if so, why?
My favorite is my teardrop necklace without the metal around it (large and small). I wear one of my own pendants almost every day. They draw a lot of attention.
I bet! Sounds like a simple way to advertise. :) So what is it about The Bear Box that made you want to be a part of it?
One of my biggest downfalls is marketing. I’ve only started branching out this year. I figured if 40-50 people get to see and read about my product, it might lead to more sales. The Bear Box is a great concept for small local business.
And we're excited to be a part of that and help spread the word! That was a huge reason for us starting this venture, as well as helping show more of the faces behind the businesses. Exciting stuff. :) Is there anything else you can think of that you'd like to mention about Skinny Salmon? Any wisdom? Inspiring quotes?
I can’t think of anything else. Salmon catching season has started for me, so I am being drug in that direction. ;) Thanks for all the great questions!
I just want to give a big thank you to Christie from myself and the rest of the team for being a part of The Bear Box. If you want to check out more of her cool products (more colors perhaps?) you can go to her website or reach out to her on Facebook.