Celebrating the Statesregional roundup

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii

by Sofia Tuovinen

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

When I was 14, I wrote an essay about my dream holiday. It was a two-stop trip to two states that haven’t ceased to intrigue me — Alaska and Hawaii. When I began working on this story for our Celebrating the States column it became clear to me that these states, which I’ve always considered to be polar opposites in most aspects, actually have much more in common than I thought.

Geographically speaking, Alaska and Hawaii are indeed a study in contrast. One is nature’s playground of vast wilderness and frosty landscapes, the other a blossoming tropical paradise framed with golden beaches and supreme surf. While reaching out to creatives who call these two breathtakingly beautiful states home, one thing stood out to me. The words community, support, encouragement, and appreciation were the common thread, along with a deep connection to the surrounding land. It seems that the remoteness of these non-contiguous states is partly to thank for the close-knit sense of community and culture that both nourish and support creativity and artistic expression. The different ways that Alaskan and Hawaiian creatives have been inspired by their home states have left me even more inspired to make the 14-year-old me’s dream holiday come true. Scroll down to see what inspires these Alaskan and Hawaiian creatives, and let us know how these two states have inspired you! —Sofia

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Jennifer Younger (@jennifers_copper_silver) is a Tlingit metal carver and jeweler residing in Sitka, Alaska. She shares, “The region I live in has many small isolated communities, only accessible by boat or plane. To some this may sound daunting. In my perspective, it really gives you a chance to get to know your neighbor. My hometown of Sitka is, in my opinion, the most picturesque place in SE Alaska. I am surrounded by the sea and the mountains and the beautiful Tongass National Forest. Being surrounded by nature inspires much of my work. I incorporate local indigenous plant patterns into many of the pieces I create. I am also uplifted by the support of others in my field of metal engraving, who are more encouraging and helpful than competitive. We are all unique and can appreciate each other’s work.”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Exploring Matanuska Glacier, Alaska. Photo by Tanya and Carson (@thatfeelingco).

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Tanya and Carson, founders of That Feeling (@thatfeelingco), are a florist and photographer duo based in Anchorage, Alaska. These two creatives share their love for their home state: “Alaska’s raw, wild beauty is undeniable. With the most dramatic season changes, the secret to living here is getting out and experiencing every second of it. The never-setting summer sun is the treasure we hold tightly every year. From backpacking to glacial lakes with local beers in hand, salmon fishing on the Kenai to picking wild blueberries on the roaring Alaskan hills, the days still don’t seem long enough for all the adventures your heart desires. But what we cherish the most here is by far the local community. We support, care and experience things together with our hearts set on sustainability, culture and, of course, a good time!”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

A summer night sunset in Haines, Alaska. Photo by Tanya and Carson (@thatfeelingco).

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Alyssa Culver (@alyssalily) is a graphic designer at The Right Brain Business and owner of Honey Pot Coffeehouse in Anchorage, Alaska. “Alaska is the freshest soil for creatives to take root and grow from,” she explains. “Downtown Anchorage is a much more metropolitan place than most people might assume when they think ‘Alaska’; it’s booming with art, bustling with people, full of fashion, and so diverse. However, we have the added bonus of being able to abandon all of that and within ten minutes, immerse ourselves in deep, thick, luscious wilderness.”

Alyssa continues, “Like many Alaskans, I personally gather the majority of my inspiration from getting out and adventuring the paths least followed. I am altogether renewed by a good Girdwood hike with my little ones, or a camping trip on the beach in Seward. Separately, the best thing about being a creative in Alaska is how brand new and young all of these progressive industries are, and for that reason, so many of us value (what we like to call) Community Over Competition. I’m a part of many groups that meet up periodically to share their skills and talents, collaborate together, and grow with one another in a plethora of creative fields. You’d be surprised how much a graphic designer can learn from a photographer, or how much a social media influencer can learn from a florist. It intertwines us all and yet makes each and every one of us unique artists and strong business owners.”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Tlingit tribal member Alyssa London (@alyssaklondon) is Miss Alaska USA 2017 and Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Cultural Ambassador 2017. Alyssa says, “I love the breathtaking beauty of Alaskan scenery. I’ll often catch myself looking out at a view and thinking, ‘wow, I can’t believe that’s real!’ I also like seeing amazing wildlife while out for a drive or a hike, it makes it feel like there is a continuous opportunity for adventure and exploration —and there is!” She adds, “To me, great design in Alaska honors and integrates with the beauty of the surrounding nature.”
Photo by Chelsa Jay Photography, makeup by Beauty by Belle AK, styling by Armoire.

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Stroll in the woods of Sitka, AlaskaPhoto by Rachel Klein (@thenortherncurrent)

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Interior stylist and blogger Rachel Klein of The Northern Current (@thenortherncurrent) explains what she loves about her home state: “Maybe it’s from the sheer vastness of our state or the fact that we are fairly isolated from the ‘Lower 48’ (as we call it), but life in Alaska is truly different than life anywhere else. We are surrounded by wilderness which allows Alaskans to have an especially close connection to nature. I absolutely love that I can walk out my front door and after a 10-minute walk, I can be surrounded by a huge, old forest without anyone else in sight. Not to mention, the oceans here offer the best wild seafood in the world. Alaskans not only respect and love nature, we live right alongside it.”
Photo by Sydney Akagi Photography

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

A mug full of cherries at the top of Harbor Mountain in Sitka, Alaska. Photo by Rachel Klein (@thenortherncurrent)

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Jordan Bird is editor in chief of Wildheart, (@wildheartmagazine), “a print magazine that strives to be as clever and distinct as the Alaskan women that we feature, through introspective writing, photography, and art.” She says, “I love that Alaska still kind of feels like a secret, and those of us who live here are in on it. The immense natural beauty is why most of us are here, but there is a growing art scene and a resurgence/appreciation of culture and history that is so awesome to see grow and be a part of. It’s not always an easy place to live (snow, cold, bears, oh my!), but there are endless ways to be inspired and that’s a huge deal for this creative!”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Lindsey Higa (@pineappleice) in Waikiki, Hawaii. Photo by Daeja Fallas (@daejafallas)

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Lindsey Higa is a stylist and founder of the blog Pineapple Ice (@pineappleice). “Most people come to Hawai’i for our sunny weather and beautiful beaches, but on top of that, we have a really strong creative community. Over the past couple of years, a tight-knit group of designers, artists, photographers, retailers, and fun neighborhoods have emerged. I’m really proud to be part of this budding community of local talent that’s so supportive of one another.”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Honolulu, Hawaii from up high. Photo by Lindsey Higa (@pineappleice).

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Artist Christina Skaggs (@christinaskaggspaintings) grew up in New York, but has called Hawaii her home for the past 28 years. She shares, “If I lived anywhere else in the world, I doubt I’d feel the same sense of remoteness that I feel living on the Big Island, one of the most isolated places on earth by several measures. My home and studio hug into a rainforest reserve on a winding rural road, away from Hilo Town where decades ago is still now. More out of sync with the mainland than in, remote, isolated, and often alone, except for my husband and animals, life here requires Big Islanders to be resourceful and inventive, even ingenious, fueling what is authentic for me — creativity.”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Her Hawaiian roots have inspired Kaila Berg (@kailashoots) in her work as a photographer. “What I love about the state of Hawai’i is the rich culture and love for the land. Being Hawaiian myself, I’ve been able to use my time here on Oahu to learn about my family, ancestors and culture through family and friends. Through the culture, I’ve found a passion of capturing the beauty of both culture and women combined to share a message of strength and beauty. I’ve grown to appreciate the beauty the world has to offer by living in one of earth’s most beautiful destinations!”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Sunset views in Hawaii. Photo by Kaila Berg (@kailashoots).

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Utah native Elana Jadallah moved to Hawaii in 2015. She’s a photographer, writer and marketing educator who runs the blog Elana Loo (@elanaloo). She is also co-founder of Dérive Collective, a social media, digital consulting and photography studio. “I love Hawai’i for much more than its surface beauty. I love Hawai’i for the people, for the vibrant Hawaiian culture and tradition, for the lessons it has taught me. It’s like the entire landscape and mana (energy) quietly whispers ‘slow down’…Reminding you that once a moment passes by, it’s gone forever. This sacred place in the middle of the sea has been my eye-opening teacher in respecting mother earth — from this beautiful state, I have learned firsthand the impacts humans can make on this planet, about the severe state of our oceans and why we need to reduce plastic pollution. Hawai’i is much more than palm trees, hibiscus flowers and beautiful sunsets — it’s a way of life.”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Red Sand Beach in Maui, Hawaii. Photo by Elana Jadallah (@elanaloo).

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Big Island photographer and lifestyle content creator Kiana Bourne (@kahikiphotography) tells us what she most appreciates about her home state: “Aloha! I’m from the beautiful Big Island of Hawai’i. A place where I can spend endless days at the ocean, eat delicious local food and where the weather is always warm. I’m so fortunate to live in paradise and I am beyond blessed to call this place my home.”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Ginny Slim, owner and designer at Sugarhigh Lovestoned (@sugarhighlovestoned), shares old wisdoms that perfectly represent life in Hawaii.
“Kimo’s Hawaiian Rules
1. Never judge a day by the weather.
2. The best things in life aren’t things.
3. Tell the truth — there’s less to remember.
4. Speak softly and wear a loud shirt.
5. Goals are deceptive — the unaimed arrow never misses.
6. He who dies with the most toys — still dies.
7. Age is relative — when you’re over the hill, you pick up speed.
8. There are two ways to be rich — make more or desire less.
9. Beauty is internal —  looks mean nothing.
10. No Rain — No Rainbows.”

Celebrating the States: Alaska and Hawaii | Design*Sponge

Ginny Slim’s surf shack in Maui, Hawaii. Photo by Ginny Slim

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