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An Entire Life's Array Of Athabascan Slippers, Baby Belts & Mittens: A Bearfoot Report

Locally produced everyday artwork, made by Ahtna elder Sophie Lincoln
throughout the course of her long life. 

Display Of Ahtna Athabascan Beadwork From Copper Center Reveals Strong Esthetic Judgement.

Lisa Yoshimoto (it's her married name; she's actually Ahtna Athabascan) has assembled a wall full of beaded shoes, handmade mitts, and high-top boots and mukluks -- all made or used by her grandmother, Sophie Lincoln of Copper Center, Alaska. There are hair decorations, bands for carrying babies, earrings -- and a wide range of foot gear and mitts, some adorned with heavy beadwork. Others are made in a very simple manner, in the same tradition, but out of mattress covering, or whatever was available. 

When the mitts, slippers and boots served their purpose, they were placed somewhere in a corner or shed -- just like old tennis sneakers, or once-beloved baseball caps that aren't serviceable anymore. Voles and small creatures cropped the fur. You can see how authentic and heavily-used these slippers were; Sophie Lincoln's foot shape is clearly visible in the everyday wear of her artwork.

 Sophie Lincoln died in 1995 at the age of 93. With her husband, Louis Lincoln, they had eight children.There's a highly decorated baby-carrying strap that runs across the top of this display, showing that, even in the most ordinary of Ahtna households, the birth of a child was a time for rejoicing. The baby was safeguarded while traveling on the mother's back by way of a lovingly crafted functional, yet beautifully artistic, object. 

You can see a similar baby strap elsewhere on this website, on display at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks. Lisa's grandmother's artwork is currently on display at Meiers Lake Roadhouse, in a back room behind the counter, between Paxson and Delta Junction, on the Richardson Highway. 

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