Shareholder Profiles

Artist & Business Spotlights

OC’s many talented shareholders have a variety of talents and expertise. Are you a shareholder or descendent artist, entrepreneur or business owner? Contact us to be featured in the Eider Pointer and online!

Shareholder Spotlight: Nicholas Bering McDonald, Owner of Big Dipper Clothing

Big Dipper Clothing was founded in 2007, out of owner Nick McDonald’s home garage. Four years later, the company opened a brick and mortar location in January 2011, and since then, has grown the business steadily, working with clients throughout Alaska and the Lower 48. Today, the shop is a full-service custom printing company, from t-shirts, hoodies, jackets and other apparel to full design services and branding.

“We do a lot of different things,” Nick says. “I’ve gone from screening logos on shirts one at a time to providing customized items that no one else is doing in Alaska.” Nick is particularly proud of things like being the first to put a logo on xtratufs or the boxing ring graphics on the mat for the AFC (Alaska Fighting Championship). “Also, as a shareholder, it’s great to have the opportunity to work with my corporation and be able to see everyone wearing the items I printed when I go back home,” he says.

“I have learned a lot over the years,” Nick says. “I royally messed up on my first project – but I kept at it! Between trial-and-error and YouTube, I got better and better. I really pride myself on finding unique solutions that other companies can’t, or won’t, provide.” An example is something like a hoody for an NYO (Native Youth Olympics) team, where I printed the region’s traditional kupaq pattern on it, or screenprinting fire-resistant safety shirts for Ahtna field staff – which is a product other printers won’t touch.”

Nick is dedicated to making sure his clients are happy. “I’m really focused on their experience – I want them to leave here with a smile and knowing that I am going to make their vision a reality.” In addition, he wants to share what he has learned. “I’m all about sharing the knowledge I’ve accumulated and saving someone from the challenges I’ve had to navigate.” In the future, Nick would like to open up internship opportunities for OC shareholders and descendants and help people that are interested in the field of printing, graphic design, or just running a small business gain that real-world experience.

For more info on Big Dipper Clothing, the company’s services or to get a quote, visit the company on online at bigdipperclothing.com or call (907) 244 3434.

Shareholder Spotlight: Gertrude Svarny

The land, beach, and sea that surrounds Unalaska have inspired and provided for makers for thousands of years. Gertrude Svarny, or Gert, grew up immersed in these elements until she was forced to leave.

Gert was one of nearly 900 Unangax that were evacuated off the island during World War II. When they came home, she and her family, like many others, had to rebuild. She met her husband on the island, started a family, and moved away, but Gert always knew that Unalaska was home.

After moving back to the island, and retiring with her late husband at 51 years of age, she began to make art. Walking on the beach one afternoon, Gert found whale bones. They were easy to work with, and with a melon baller, she created several pieces to sell at a craft fair. They sold out before it was over.

Today, Gert has works in private and public collections around the world. She has been honored with a number of awards and grants, including the Distinguished Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska Federation of Natives President’s Award, and a Governor’s Award for Alaska Native art, to name a few. In addition, Gert has been active in the Ounalashka community, where she served on the board for many years and was Interim President for the Corporation two times.

Gert works with a variety of materials, from local grasses and wood to soapstone hand-cut from a quarry in the Lower 48. Her inspiration is local though. “I am inspired by how we used to live,” said Gert. “Our stories, people and traditions.” This mindset is clear in her work, many of which are interpretations of traditional tales and activities.

In the Svarny family, art is a family affair. Her four daughters, two granddaughters, two sons, and niece are almost all involved in some form of personal expression, such as painting, weaving, writing, and dance. They were represented in Gert’s recent show at the Anchorage Museum – Gertrud Svarny: Ukuqanaadan. Alongside her carving, weaving and other items are paintings and drawings done by other Svarnys. “Ukuqanaadan is my first large-scale show,” Gert shared. “I did it because I wanted to inspire my family, and others that are interested in their cultures and the arts.”

Gert loves to work in multiple mediums – weaving, sewing, carving painting and jewelry making – but sculpting is her favorite. “It is very satisfying to create something that you see in your head,” she said. It was also thrilling for her to see so much of her work in one place, at the opening of Ukuqanaadan, which her family helped envision. Many of them were also present at the show. Gert is particularly proud of several pieces, including a sculpture of a bowhead whale with inlaid detail.

On the wall is a poem written for Gert. It wasn’t written by her or her family, but by a late family friend Jerah Chadwick.

She carves the old bone; down to the shine, to the shapes. Music takes her mind, its pulse and pull: In her hands. Bone recalls whale; breaking the surface, the flensing. The feast, figures motionless, as if for the moment. Only, stalking the verge of song. To the measures of her people’s past she makes the beached bones dance.”

Gert shared that she still has so many ideas, many of them she has created, but many more are still waiting to get out. With so many accomplishments behind her and new ideas on the horizon, Gert will continue to make the beached bones dance for as long as she can.