By Jason Aigeldinger for the SCN –
I interviewed artist Katie Feichtinger back in April at Sackett’s Grill off the Sterling Highway. We spoke casually as she used a wood burning pen to draw a map of the Kenai River on the establishment’s bar top. Along with the lines that represent the course of the river, Feichtinger also added names of the many landmarks along the upper section of the Kenai. There are a lot of them burnt on that bar.
The known, established, geographical reference-type names like Slaughter Creek and Russian River are blended with names of fishing spots, hazards and landmarks conjured by locals and guides. Some of the names Feichtinger collected from a few guides around town are hilarious, and clearly allude to situations both real or imagined. On that note, one can only imagine groups of thirsty fisherfolks unwinding in Sackett’s taproom during the Kenai’s long fishing season and sipping beers, discussing the events of the day, referencing her map.
“I’m sure a lot of people are going to come in here and say ’that’s not called that,’” said Feichtinger. “It doesn’t matter though really.”
This isn’t the first time the 35-year-old Cooper Landing resident burnt a map of the Kenai Into a bar top. It was the same project back in 2005 that inspired her to purchase a wood burner and get to work.“It was the first thing I made,” said Feichtinger. “So it has come full circle.”
The first bar top led to wall hangings, Christmas ornaments, shadow boxes, wood boxes, even medals for a local ski race.
Feichtinger, who grew up in Eagle River, said that she never envisioned herself becoming an artist. She graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in Forestry. But since primary school, Feichtinger said that she has always pursued art, mainly pen and ink drawings. “I used to always make epic birthday cards for people, I guess that is how it all started,” said Feichtinger.
Feichtinger, along with Cooper Landing photographer Gyda Sears also design and manufacture screen printed tee and sweatshirts. Their company name is called Gold Bug.
“We are making some Alaskan designs and local to the area stuff,” said Feichtinger. “We’re working with images and things that represent our culture. We like to provide a little something that represents our area.”
She refers to this local culture simply as “mountain livin’.” She defines “mountain livin’ as “embracing this beautiful place we live in and enjoying it as much as possible; skiing, fishing and creating easily inspired artwork.”
Feichtinger said that she likes to put her own unique twist onto familiar Alaskan images and themes. “And we like to make fun of ourselves,” said Feichtinger. Humor and wordplay appear throughout Feichtinger’s work.
Feichtinger and Sears display and sell their work at Bean Creek Gallery on Bean Creek Road in Cooper Landing. Feichtinger said that she will also be taking her artwork “on the road” this summer, displaying and selling at festivals around the state. Her first stop will be the Kenai River Festival in Soldotna June 6th through 8th. She will also have a booth at the Moose Pass Solistice Festival June 20, 21, 22; Concert on the Lawn in Homer July 12, 13; and Salmonstock on August 1, 2, 3.