Alaskan siblings challenge Native knockoffs with their own Indigenous designs
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When you grow up in a tourist town inundated with inauthentic, mass-produced souvenirs meant to represent your own culture, you might be moved to introduce some authenticity back into the market.
“There’s a very big market for knockoff Native art,” said Rico Worl, a resident of Juneau, Alaska, and founder of Trickster Co. “As soon as people get off the cruise ships, they just see lots of it everywhere. And we’re kind of reaching into that market and making space for ourselves in our own market, ironically.”
Worl is Tlingit and Athabascan, and he and his sister Crystal draw on aesthetics from their Indigenous heritage to produce designs for the multitude of items that Trickster Co. puts out.
Worl got his start with skateboards but has since added jewelry, umbrellas, dog leashes, blankets, sculptures, stationery and more.
One particularly popular item in the lineup is a deck of playing cards. Worl created it in response to the cards available in local shops that featured Native design work but traditional kings and queens on the faces.
“I really wanted to make a deck of playing cards for the next generation that wants to, like, play cards and have their own people represented on them,” Worl said. “I actually made a second deck of playing cards that had the Tlingit words for the numbers to kind of promote language learning as well. The interesting thing is that that deck still outsells the standard deck to this day.”
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