Art by Linda Thompson
Linda has been working as an entrepreneur since 1983 when she owned “Fur North,” a fur company where she trapped or purchased furs from other trappers, tanned them and sewed them into various creations of her own designs. She sold them in nine stores across Alaska until 1987. At that time, she closed the business and returned to work as a Bush teacher in rural Alaska. During the years of 1987-1993, Linda was an elementary classroom teacher and elementary physical education teacher in western Alaska. She struggled to work full time and raise her two boys to the best of her ability. In 1993, she felt it was best to leave the bush and returned to the road system of Alaska since her boys were going into high school and jr. high school. She wanted to make sure that Christopher, her youngest, was well prepared for college if that was the direction he was headed in life. After moving to Palmer inn 1993, she applied for graduate school in Special Education at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She took classes in the field at night, summers and by Distance classes while working as a substitute teacher for 4 years in Palmer and Wasilla, Alaska. It was a challenging time for the family with the low income from teaching and no support or help from anyone with Erik and his special needs. In 1997, she prayed that God would help her get out of the financial mess and find a permanent position with the hope that she could finish her teaching career and work toward retirement. Her prayer was quickly answered and within a week she was working under contract in the rural area of Copper River, near Wrangell Mt. St. Elias National Park at Kenny Lake School. In her special education classroom, she discovered her son, Erik, was an artistic savant. During all the years from 1987-1997, Linda sold off her remaining inventory from Fur North and kept her fingers active as a business woman while teaching. When she discovered Erik’s gift as a visual artist, it was not difficult to see what was needed to help him work toward a career in the arts. The following year, Erik’s art went global with the help of Aurora Fine Art (Anchorage), Zoe’s Window Gallery (Anchorage), Old Post Office Gallery (Glennallen), New Horizon Gallery (Fairbanks), and others in Juneau, Ketchican, and Valdez. She coordinated his career as an artist and helped him become the artist for the Special Olympics World Winter Games, 2001. It was the largest sporting event in the history of Alaska. In 1999, Erik graduated from high school and the family needed to move from the small rural community of Kenny Lake that had no adult services available, to a larger community. Erik could no longer go to school with his mother and could not stay home alone. When attending the Alaska Teachers Job Fair in Anchorage, she interviewed for several positions, one of which was in Homer, a well known artist community of Alaska. She was offered a contract at Homer High as the intensive needs special education teacher and stayed for 13 years until she retired in 2012. That last school year she took college classes in business related subjects, purchased the store front on Homer Spit and contacted other artists that were interested in being in her new little gallery along with Erik and herself. She also spent her extra time making inventory for the store. She focused on hand knit and crocheted hats and bags. Over the years, her art has expanded in many other directions of fiber arts and writing. By 2014, she had published three books: It’s Okay Mom, Erik’s Story, and Let Us Be Brave. All art by Linda can be found in Brown Bear Products, gallery during the summer months at 4603 Homer Spit Road, Suite G. The store is open from May to September. The following are a few examples of the one of a kind items she makes. If someone is interested in purchasing any of her items found on the website, you can contact her directly through the “contact” button on this website and she will call you and discuss availability.
Linda has written 3 books: I’ts Okay Mom, An alaska story of trust, love of family, and triumph over adversity; Erik’s Story, A story of Erik finding his gifts against all odds in rural Alaska; Let Us Be Brave, An Alaskan Story of Special Olympians united to survive.
Ladies Back Packs
Pentagon Bags- Backpacks
Pentagon Bags are all sewn on the diagonal. The outside is made of tough upholstery fabric and the inside is lined in beautiful embroidered and/or decorative fabrics, complete with 2-4 pockets. Every bag is different. After loading it, the owner simply zips the bag shut, pulls the buttons in opposite directions, which line up the fabric so when the straps are pulled to the top, the bag closes neatly and is ready to put on and go.
Carry-bou Bag Backpacks
Carry-bou Bags are also sewn on the diagonal. Each is finished off with a caribou antler button on the front which is used to secure the pack closed. Inside each bag are clips which hold the bag ends together to secure the contents. It can be worn with the clips secure but if not fastened together, larger items can be carried in each bag safely. The outside is made of tough upholstery fabric and the inside is lined in beautiful embroidered and/or decorative fabrics, complete with 2-4 pockets. Every bag is different. The 2016 line also includes the handle across the top for easy carrying.
Little bags for your purse
Once again, they are all one of a kind in shape, size and fabric. Have fun looking in the store, for something that will go with your new backpack.
Linda makes over 100 hats for each tourist season for the store. They are made of natural products sheep, alpaca, rabbit, mohair and/or dog wool along with man-made yarns of mixtures including the above and nylon, acrylic, polyester and other products. Some hats are hand spun and dyed natural yarn from Alaska along with hand knitted and crocheted all different styles and sizes. Below are a few pictures of some of the styles offered in May. First come, first serve, first buy.
Diva Dog Sweaters
Diva Dog sweaters are all one of a kind and very hard to make to order. All dogs are such different shapes and sizes that I have decided to make the sweaters and if they fit, great. Since I always make everything one of a kind with different weights of yarn, it is very difficult to make them to order, especially in the summer months when I am running the store 5-7 days a week and running 2 green houses and a large garden for the next year’s food before and after I go to work. So Diva Dog lovers, I’ll make as many sizes, shapes and colors this winter as I can and hopefully you will find something that meets your fancy for your little Diva Dog.
Linda designed and sews various animal and sizes of wind socks: Orca – Red Salmon – Humpback Whale – Halibut
Linda designs lots of jewelry for the store. She prefers using pearl, silver and stone for her high end necklaces and earrings. She also makes moderately priced Alaskan animal earrings, necklaces, key chains, zipper pulls and bracelets using bone and/or ceramic beads. The animals found are polar bear, black bear, brown bear, puffin, Dahl sheep, raven, owl, eagle, moose, humpback whale, orca whale, beluga whale, fish and a variety of dog and cat beads. She uses leather, silver and pewter in her designs. Come and see what we have next summer.
New designs in all products will be found in the store in 2016. Come check us out. We open for the Homer Shore Bird Festival in early May and close after the last cruise ship leaves of the season or the Homer Halibut Festival in September. It’s too early to know the exact dates at this time.
Brown Bear Products store is found at 4603 Homer Spit Rd, Homer, Alaska 99603
Address is P.O Box 1918, Homer, Alaska 99603