1. Check for authenticity
The shop or gallery where you purchase a piece should be able to tell you the artist's name, cultural background, village or region of origin.
2. Look for mastery of technique
In baskets, for example, the tighter the weave and more symmetrical the shape, the higher quality the piece.
3. Notice the piece's "finish"
Carvings – whether ivory, wood, whalebone or soapstone – should have a finish that is appropriate to the piece. Smooth or textured, the finish should enhance the look of the piece.
4. Look for a clean design
An item carefully made enhances its design. Stitches should be neat on beadwork and skin-sewing, such as dolls.
5. Materials should be legal
Things used in creating the piece, such as feathers on masks, should be legal to own. Most Alaska Native art pieces feature ptarmigan, turkey or pheasant feathers, which comply with the Migratory Bird Act. Eagle and duck feathers do not.
6. Notice tradition or innovation
Some pieces – like carvings of mythical animals or figures hunting, fishing or dancing – reflect the tradition of an artist's culture and stand as hallmarks of a particular heritage. Others, like whalebone sculptures, showcase innovation by incorporating contemporary shapes into a traditional art medium.
While the above are good points to keep in mind, people should not discredit their own feelings about a piece of art. Alaska Native arts and crafts are featured in several Anchorage art galleries, as well as Anchorage museums and cultural centers.
These tips are provided by the Anchorage Museum.