Atz Kilcher

From the blog

Fish skin leather workshop

salmon fish skin leather

I’m at a weekend workshop across Kachemak Bay from Homer learning to turn slimy salmon skins into beautiful functional art. The goal is to make a salmon skin basket.  So far we’ve been very busy, not even time for lunch yet today! I have my first salmon skinned out.  The local set netter brought us some charms to skin for baskets and a beautiful fresh sockeye for supper. How good is that? Fresh fish for baskets fresh fish for supper.

Sometimes there’s blood sweat and tears
on Alaska the Last Frontier
I guess cutting yourself is good
if you’re learning new things like you should
Hey Hey

I’m sitting here across the bay looking back across the bay the other way at the Kilcher Homestead. Seeing the place I was raised from a different view is making me think about how the homestead was the place my artistic curiosity and exploration began. Only yesterday I was a small kid over there trying to make something out of birchbark, horse hooves and other cool looking found objects. Now over here on the other side at 70 making baskets out of Fishskin. Pretty cool. Times like this I feel like I’m carrying on the part of my daddy – pushing back the frontiers, exploring new horizons, thinking moving and living out of the box.

Maryjane my instructor who learned her craft from an Alaskan native master Fishskin basket maker, who learned from a master yet before her. Learning, passing it on, life on The Last Frontier.

Just got a half fish, or four-way skin down. Now I have a whole skin and a half skin to make baskets out of here we go!

MacGyvering a standardized repetitive calibrated homestead Fishskin leather punch.

Sewing the two pieces of fish skin together. From all the stitches at my disposal, I chose the blanket stitch. No clue what that is.

One more vertical seem like the one I just did and I’ll have a cylinder minus the bottom then I will take a piece of round fabric and put on the bottom, or I might use a round face of fish skin instead, or maybe I will find some roots and make a woven root bottom.

I’ll give you an update once we get through the next process.


  1. So cool watching this being done. I’m impressed how your family lives. My husband and I watch the program regularly.we’ve always said we’d like to live that way. We love our solitude.

  2. Atz so love all your crafts you make so clever we enjoy the show very much and look forward to the new season from Nebraska!!

  3. Wow, very cool! I had no idea you could tan and use fish skin like a cow hide?…I just learned something new 🙂

  4. Very interesting Atz! And fascinating commentary to boot!! Reminds me of the eelskin wallet & purse rage sweeping across the Pacific from Korea & SE Asia during the 80’s. Something tells me the art & practice of transforming fish skins into useful articles has been going on with indigenous peoples of the Pacific long before our tender years could bear witness : ) Can’t say I ever seen anything coming close to this craft form on the east coast where I’ve spent most of my life. I’ll hafta’ dig a lil’ deeper into this story… Thanks for sharing : )

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