a Little Girl in the Woods
I grew up sharing my childhood years between the deep wilderness of Alaska and the sunny beaches of Hawaii. My parent’s, both teachers, came to Alaska in 1964. After spending years teaching in different villages around Alaska, they settled down and homesteaded land on a small private island located within the Lake Clark National Park.
They built the log lodge and cabins by hand and started a summer fishing lodge that brought exciting new guests from all over the world into our home. I was constantly surrounded by wilderness; amazing plants animals, and I couldn't have imagined a better way to grow up. I spent most of the summer days barefoot, running around in the woods and on the slate rock covered beaches, and swimming in the freezing glacier fed lake. I wasn't long until I was given the nick name "leather-foot" because of how tough my feet had become.
I did have a few friends that would come and visit on occasion. Because of the remote location, they could only get there by float plane or boat, so they would often stay with us for a week or two at a time, since coming and going wasn't the quickest or easiest thing to do. I always enjoyed their company and couldn't wait to see them again. In the meantime, it was my vivid imagination and surroundings that kept me occupied.
My mother home schooled my older brother and me until I was in the fourth grade. She had promised my brother that he could go to a traditional school for high school and at which point we moved to the Big Island of Hawaii. I started attending a wonderful Montessori School there and that was just what I needed for such a big transition.
Hawaii offered me a whole new type of nature. Although at first glance everything seemed completely different, when I stopped took it in, I still had amazing plants and animals surrounding me. I still chose to leave my shoes at home, for once I wasn't the only one who did, and the swimming was a whole lot warmer than what I was used to!
I would continue to spend the Summer's in Alaska, working at our family's fishing lodge, until I moved back permanently in 1996 where I currently live with my wonderful husband and two sons. My family has been very supportive of my creative process and they give me continued inspiration for my work. Actually, my husband was the one who taught me how to use a sewing machine (score one for his high school home-economics teacher), that is when The Pine Cone Gnome adventure really started. No regrets, right babe?
I hope to be able to continue making dolls and toys for a very long time and plan to never stop learning new techniques so that I can keep growing into my creativity. Thank you for joining me on this wonderful journey and for contributing to my passion.
Shannon Van Valin-Morgan
The Pine Cone Gnome