We first became acquainted with the Salmon Sisters via Instagram when we stumbled onto their profile through mutual friends. We've been big fans of these two amazing women and their brand ever since. Sisters Claire and Emma Teal are from a fishing family in Alaska and their childhood revolved around the fishing season. After attending university on the East Coast, the sisters returned home to help build their family's fishing business and promote awareness for sustainable fisheries. From these shared goals they created Salmon Sisters. Keep reading to learn more about their idyllic childhood in remote Alaska and how Salmon Sisters is striving to make a difference while celebrating a valuable culture.
What was it like growing up in rural Alaska?
We grew up on a remote homestead on the tip of the Alaskan Peninsula with our parents, our dog, and a lot of wilderness around us. Our homestead was run on hydroelectric, with small dams in the hillside creeks and a waterwheel. We had a large greenhouse on the beach where we grew all of our own produce and chickens for eggs. Every day we had a long list of tasks to accomplish; helping out our dad in his workshop, mending fishing nets, helping our mom smoke salmon, baking bread, doing our schoolwork at the kitchen table. Life revolved around the fishing seasons, the daylight, and the weather. The winter days were short, cozy inside by the wood stove, windy and snowy. In summer, it seemed life never stopped – darkness barely came, long days were spent on the water fishing on our dad’s boat, picking wild blueberries, hiking over the tundra, beachcombing for treasures that floated in with the tide.
Fishing in Alaska
You went to Williams College and UVM for school, what brought you back to Alaska to start a business?
The East Coast, in many ways, was very far from home, but we both felt an urge to experience something totally new for college. It took some distance to realize just how unique our upbringing in Alaska was, how we valued the way our family worked together and depended on each other, our communities dependence on healthy ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. We started celebrating our home from afar – Claire started developing a business plan to direct-market our family’s wild Alaska seafood and I started making art and screen printing apparel with designs based on the ocean, Alaska, and the creatures we encountered while fishing. Eventually, these endeavors merged into what is now Salmon Sisters, which brought us back home.
Emma and Claire with one of their catch
With SalmonSisters, you create products with beautiful designs that celebrate the fishing culture you grew up with and also promote awareness for sustainable fishing. How did you develop the brand's mission?
We love designing apparel that celebrates our commercial fishing lifestyle and Alaska’s wild places. We are also constantly trying to find ways to give back to the ocean that has provided us with so many of our opportunities; Its abundance has given our family a livelihood, has given both of us an education, has fueled our bodies with its wild protein, has formed countless traditions within our coastal communities. With SalmonSisters, we spread awareness about the importance of a healthy ocean, vibrant coastlines, and sustainable fisheries, and we support the communities that have given us so much. With every order we sell, we give a can of nutritious wild salmon to the Food Bank of Alaska. Every week we feature young fishermen and local Alaskan makers on our social media accounts who make our state great, providing our communities with good food and beautiful artwork. We think it's important to use SalmonSisters as a platform to get to know each other, give each other our stories and our experiences, and work together to keep our oceans healthy for the next generation.
Outside of SalmonSisters and when you're on the boat fishing, how do you spend your free time?
Emma is in a graduate master’s program for design at the University of Washington, so in the winters she takes off to Seattle for school. Claire is living in Homer, where she and her husband are building their first home. Wherever we are, we both love to break up our work routine with a lot of hiking, nordic skiing, gathering with friends for big potlucks and saunas, taking the Alaska state ferry to visit friends on distant islands, painting and drawing and printmaking.
Fresh salmon on a Salmon Sisters cutting board
In your own words, what does Live Major mean to you both?
Live Major, to us, means building an incredible community of ocean stewards from commercial fishermen, something bigger than ourselves that brings people pride in place and work. When we’re commercial fishing, we use your products onboard and not only do they keep us healthy and clean in a challenging (and not always very clean) work environment but also makes feel and smell so good. The fact that we’re able to use a product that mirrors our wild, remote and natural surroundings make the experience a joy. It’s hard for us to find a skincare system that reflects the lifestyle we cherish on the boat, as well as the sustainable wild seafood we get to eat – but Ursa Major has done it!
To learn more about Salmon Sisters, check out their website and awesome brand video below.