A Kodiak fisherman, famous for saving one of his crew members from drowning in 2017, is now well-known locally for his buoy people sculptures constructed from fishing materials found on beaches around the island.
Salmon and crab fisherman Christian Trosvig never expected to become an artist.
“I didn’t know I had it in me. I never took art in high school or anything,” Minesota-born Trosvig said. “I’ve always been a physical fisherman. On my time off when I’m not fishing, I’m at home all the time. When I’m not doing a little work on the house, this fills the time.”
Using multiple different-sized buoys for the body, fishing line and small buoys for arms and necklaces, crab escapement rings for earrings and fishing web for hair, he creates 3- to 4-foot-tall buoy people. One buoy takes him two to two-and-a-half hours to complete.
Since he began making them two years ago, Trosvig’s hobby has become a local sensation.
Trosvig sold 25 buoy sculptures this year and 17 last year. The large figures sell for $100 and the smaller ones sell for $60.
“I do it for enjoyment. I don’t make a profit,” Trosvig said, adding that if he were to buy his materials at a store, they would cost around $500. “My commercial fishing skills have all come together for a neat hobby to keep me busy for the offseason.”
To make his pieces unique, Trosvig uses skills common among fishermen such as tying knots, cutting and mending nets,
His collections of colorful buoys piled up in his backyard. So when he wanted to make a snowman one Kodiak warm winter with no snow, he had an idea.
“I jammed a stick in the ground, threw these three cool floats that kind of looked round like a snowman, and a couple of corks for some arms, and that’s how I made my first buoy person,” Trosvig said.
The following fall, he wanted to make another buoy person to keep his buoy man company.
He cut large floats in half to make the body and realized it looked like a woman’s skirt.
“So I came up with the idea to assemble a buoy lady so the man wasn’t lonely,” he said.
His art first sold at a silent auction held by the St. Paul Lutheran Church school to raise money to replace items that had been stolen from the school. His buoy lady sold for $150 or $200, Trosvig said.
He made another buoy lady for his buoy man and Trosvig’s friends and neighbors began to want those sculptures.
After making a few buoy people for his friends, he took his art to Facebook.
“I got on Friends of Kodiak … took a picture of a couple more I made, and said would anybody be interested in these,” Trosvig said. His post received 390 likes and 89 comments, many of them from people who wrote they would want to purchase his art.
Most of Trosvig’s buoys wash ashore from Japan and Korea, evident from the Asian characters and ‘Made in Korea’ and ‘Made in Japan’ stamped on the buoys. He finds them through beach combing along the shore.
He often beach combs wherever he is fishing when he has a day off work, but for his large buoy excursions he travels to the southern tip of the island, near Alitak.
Many of the buoys that wash up on shore are either discarded by fishermen at sea or are cut loose after chafing against rocks. The ones from Japan were probably cut loose during the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, he said.
“It’s cool to use the extra stuff so it doesn’t go to the landfill and it can be used as an artform,” Trosvig said.
As the son of a captain in the Coast Guard, Trosvig moved to Kodiak when he was 17. During college in Michigan and Alaska, he returned to Kodiak to fish for salmon in the summers. Eventually, he moved back permanently to Kodiak, where he learned to fish for crab in the 1990s, and has been fishing ever since. He still fishes for crab and owns the fishing boat F/V Nordic Cross.
Although he is locally well-known, Trosvig hopes to bring his artwork across the water and represent Kodiak at the state fair next year in Palmer “to see what happens,” he said.