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I am a self-taught Gwich’in artist. I create jewelry and beadwork with a focus on earrings. I try to incorporate traditional patterns in my artwork, while keeping a contemporary edge that appeals to younger generations. I use various materials, including metal, home-tanned moose hide, hand-dyed caribou hair, crystals, semi-precious stones, and delica beads. Two of my most popular designs are beaded triangular earrings and beaded hoops with Swarovski crystals on the edging.
While I was in school, I took part in Gwich’in class until grade 11, which is where I was introduced to beading. We made a pair of slippers for graduation. I eventually taught myself how to make earrings with different types of stitch in 2016, as a way to de-stress while attending University. I used YouTube tutorials to grasp the techniques, and once I completed my first piece, I just kept practicing! I am now in the process of learning to tuft, which adds a three-dimensional quality to some of my earrings.
There isn’t one particular person that inspired me to make art, but my mom has been a strong supporter of my practice. She shows me ideas and colour combinations that I might like to incorporate in my work. Otherwise, I find myself finding inspiration in the natural landscape in Inuvik. I love to take pictures of sunrises, sunsets or northern lights, which I use as inspiration for my patterns and colour palette.
In 2018, my sister made an Instagram page to showcase my jewelry and I have continued growing on that platform. It is also a great way to follow other artists on their creative journeys. It’s a continuous source of inspiration and a great way to keep up to speed with what is trending at the moment.
Over the years, I grew into my art practice and came to love it more and more. When people started to get drawn to my work, a lot of orders came in and it became stressful. I have since stopped taking orders and I create when I can, at my own pace. I want to keep enjoying the process because I am genuinely happy that people want something that I create to gift to their loved ones!
I’m also grateful to be able to use materials like home-tanned moose hide and caribou hair in my artwork. Those materials are harvested in my area, where my family and culture are from. They are small pieces of home, as small as the smell of moose hide. I still have beaded slippers and traditional wear from my childhood, gifted to me by family members. I love to see the style of beading on those pieces. I study the differences and similarities between my relatives’ work and mine. That way, I ensure I am always connected to my home.
Alyssa lives and creates in Inuvik. The beauty of the natural landscapes that surround her is the main source of inspiration in her creative process. As a self-taught Gwich’in artist and beadworker, Alyssa enjoys challenging herself to learn new skills and technique. She started selling her pieces in 2018 through social media and has since sold her art at the Arctic market in Inuvik. Alyssa’s work can be viewed on her Facebook page (Willow and Wildflower) and on Instagram (@_willowandwildflower_). She is looking forward to selling more of her artwork at various markets as well as through her upcoming website.