It was only a matter of time before Alyssa Ross picked up beading.
Growing up in Inuvik, Ross has been surrounded by friends and family who are practically experts at beading, as Ross says it is a big part of her Gwich’in culture.
But it wasn’t until 2018, while studying at the University of Winnipeg, that she picked it up herself.
“It started off as a hobby and it helped me relax while in university,” she says. “It was just taking time away from my studies and doing something I enjoyed rather than something I had to do every day.”
Although far from home, Ross found inspiration in the place where she had grown up, using colours that reflected the Northern Lights and Arctic sunsets and sunrises.
Upon realizing she actually had a knack for it, Ross started Willow and Wildflower the following year. Through Facebook and Instagram, the jeweller posts dozens of her creations online, which have all garnered awe from her followers. Her pieces are getting better as Ross goes on, as she says she can see the difference in quality between the photos she posted at the beginning compared to now.
“Before I was just using any old earring hooks, but now I use higher-end quality golds and metals just to make sure it lasts for customers who buy it or give it as gifts.”
Ross began by creating beaded triangle earrings, but has now expanded to beaded hoops and, more recently, tufted caribou studs. She learned how to tuft through trial and error, but says she gets the caribou fur pre-dyed, through artists based in Alaska and Ontario.
“There’s been a lot of commissioned pieces recently since I started tufting,” she says, adding that it’s difficult to keep track of how many items she sells.
Despite her success, Ross is excited to head down a different path now that she has a bachelor of science in kinesiology. Once her career officially begins, Ross says jewelry-making will continue as a side-business.
“I don’t think I ever want to do this as full-time job, but it’s nice to just take some time out of my week and destress from work and my personal life,” she says. “If it means people want to order or purchase stuff from me, then that’s fine, I’ll keep doing that. But at this time, I just like to do it for fun.”
The artist hosts giveaways through her Facebook and Instagram platforms whenever she hits a milestone.
“Once I hit 2,000 followers, I’ll do another giveaway just to give back to everyone who shares my work, who purchases and just to give back to those who support me.”
That 2,000 mark on Instagram is coming up soon, so Ross recommends keeping an eye on her page.