Through a grid of vibrant beaded flowers to fringe earrings and intricately decorated mukluks, hundreds follow Sharon Vittrekwa's Instagram, to see what she will create next.
“Thank God for Instagram,” the Tetlit Gwich’in Elder says, explaining it has helped grow her audience outside of Whitehorse, where she lives.
While Vittrekwa has sewn and beaded countless bags, hats, mitts and mukluks through fairs and local businesses, Instagram is the latest channel for her to display her work.
The Aklavik-born-Fort McPherson-raised designer first learned how to sew as a young child after many summers and holidays watching and learning from her family.
“At a very young age I learned how to sew, sitting by my grandmother, helping her tan skins, helping her scrape furs and just doing the basic sewing. Whatever she handed to you you gotta finish,” says Vittrekwa. “Whenever it was play time, I went to visit my other aunties… and that’s when I began to watch them [sew] and just admired them. Then they’d give me little plates and little beads so I started then and I haven’t stopped.”
Vittrekwa says she has been making a living off her craft since she was a teenager, selling her artwork to those across Canada and the US. Often, people will commission pieces from Vittrekwa or order something from her social media channels. Vittrekwa even sold a purse, complete with beaded forget-me-knots, that was gifted to Kate Middleton during her 2011 visit to the North.
And although Vittrekwa’s work is a big source of income for her, it’s more about exploring her own culture and encouraging others to do the same.
“As long as I post on Facebook and Instagram, it keeps others going. It inspires others to do the same thing,” she says. “It shows you don’t need a big fancy job and house. You can just do what makes you feel good and you can be creative and design creative pieces.”
Vittrekwa occasionally teaches others how to sew and bead through workshops. She will be teaching another workshop on bracelet-making March 27 to 28, through the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association (YFNCT).