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Earring styles of Southwest Alaska are as diverse as their makers

Ivory scrimshaw, caribou antler cabochons, fish vertebrae, and trade beads. The earring styles of Southwest Alaska are as diverse as their makers.

While earrings have been made and worn in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta for centuries, the region has seen a rapid increase in the number of artists and variety of styles over the last few years. Many artists credit long days in COVID-19 lockdown as the birthplace of their art form, while others say that they started making earrings to explore their heritage, or to relax after a long day of working and parenting.

Patterns and styles tend to reflect the sky, water, tundra, and the artist’s lived experiences. Each pair may be a personal story, a call for social justice, a cultural exploration, or a wild combination of colors.

Through a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Southwest Alaska Arts Group partnered with Bethel-based photographer Katie Basile to profile nine earring artists in the region. Artists collaborated with Basile to create a series of portraits and interviews that explore the creative process and inspiration behind these beautiful creations. Enjoy this sample of the many talented earring artists in Southwest Alaska.

Katie Baldwin Basile is an independent photographer and multimedia storyteller from Bethel, Alaska.