Basja Ellsworth

Basja Ellsworth
© the Artist


Basja Ellsworth is an artist born and raised in Iqaluit, NU, who specializes in beading and jewellery design. Ellsworth works with a variety of materials, including sealskin, bone, metal and different types of fur and glass beads. While she predominantly creates earrings and necklaces, Ellsworth’s repertoire also includes beaded lighter cases, keychains, magnets and more. Ellsworth grew up surrounded by seamstresses and people processing and working with fur and other traditional materials. Her own jewellery line came together as a creative outlet several years ago, when she started creating pieces for herself and for family members. When people started requesting her work, she put together an Instagram page called beadsbybasj and started selling. 

Consumer demand is an important part of Ellsworth’s practice; she frequently experiments with different colour combinations and different materials according to what her followers suggest. “It keeps me motivated and keeps my creative energy running,” [1] she says. It’s also the reason why she makes non-jewellery items—”I do lighter cases and keychains and [other items] because there are people that don’t use jewellery. I try to have things out there that a wide range of people would enjoy.” The beaded lighter cases arose after she started seeing other Indigenous creators make them out of different types of beads. Ellsworth wanted to see if she could create them out of the small delica beads she normally uses, and in the process incorporated Inuktitut syllabics into the design to make them her own. 

Ellsworth enjoys being able to switch between different materials and different projects, but one of the main threads that tie her creations together is the peyote stitch, a type of beaded weave that can be used to create 3D structures like the tubes that adorn many of Ellsworth’s earrings. The 3D peyote stitch is a relatively uncommon beading technique among Inuit beaders, giving Ellsworth’s creations a distinctive look. All the same, Inuit art and cultural pride are a huge focal point for Ellsworth. She can’t name a favourite artist—“I’m so in love with Inuit art that I wouldn’t be able to name just one,”—but she says it is young artists and the cultural shift towards wearing Inuk styles with pride that inspire her to keep creating. “Making people feel proud and beautiful is really a goal, because it in turn helps with cultural pride,” she says. “It’s very important to me that our future generations and our children continue to have an environment to feel that sense of cultural pride”

Ellsworth is currently working on a collection of earrings for the gift shop of the Iqaluit airport, her second re-stock at the airport storefront. In addition to online and the airport, she also sells at local craft fairs. “This has all kicked off way further than I dreamed of or planned,” she says, when asked about her next move as an artist. “I just want to keep working on what I’m doing and trying out new things.”

This Profile was made possible through support from RBC Emerging Artists.

Artist Work

About Basja Ellsworth



Artistic Community:

Iqaluit, NU

Date of Birth:

Artists may have multiple birth years listed as a result of when and where they were born. For example, an artist born in the early twentieth century in a camp outside of a community centre may not know/have known their exact date of birth and identified different years.