Shelly O’Gorman is a textile artist from Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay), NU, who specializes in kalikuks, a type of traditional-style top, which she makes with her mother Clara Evalik and sister Traci O’Gorman and sells online through their business, Nukariit Creations.
“Art has been something that I’ve enjoyed since childhood,” says O’Gorman, although initially her focus was on graphic art. While still in high school in 2004, she won a national competition with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada for a pencil art print depicting a Peary caribou. Her artwork Inuit women’s tall kamiks was also featured on the cover of the 2012-2013 Northwestel telephone directory, after her mother submitted it on her behalf. “I was so surprised,” says O’Gorman about both wins. 
O’Gorman had hand sewing pointers from her mother and other seamstresses growing up, but it wasn’t until 2018 that she taught herself to use a sewing machine. Since then, her focus has been less on graphic art and more on textiles, hide and fur, with O’Gorman hand-sewing the shorter, embroidered kamiik traditional to the Kitikmeot region. “Sewing is very empowering, a beautiful hobby and a nice way to enjoy your culture,” she says, adding that her mother and sister are big influences for her in this practice—“they can make anything!”
An extended quarantine in Edmonton, AB, in 2020 with a sewing machine and one of her mom’s patterns led O’Gorman to create her first kalikuk. When she posted it online and someone immediately reached out asking to buy it, she realized there was a large interest from women and men. Together, she and her sister began Nukariit Creations (nukariit means “sister”) and it blew up. Today, Nukariit has grown to include her mother as well, with all three producing tops to sell at their own pace. Kalikuks are now O’Gorman’s favourite thing to make—“I love matching colours of the trims and fabric,” she says, noting how beautifully they come together on a sewing machine. Kamiik “you need to be in the mood for,” since hand sewing is more time-consuming.
On top of her artistic practice, O’Gorman is a full time student and mother of three. She graduated from the midwifery program at Nunavut Arctic College in 2014 and spent years as a midwife in Iqaluktuuttiaq before transferring to the regional office to work as a director of health programs. She’s currently studying for her Bachelor’s in Health Administration at Athabasca University in Alberta and sewing kalikuks in her spare time. “I’m very grateful for where we are right now, and for all of the support of so many people across the world,” says O’Gorman, adding that her artistic focus is on creating and selling kalikuks right now. She hopes seeing her sewing online influences others to hone their own skills. “It’s part of our culture—it’s never too late to learn.”
This Profile was made possible through support from RBC Emerging Artists.