Handmade with passion

Take a drive south of Whitehorse, using the mountain range and tall pines as your guide, you will find yourself in the lovely community of Carcross. In this little hub works a very talented jeweller, Shelley MacDonald. She has been working away in her shop since 2011, wowing the Yukon with her handmade jewellery designs.

So unique are her designs, they even caught the attention of royalty. When Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton visited Carcross in September 2016, she was captured donning a pair of earrings called Modern Ulu, designed by MacDonald. Since then, MacDonald has become even more popular, with 2017 presenting itself with some impressive opportunities.

In February of 2017, MacDonald was asked to participate in London Fashion Week. This high profile fashion event is a dream for any designer to be invited to. “Being a part of Fashion Week was great!” MacDonald said. The Yukoner’s jewellery was featured in a show put together by a private company, Oxford Fashion Studios. MacDonald was the only jeweller to be featured at the show and one other designer, who did accessories.

“My fiancé and I were hoping to enjoy a bit of London, but we found ourselves working 14-18 hours a day. There were multiple fittings involved and I had to also organize clothes for the models,” she said.

The show was a huge hit and saw about 300 attendees. Although MacDonald wasn’t able to make out any celebrities, she did notice many people being interviewed and photographed- most likely big wigs in the fashion world.

“When I first got the email from them about doing the show, I wasn’t even sure if it was real. But after some digging I saw it was authentic,” MacDonald added. She was very happy with the show, and all the hard work was worth It. MacDonald summers in the Yukon from April to September and is here for the Christmas season in November and December. She visits Iceland, where she met her fiancé, the rest of the year. “I first visited Iceland in 2015 as part of an artist residency. I fell in love with the mountains and the scenery,” she said.

Her love of Iceland has crossed over into her work. Her new winter collection is called Fjall, which is Icelandic for mountain.

Drawing inspiration from her surroundings is a technique MacDonald has also used in the past. MacDonald moved to the Yukon in 2011 and was first living in Carmacks. She began work as a waitress, then moved on to substitute teaching at a school. While in Carmacks, she spent some time with First Nation families and learned about sewing and making slippers. She began to wonder, where did all the leftover fur go?

PHOTOS: Christian Kuntz
With the wheels in her head turning, she began to figure out ways to make jewellery from leftover material. After a four year process, she made it work and created the Boreal Collection. This is currently featured on her website, a stunning collection of earrings and necklaces. Now, about those famous earrings worn by Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. MacDonald wasn’t even in the Yukon when Prince William and Kate toured Whitehorse and Carcross; she was in Iceland.

“I was sitting in a coffee shop when I received an email from Getty Images, and there was a photo of Kate wearing them!”

Since August 2016, MacDonald has sold over 7,000 pairs of the Modern Ulu earrings. “They have definitely become a highly popular item, even at the 12 Days of Christmas Market in Whitehorse I had to restock daily.” Currently, MacDonald is enjoying some rest and relaxing from the busy Christmas season. When she returns to work in the spring, one of her goals will be looking at branching out to the Alaska market.

You can find her creations at the North End Gallery, MacBride Museum, or the Wildlife Preserve in Whitehorse and the Dancing Moose in Dawson City. MacDonald’s shop in Carcross will reopen on May 1. You can also purchase her jewellery through MacDonald’s webpage, shelleymacdonaldjewellery.com.

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