My very first business was selling jewellery, sometime around the age of 11. I have an early memory from a few years before then, of sitting at our kitchen table as one of my parents’ friends — a jeweller who worked with silver, gold and gemstones — showed me how to use a pair of pliers to bend wire. I was obsessed, and the wire-and-bead earrings that I made became my first product line, which I sold to family members and at local craft shows.
I don’t make jewellery anymore, but I still carry an intense appreciation for these wearable handmade pieces. The breadth of variety is astounding: miniature sculptures of any material, made with techniques both traditional and cutting edge.
Here, I share six of my favourite jewellery makers across Canada to inspire you in your own handmade business, whether you’re making accessories or something else entirely.
Wild Blue Yonder
Where: Hamilton, Ont., and Maastricht, Netherlands
What: Epoxy resin earrings, necklaces and rings showcase bits of found wood, flowers and natural fragments.
Why we love ’em: Maker Amber Aasman’s nature-inspired pieces are like miniature worlds: moss-covered bark fragments look like tiny islands when set in blue resin on a ring; turquoise resin layered with wood creates a beach-like scene in a pair of dangle earrings; and a necklace of lichen encased in black and milky-white resin is reminiscent of a stormy coastline.
Workshop’s favourite: Just one? (Seriously, I can’t get enough of Aasman’s work — I own three of WBY’s pieces already and have bought several others for friends and family.) My pick for the moment: the Drop Pink Resin & Wood Burl Earrings make me wish I still had pierced ears.
What: Supersized laser-cut acrylic pieces inspired by owners Angel Aubichon and Alex Manitopyes’ Indigenous ancestral roots.
Why we love ’em: Indi City’s first jewellery pieces were of Aubichon’s beadwork, but a fortuitous connection with Calgary’s MakeFashion — a maker hub that introduces fashion designers to wearable technology — gave them access to a laser cutter. The idea for the couple’s acrylic designs was born, allowing Indi City to produce their work more quickly and in greater quantities.
Workshop’s favourite: The oversized “runway” Arrowheads in pink mirror and purple sparkle are reawakening my inner ’80s fashionista.
Metal & Mayflies
Where: Mi'kmaw territory of Unama'ki (Cape Breton, N.S.)
What: Metal jewellery with semiprecious stones (usually turquoise) and lots of trout silhouettes.
Why we love ’em: Metal & Mayflies’ designs are firmly rooted in owner Gioia Stanley’s passion for fly fishing. An experienced angler, Stanley hosts guided fishing excursions, creating a welcoming safe space for women in the male-dominated fishing community. The Metal & Mayflies website and Instagram feed are equal parts jewellery and fly fishing, with necklaces and rings displayed against the striking backdrop of Cape Breton’s great outdoors.
Workshop’s favourite: The thread of turquoise running through the Wildest Streams cuff is a reminder of the river that inspires so much of Metal & Mayflies’ work.
Only Child Handicrafts
Where: Salt Spring Island, B.C.
What: Beadwork combining contemporary design elements and “customary patterns of the Indigenous Peoples of North America.”
Why we love ’em: Besides the intricate beadwork, we also bow down to owner Krysta Furioso — who is Ojibwe from the Fort William First Nation — and how she’s stood up against cultural appropriation. She rallied an army of her Instagram followers to help her “decolonize” her Shooting Moon design, which had been copied by a non-Indigenous maker.
Workshop’s favourite: Give us Only Child Handicrafts’ Art Deco Drop Earrings, a bias-cut evening gown and a bottle of champagne, and we’ll be ready to celebrate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in roaring-’20s style.
What: Shapes cut from silver and brass sheet metal that are hand-formed into armour-like pieces.
Why we love ’em: Surprisingly simple shapes — an arc, a triangle, a semicircle — come together to create elegant pieces that are simultaneously delicate and powerful. Maker Jordan Clarke has a background in fine arts and worked as a painter for a decade before discovering her love for jewellery-making.
Workshop’s favourite: We feel like we could face anything if we were outfitted in Enarmoured’s Protector necklace.
Where: Barrie, Ont.
What: Whimsical charms made of bronze, brass and ceramic.
Why we love ’em: Tiny cat mugs, hand-painted moths, foxes in sweaters — the world of Dawning is a fantastical one. Nearly everything is in miniature and thoroughly adorable.
Workshop’s favourite: It’s a tie between the cute little mushroom necklaces and the design-your-own gnomes — you choose the hat and each one has its own name.
Top feature image courtesy of Enarmoured, Sun Goddess earrings made from brass with 14K gold-filled ear wires.