They say diamonds are a woman’s best friend, but what about gemstones, sterling silver and pearls? There’s something especially appealing about locally handmade jewellery that is designed, melted and crafted by artisans right here at home. Art is a form of expression. It is unique and one-of-a-kind. And it’s not only meant to hang on your walls; you can also wear it everywhere you go.
“My house is full of original art,” says Catherine Elizabeth Anderson, a lamp work artist from Newmarket. “Not because I’m rich but because, as an artist, I appreciate the energy, the focus, the skill and the passion that goes into something handmade.”
Anderson’s jewellery is made out of glass rods from Murano, Italy. Using a torch, Anderson melts the different coloured rods and creates unique designs through various techniques. “The rods are handmade using real elements of copper, manganese, gold and silver,” she says, “so they really retain their colour, and their colour is very vibrant.”
While Anderson can do custom work, her designs are not meant to be replications. Like the wearer, each piece has its own personality. Her designs are often inspired by the beauty surrounding her – in her favourite paintings, flowers, sunsets and rainbows. “I like working with combinations of colours that you might not expect to see together,” she says.
Of course, every artist has his or her medium of preference. Jewellery designer Amanda Brittin’s pieces are inspired by her background in archeology, which is why she most enjoys working with metals and stones. “My pieces tend to be very rustic,” she explains. “I like the look of the pieces when they are found through archeological excavation – the way they get eroded, it’s like it’s unearthed.”
Brittin takes custom orders through her Etsy site. She welcomes customers to come to her with a meaningful stone from their own collection—whether it’s an heirloom passed down to them, or something discovered on a trip—and she will set it using her style.
An avid traveller herself, Brittin enjoys purchasing stones from her favourite hiking spots. “I try to buy the stones from someone who has sourced them ethically or finds them themselves,” she says. Many of her gemstones come from Canada or the US. Brittin especially loves working with turquoise, which is sourced from a small mine in the States, and opal. “The look of that really beautiful stone within my rustic setting – I like the juxtaposition.”
Jennifer Shigetomi, who co-owns Matsu Jewellery with her sister, got into jewellery-making in college. While pursuing her Fine Arts degree, she took an elective course in silversmithing and fell in love. “I found that making jewellery satisfied different parts of my personality – both the artistic side and the mechanical side,” Shigetomi says. “It allows me to express myself artistically, but at the same time it is functional – I am able to translate it into something wearable.”
Most of Shigetomi’s jewellery is crafted from sterling silver, gold, gemstones and pearls. She begins her process by carving from wax. She’ll play around with a general shape or idea, adding a curve here and a wave there, until it becomes a free form shape that takes on a life of its own. Much of her inspiration comes from nature and architecture – old, antique bridges or the swirling formation of clouds.
Often, her customers will come to her with an heirloom piece that has been passed down to them but is in a style they will never wear. “So we melt it down and make it into a new piece, re-using the stones,” she says.
Shigetomi says many of her customers have their own artistic side, which they’ll express in their clothing or in their home. “They have a strong sense of their individual look,” she says. “They want to extend that into their daily appearance, so when they have something that is unique and means something to them—not something they just bought off a shelf somewhere—they’re able to really connect with the piece.”
by Charlotte Ottaway
Catherine Elizabeth Anderson, Lamp Work Artist