Pretty Jewellery Lands One in Handmade Heaven

Savithri Sastri

Maileen Gan doesn’t want to look the same as everyone else.  That is why she loves handmade jewellery. 

“I like that it is unique and that an artist put so much thought in to designing it,” said Gan, a business analyst in her twenties.

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One of her favourite pieces is a pair of earrings hand-crafted by Canadian designer Kari Woo.  It is a long stem with a small curved leaf that hangs at the bottom made out of sterling silver. 

“It seems very organic,” said Gan who describes her style as understated but elegant.  “I like simple things that other people don’t have.” 

Gan is one of many women who seek to express their individuality though handmade products.  Many of these women shop at Etsy, an online community that connects artisans to the public.  Etsy has 3.2 million users worldwide and has grossed over $100 million this year alone. 

Kari Woo, a seller on Etsy, became a jewellery designer by accident, literally.  She was forced to take some time off university after she got injured snow boarding and ended up taking a jewellery class at the Alberta College of Art and Design. 

“I fell in love with the materials and processes,” said Woo.  The 37-year-old Calgary designer has been making unique creations ever since that class.  She started out with brass but now uses silver and other metals.

“I love being able to take such a hostile material and make something beautiful,” said Woo.

Her inspiration comes from patterns in nature like leaves on a tree, the bark on a trunk or blades of grass.  Architecture is another influence on Woo’s work.  You will find motifs of windows and doors etched into her work. 

“I love beauty in general, but not conventional beauty,” said Woo.  To her, beauty is a rusty washer found on the road or in alleyways.  She will pick them up and use them in her work.

Woo has been designing pieces in her studio since 2003.  She is also part owner of Influx, a retail store in downtown Calgary.  The recession was nerve wracking but business has been steady, said Woo.  People are being more careful and conscious with their money and want to buy local.

She has created some unique pieces like long necklaces and reversible pendants with gemstones for the One of a Kind Show in Toronto that aren’t offered on her website.  The show is in Toronto on from Nov 26 to Dec 6 at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place.

Even though handmade is more expensive, Gan thinks it’s worth it because it’s original.  “I like supporting local artists,” she said.