Artisans and Craftspersons

Jewellery Designer - Toronto

Anneke van Bommel, 23, is an Artist in Residence at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, Ontario. She manages and independently operates her own business as a jewellery artist/designer/maker, working on one-of-a-kind pieces and limited editions for galleries across Canada. Anneke also teaches introductory- and secondary-level jewellery classes to the public from her studio space, and does contract work for other jewellers in the Toronto area. She attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she studied for five years, including her apprenticeship period.

Stephanie: What made you become a jewellery designer?
During my undergraduate studies in university, I experimented with various fine art mediums. I experimented in different studios and disciplines and felt an instant attraction to the medium of metal. In a sense, I don’t think that I chose to be a jewellery designer, but rather that it chose me. The allure of metal for me is that it is both resistant and malleable at the same time. The process of working to create three-dimensional forms and the idea that it is possible to create art that can be worn on the body intrigued me.

Stephanie: What do you like about what you do?
I have full creative control over what I choose to do with my work and business. I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule, and I work long hours at what I love. I must be organized and set personal goals and objectives, and I must work efficiently during my time in the studio. I enjoy creating works that are challenging, sensual, playful and ironic. It is great to get feedback from the public regarding my designs, and even more flattering when a client chooses a piece!

Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
My least favourite part of the job is definitely multitasking. To maintain a successful business, I must wear several hats and juggle my priorities. I would prefer to be at my bench in the studio at all times, but I need to organize promotional materials, shoot slides and prints of my work, keep accurate books on business finances, meet with clients and galleries, etc. This part of the job definitely keeps things interesting, and makes me appreciate my studio time that much more.

Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone who is considering becoming a jewellery designer or craftsperson?
My advice for someone considering a career as a jewellery designer or craftsperson would be to find a medium that feels comfortable to you. It is important to experiment with different mediums and disciplines to discover where your passion lies.

It is also crucial to explore the work of contemporary artists, by researching, reading and most importantly, by visiting local galleries. I would encourage you to talk to professional artists or visit them in their studios to get a sense of the realities of this type of work. You must also be sure that you are willing to make sacrifices both financially and personally, as you will need to work long hours and survive on an unpredictable income.

Many artists offer short-term and extensive workshops where participants learn a variety of specific techniques or theoretical information. These workshops generally take place at cultural centres, art schools and galleries. Public lectures are an informative way to learn about historical and contemporary craft. These are also offered at many universities and cultural centres in urban and rural settings. You could contact your local Metal Arts Guild for information on jewellers working in your area, or check out their Web sites.

My final piece of advice would be to study with artists that you respect and admire, and surround yourself with people who both challenge and support you.

Stephanie: Do you need post-secondary education to become a jewellery designer? What kind of an education did you get?
It is possible to become a jewellery designer by taking workshops and classes if you are financially stable enough to support yourself in this endeavor. I think that it depends on what your interests and priorities are. I was not interested in becoming a production jeweller, but for some people this is very appealing. For these people, I would suggest a trade school, or jewellery classes with a practicing craftsperson.

The time that it takes to articulate your jewellery vocabulary and aesthetic is long, and the learning process is never-ending. I studied at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), a fine arts university in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I completed my bachelor of fine arts in jewellery design and metalsmithing. I also worked as an apprentice to the jeweller Sabine Mittermayer in her jewellery atelier in Oberaudorf, Germany. I feel that these experiences contributed to and influenced my aesthetic and professional skills in a huge way. I would greatly encourage people who are interested in becoming a jeweller to check out the undergraduate metalsmithing programs both in Canada and abroad.

Stephanie: What are your favourite materials to work with?
My favourite materials to work with are sterling silver, steel, nickel silver, white gold and rock crystal. I enjoy materials that reflect the colours that they absorb from the environment in which they are worn.

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