I have a new story for you today! A story about jewelry, handmade in Quebec, Canada. A story about a jeweler, an artist and…a mother. Who, as many women, is taking care of her growing family and at the same time is moving forward her small creative business. Attentive to details, the lover of textures and movements in jewelry, Geneviève Juillet is sharing today her inspirations and challenges! Now you know who made your jewelry!
When and how did you start to create jewelry?
When I was younger I wanted to be a clothes designer, probably because my mom inspired me. She is an amazing seamstress even though it is not her profession. In high school, I did a test to see what kind of jobs was compatible with my skills and interests, and jewelry making (“joaillerie” in french) was in the list. I didn’t know what it was and never made a single jewelry before but the job description was so interesting that I decided to try it out. As crazy as it sounds, I fell in love with the profession in the first year of my studies.
I am not the type of person who wears a lot of jewelry, but I do enjoy creating it. To use hand tools and small machinery to create something as delicate and fine as jewelry is what I like about the job.
What education do you have?
I did a DEC at École de joaillerie de Montréal right after high school. I knew I wanted to be in the creative field ever since I can remember. My mother made us clothing, costumes, amazing Halloween and Christmas decorations. My middle sister was amazing at drawing and painting. They both inspired me and motivated me. I knew I wanted to create things with my hands and it didn’t take long to find out what was right for me.
What inspires you? What materials and ideas?
I love to work with sterling silver, it is easy to work with and I like the color.
I like to use different types of textures and movements in my jewelry. I always play with my jewelry when I wear it and I love the feel.
I like to use fine stones for a touch of color, either beads or raw stones and sometimes cut stones.
My jewelry is on one hand classical and delicate and on the other raw and edgy. I think it represent the two sides of my personality. One part of me like the big city: I lived 7 years in Montréal and loved it. The other part loves nature and living in the suburbs.
What does your ordinary workday looks like?
To be honest, I do not have an ordinary workday. I am a happy stay-at-home mom with my two daughters, one is 4 years old and the other 17 months old. So I work when they sleep (if they sleep!). It was clear for me and my husband that when we were to have children, I could stay at home to take care of them and focus on my work when they will start school. I must say it can be pretty hard for a creative person to not be able to work when I want to.
There are tons of ideas and projects that I want to do, but little time to do them. But I must say, having children made me so much more efficient. When you know you only have an hour or so to work, there is no time to waste!
When I work, I like to listen to music or binge-watch some TV shows on Netflix, it helps me to relax and gives me some rhythm.
When I was at school, a teacher once told me “On ne réinvente pas le bijou mais on peut le modifier”, which means we cannot reinvent jewelry but we can alter it. This sentence stuck with me.
Jewelry exists since we first appeared on earth, so it’s pretty safe to say that everything has been made but you have to make it your own and find your own style.
I have always been fascinated by antique jewelry and ancient civilization. My master piece created during my last year at École de joaillerie de Montréal was inspired by the Egyptian pectorals and Inca jewelry. With that piece, I received the award of excellence at my class. I also won second place for the Triennial of excellence for graduates in Fine Crafts in 2006 given by the Conseil des métiers d’art du Québec and I was a finalist for the François-Houdé award in 2007.
Do you have any eco-responsible principles?
I try the best I can to have sustainability principles and eco-friendly choices but it is not always easy. I will often use my metal scraps to create new jewelry, I use my filing dust to create texture on my jewelry. I use towel instead of paper towels to wipe my jewelry. My packaging are cardboard boxes and paper bags. My bench and all my jewelry showcases were handmade by local artisans.
What does your creative process look like?
For my own jewelry collection, often an idea comes to my head and I work on the metal directly. I rarely do sketches. Ideas can come from a shape I saw, a piece of fabric,an object or a piece of scrap laying on my messy bench. I create everything from silver wire and plates, no molds are used, so every piece is a bit unique on its own, even if I make a small series.
When a customer comes to me with a project, I like to give them lots of ideas and alternatives. Then, I will generally draw them about 6 to 10 sketches and sometimes show them prototypes when my drawing capabilities are failing me. Once they see the sketches, I will work with them and modify some ideas if there is a need.
During my DEC, I joined a group of fine crafts students and we called ourselves MAM (Métiers d’art Motivés). We started out by exhibiting our work at the Cegep du Vieux-Montréal every year but when we graduated we became a non-profit organization and changed our name for Métiers d’art Métissés. We organised more than 20 exhibitions to showcase the work of emerging artists from Quebec and Canada in different places like the Canadian Guild of Crafts and the Salon des métiers d’art de Montréal. We eventually split up to concentrate more on our own businesses because it was voluntary work and it took much of our time. It was a unique experience to be part of such a group and to organize those type of events.
This experience brought me to sit on the board of directors of the Conseil des métiers d’art du Québec. I have been elected twice between 2011 and 2015 but because my family was getting bigger, I had to leave after that.
I really miss being involved in the fine craft community, artists are so generous and kind. And frankly, we have some amazing and talented artists here in Quebec.