Jewelry as enchanted gardens by Marie-Eve G. Castonguay


Sometimes, reading my interviews, you might wonder: “Why does she ask the same questions again and again?” Well, the questions stay the same, but people are different! In life and work we face the same questions – to do what, for whom, how…The diversity around is provided only becuase all people have different answers for these questions! That is why I particularly like independent designers and things, created handmade, in all spheres of life – they are simply so personal! It is not only about the thing itself, but about the life and energy of the artist invested into this particular thing, which is not the child of a huge soulless conveyer line.
I recently read an article that by spending 20$ per week on something made locally more than 100 000 of jobs can be created only in Quebec, not talking about the rest of Canada. Is not it one more great reason to buy jewelry handmade locally? Today I am sharing with you one more interview with the independent Canadian jewelry designer. Happy to present you Marie-Eve G. Castonguay, a jewelry artist and one of the founders of the platform for contemporary jewelry MetalAid, based in Toronto. I love to share the stories of how and why your jewelry is created!
Photo by Brian Medina
When and how did you start to create jewelry?
Even as a child, I was always interested in art, and just creating and making things in general. In high school, I made a whole project on jewellery, in which I created a body of work using recycled materials. At that time, I had no knowledge of any jewellery techniques whatsoever, but I still got to experiment with hammering, forging, thermoforming, etc. I still remember that one day, my french teacher asked me if she could borrow one of the bracelets from my school project for a dinner party she was attending. I was shocked to realize that someone I looked up to so much would even want to wear something I had made! I think this is when I really started to get interested in designing and making jewellery, but I only went for it several years later. Up until that moment, I had always just assumed that I would go study medecine or physics, so art wasn’t even a serious consideration. I guess I was just affraid.
What education do you have?
After completing a college diploma in fine arts, I realized that what I was really interested in was sculpture and everything that involved working in 3D. I then decided to make the jump and go study jewellery arts. I completed another college diploma, this time in jewellery, at the École de Joaillerie de Québec, and then pursued my BFA at NSCAD University, in Halifax, with a Major in Jewellery Design and Metalsmithing.
What inspires you? What materials and ideas?
Unconsciously, I think that my work is always influecned by whatever is going on in my life at the time that I am making it. For instance, I have been working on the theme of gardens for the past little while. I got really interested in our realtionship with these organized pockets of nature.
Human beings enjoy being around nature, however we have evolved in a way that we are now completely disconnected from it. We need all sorts of props and equipment in order to stay warm, dry, sheltered and safe. We are fragile beings. Gardens then become safe spaces for us to be in contact with nature, but still try to dominate it.
We organize and categorize things that would normally have a will of their own, and gardens act as safe havens away from the turmoil of the city. My jewellery pieces are meant to represent small gardens in which I can control the composition and structure, but inside each cell, which would represent each zone of a garden, little paper tabs move around in all sorts of directions, and might eventually fall off, and that is beyond my control. Looking back, I think it is quite interesting that I became so obsessed with gardens after moving to the largest city in Canada, and I think that the the dualistic tension between controlling certain things and having to let go of others is something that I struggle with in my daily life. That being said, my work is somewhat therapeutic..!
What does your ordinary workday looks like?
I see myself as a very disorganized person, although everyone seems to disagree with me on this! My days are never really the same, I am always running here and there between working in the studio, teaching and working at an art gallery. I do all sorts of different things, and that is specifically what keeps me going. As much as I love making jewellery, I don’t think I could just do that. I dedicate a lot of my time to project coordination, education, outreach and all sorts of other things, and I feel like those activities feed my practice. I might be a little bit hyperactive…!
What artists or other people inspire you?
In terms of design, my favourite jewellery artists are definitely Ramon Puig Cuyas and Simon Cottrell. I have been obsessed with their work pretty much since I started making jewellery. I guess that both of them have a direct influence on my own work and design aesthetic, to a point where I sometimes think it is somewhat embarrassing! But even though we are always influenced by certain things around us we always have an individual way to reinvest elements and ideas. As for my ideas and the themes of my work, I am an extremely curious person and I tend to analyze things a lot.
I like my work to act as some kind of a hypothetical answer to a question that I am asking myself.
Tell more about Metalaid? How did you create it?
I created MetalAid with three other jewellery artists that are also based in Toronto: Amir Sheikhvand, Jay Joo and Alex Kinsley. The team is currently composed of Amir, Alex, Suzanne Carlsen and myself. We simply felt like there was a lack of community efforts in the field of contemporary jewellery in Canada.
I strongly defend the idea that if there are no opportunies, you need to make things happen yourself rather than waiting around complaining. That is our goal with MetalAid.
We share information in order to connect the art jewellery community all across the country, and we are working on organizing events and projects in order to keep the canadian art jewellery scene active and strong. We need more artist driven initiatives, an we are hoping that with an umbrella like the one we have created, more people will feel like there is a clear way to get involved and to initiate projects.
Share with us your closest plans and future projects!
The major things that I have coming up are two exhibitions that will be part of the Parcours Bijoux, in Paris, in the fall. One is curated by Noel Guyomarc’h and Stéphane Blackburn and presents 13 jewellery artists from Quebec, and the other one is a project that I initiated with one of my studio mates. The exhibition will present 10 artists from all across Canada and will be presented at Galerie Résidences, in the first week of November. Coordinating this project has been quite a journey so far and I am so excited to finaly see it happen. After that, I have to say that I am happy that I have no more shows coming up. I have been lining up exhibitions and fairs almost non-stop for the past three years and I feel like I need time to explore new directions. I am so excited to be in the studio for the sole purpose of pure experimentation and exploration. I want to try out new materials, new forms, and also focus on conceptual research.
Photos and information: Marie-Eve G. Castonguay

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