Did you ever think something like: “Oh, it could be so great to leave it all and simply go around the world, meet people and do what I love…” Well, today we have an amazing story of someone who actually did it! I love that! Mathilde Tétreault gave me a beautiful interview about her super project of transforming her van into a travelling workshop and I am happy to share it with you, guys. Get ready to be inspired!
Mathilde, tell me a bit about your background. When and how did you start to create jewelry?
As far as I can remember I always made jewelry… It probably started with my best friend making little bead bracelets for us and all of our friends. And when I got a little older I installed a small jewelry workshop in my room, where I experimented with metal wire, fabric and recycled materials. I would then sell it to friends at school and in a small coffee shop in my home town. Then after my first DEC I went travelling in Latin America and discovered other techniques, like macramé, but before discovering the jewelry program at École de Joaillerie de Montréal I never really considered making a living out of it. I was considering to keep studying in the Social Sciences field, but eventually gathered my courage and registered for the jewelry program! So, in terms of education I have a DEC in Social Sciences and finished a program at École de Joaillerie de Montréal in 2015.
What draws me so much to jewelry is that it is an art in interaction with the body.
I love art in general, but what makes jewelry so special to me is that someone acquiring a piece of jewelry will have an intimate relationship with it. It is like a tiny sculpture that people walk around with, they will not only look at it like a painting on a wall, but touch it, wear it and make it theirs.
For me jewelry is also about connection… I have this habit of looking at people’s jewelry and asking them about it, and there is almost always an interesting story coming out of it. It might be where the person got it, who gave it to them or what it means for them, but one thing that is sure is that I often end up knowing more about that person in an intimate way, I create a connection with that person. This is something that I really like and also one of the reasons why I travel – to meet, get to know and create connections with new people. I like how people attach a meaning, a story and a feeling to a piece, and I am happy that people take something that I made and make it theirs in that way.
What works as an inspiration for you?
Travelling inspires me a lot. It changes me in the way I think and create. I often feel like I am a big sponge travelling through Canada, the US and Mexico, just absorbing whatever beautiful landscape, shape, color, plant, or detail that I encounter and adding it to my dictionary of ideas and inspiration. I feel like it opens the doors of my imagination and erases any conception I could have had of what is possible or not possible to create. I have so many things I want to make I would need a couple of lives to do it all!
I also love working with materials that I found in my travels, may it be an old hand forged nail, a piece of rusty metal, some animal bone or a piece of antler. I enjoy knowing where each object comes from and the story behind it, they also feel like little treasures to me! I like transforming something that people might perceive as trash into a surprising object, a jewel.
For example, I just spent a month and a half in the desert in Southern California, in this artist community called East Jesus, and over there it is definitely the paradise of recycling and upcycling! I was there doing an artist residency and had time to work on experimental jewelry pieces. I made three necklaces out of what you could consider trash and had a lot of fun doing it! I worked with recycled aluminum, plastic, broken mirrors, rusty steel grate and cartridges, recycled clothing and rusty bed springs. The process was really fun and those three necklaces will be staying in the outdoor museum in East Jesus, where people can try them on and take pictures with them.
I want my pieces to communicate the experiences that I am living, I want them to talk about the wild, the new, the weird, I want them to convey that feeling of independence, of strength, of real and of raw that I am experiencing in this unconventional jeweler’s lifestyle.
Tell me about your project – how the idea of transforming a van into a jewelry workshop appeared?
I don’t really know what triggered this idea at first, but it’s definitely something I’ve been dreaming for at least 6 years now. Studying and living in the city, seeing the lifestyle of other jewelers really confirmed that this was what I wanted to do. I wasn’t feeling ready to settle in one spot and start my business. Too much stuff I wanted to see and do, too many places I wanted to explore! So I’m starting my business, but on the road…
I started working on this project about two years ago, planning, saving money for it, etc, and got my van a bit more than a year ago. Because I had such specific needs I decided to build everything inside it by myself and with the help of a few friends. I worked on it for a couple months and was finally ready to leave by mid July 2016. So I have been on the road for 9 months now!
During the past 9 months I crossed Canada, I vended in a few festivals in British Columbia, I traveled extensively in Oregon, California and Arizona, and just came back to the United States after a month and a half in Mexico, where I was learning and sharing techniques with some artisans and vending with them in the street.
Part of my project is to interview jewelers and metal artists, so I have definitely met a lot of interesting people and seen different ways of working.. really really interesting! I am currently working on these interviews and they will eventually be up on my website.
Oh, I am so looking forward to read them! Let me know!
My plan for the next few months is to go back to Northern California and set up the van at a friend’s place in the mountains to work extensively on a new collection. I will be having a vendor’s booth in a few festivals this summer on the west coast of Canada, so I definitely need to widen my inventory!
This is an awesome trip. I notice and learn many things, but here are few that I think are worth sharing:
First of all, jewelers are the best! Through all the jewelers and metal artist I meet one thing I notice is how we are all so eager to share our passion, to teach some of our tricks or discovery and show our workshop. I have been welcomed in a bunch of different workshops and it’s really good to see that our international community of metal workers is so generous and inspiring and this is something I absolutely love of this field!
Something else that I am discovering is how wherever we go we can find a group of people that share the same interests or way of living. I think we can find our little niche of humans in about any city or town. So far I felt like I could move in about any city I visited (I also like staying a while in a place to get to know it better, so that helps), or any small town too.
And, hopefully without sounding too cheesy, I am clearly seeing how when you put your heart and your focus on something the universe helps you make it happen… I had a lot of serendipitous encounters in the past few months that really helped me get to the places I needed to go.
Wow! That is so awesome! I know, that the next question will seem a bit weird to you, but I am always interested to ask it all my jewelry friends. What does your ordinary workday looks like? Do you have some rituals that you do regularly and that make you feel more productive and efficient?
I don’t really have an ordinary work day, it really depends on where I am at the moment… But most often before starting a jewelry session I need to set up my space, I need to clean up the van (it’s easy to get messy when you live in such a small space!), get the generator out (unfortunately I don’t have a solar system… but it’s in my plans!), start it, connect the extension cords, get my torch out, get my material out… It’s definitely a process! It is time consuming and I have to plan what I will be working on during that time, to figure out if it’s worth it to start to heat my pickling bath or not, or even if I need power at all. I try to avoid it and to plan my sessions to the best of my abilities. Sometimes it’s a little energy consuming to always be adapting like that, but it’s the compromise I’m willing to make to live the life of my dreams!
“Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” – Janis Joplin
“Our only limitations are those we set up in our own minds.” – Napoleon Hill
“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.” – Mae West
”Perfect is boring. Beauty is irregular.” – Gloria Steinem
”Your focus creates your reality.” – Don’t know but I repeat it over and over in my mind!
”There is nothing impossible.” – Alexandre Hupé
I am considering sustainability issues in my work. Eventually I want to start working with recycled or ideally Fair Mined metals, this is my top aspiration, but for now I just try to know as much as I can where everything I use comes from.
The price for the pieces by Mathilde is 45$ and up. You can get them at her Etsy Shop. At the moment she does not have a lot of inventory, but she will update her shop soon!
I really recommend you to follow her on Instagram! Promise tons of beautiful photos!
It is such a great story, guys! A story of a dream and a beautiful brave girl going after it! What about you? What do you dream about in your jewelry life? Let me know in the comments! Let’s be generous and share our imagination!