When it comes to making jewellery, many artists take pride in using the traditional techniques of yore: carving through metal with a saw, soldering, lost wax casting. Others revel in applying new tricks: 3D printing, laser sintering, even making intricate metal designs with the water jet cutter and its pierce-anything, 60,000 psi water stream.
Up and coming jeweler, Devon Thom, plants herself soundly between the old traditional and the newfangled. “I handcrafted most of my stuff until last year. Having a good understanding of how things are made traditionally is very important. Then, I got to experiment with 3D printing, laser cutting, different techniques. It was really cool. It’s where things are moving.”
These days, Thom likes to incorporate something old and something new into her pieces. She will translate her hand-drawn sketches into digital files, then send them off to New York for 3D printing. When the creations arrive back about three weeks later, she will work in a handcrafted element. “Primarily silver, some gold, precious gem stones. It’s a nice marriage between the technology and traditional goldsmithing. It’s easy to print something and slap a chain on it, but it’s nicer to have a personal touch.”
The Vancouver born and raised Thom just graduated with Honours from the Jewellery Arts program at George Brown College in Toronto. “My career is just beginning. There is lots of exciting stuff happening.” She has thrived in the three year program, and has appreciated the serious technical training and the opportunity to work with seasoned artist professors.
One of her many role models has been her professor, Paul McClure. He has just won the Governor General’s Award for jewel art inspired by medical imaging and the molecular biology of the human body. “His work is beautiful,” says Thom. “He has been in museums all around the world. He is also a huge supporter of what I’m doing.”
Thom is particularly proud of a beautifully complex necklace she made towards the end of her schooling. It is crafted from sterling silver, 14 karat gold and diamonds that Thom set herself. “That piece took me more than 100 hours.” Much of the complexity was in the geometry, a major consideration for Thom in her work. “You are problem-solving as you go. A perfect geometric form for me is comforting and calming.”
Thom’s gold ring – pictured in our header – was inspired by the hexagonal structure of an emerald, the stone set in the ring. “A lot of my work is based on the golden rectangle, with its ratio of 5 to 8. It’s used a lot in classic architecture. I think that people are consciously and subconsciously attracted to well-balanced, well-proportioned forms.”
Devon comes honestly by her love of geometry. Her father, David Thom, is a well-respected Canadian architect. “His architecture is very minimalist with modern clean lines. My jewellery is like that too. He came out to my grad show. He’s really proud of me.”
Devon’s mother, Vivian, also encourages her daughter’s innovation. “My Mum is super creative, really supportive and optimistic. I take more of the emotional side from my Mum. It’s easy to get bogged down, when the ideas aren’t coming. My Mum has taught me a lot about being patient and persevering.”
Thom is delighted that she has been accepted into the prestigious Artist in Residence program at Harbourfront Centre’s Craft & Design Studio. “It’s a great launching pad for young emerging artists. It will be so good to be working in a studio environment alongside other artists. Also to be in a centre that promotes craft and their artists. I’m going to take full advantage of this great opportunity that I have been provided.”
Though she sees herself living in Toronto over the next while, Thom does return often to Vancouver to visit family and friends. “ I should be joining the Craft Council of BC. I want to stay connected to the West Coast, because I could end up there.”
For now, though, Thom is looking forward to her residency at the Harbourfront Centre: learning, creating, showing and eventually selling her work. “I’m hitting the ground running.”
Written by Elizabeth Newton
Photos Courtesy of Devon Thom
Thom is in the process of developing her website, but those interested in purchasing her work can contact her at: [email protected]