June is a special occasion party month: summer solstice, grad, prom, weddings. Maybe you got spruced up for a Tony Awards viewing? As we lay out our finery, we are often looking for jewels to compliment our outfits. How to find a standout piece that doesn’t require a Gringottian stash?
People in the know will look to Paprika Design to see what Nina Turczyn has in her treasure box. This Gabriola Island-based jewelry designer has a great eye for special gems. “I love working with unusually coloured stones,” says Turczyn. “I tend to use stones with milky, translucent colours, such as Prehnite, Aqua Chalcedony and Smoky Quartz.”
“I don’t like perfect, flawless gemstones,” Turczyn adds. “In fact, I find them pretty generic. I gravitate towards interesting, one of a kind, semi-precious stones that I feel have a lot of character. I’ve collected many stones over the years in my travels abroad to visit my parents in the Middle East. I also have a dealer in India who I buy from.”
Turczyn will create experimental pieces, such as the Tangle Cuff, inspired by her daughter’s scribbles. Her Marrakesh Collection has been remarkably popular over the years.
The graphic intricacy of Turczyn’s creations is no accident. Her previous career was as a graphic designer. Turczyn did her degree at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. “I’m so glad that I did. NSCAD and Nova Scotia in general were incredible places: full of music, art, colour and creative, down-to-earth people. I met my husband in Halifax. He was actually from BC, so that’s how we ended up moving back west.”
When she got her first full-time job at a design firm, she realized that being “stuck at a desk from 9 to 5” was not for her. She started freelancing and loved the work, despite being shackled to her laptop at all hours. Eventually, though, Turczyn realized that she needed to be creating art for herself, “without having to answer to clients and deadlines.”
She had never before considered silversmithing, even though her mother was a master silversmith with more than 40 years experience and a job teaching the craft at a university in Qatar. “I flew out for a few weeks and asked her to teach me everything she could.” Turczyn realized that she actually knew a lot about silversmithing. All of those childhood hours spent in her mother’s studio had influenced her deeply.
“In just the past few years, I took the final leap and phased out graphic design almost completely and opened up a studio/gallery. I have more fun, more flexibility, more money in the bank and more time with my family! It was definitely the right decision.”
“What I like most,” says Turczyn, “is that I’m making what I want and putting it out there to sell. I love working with my hands and with beautifully made tools. I also love being the creative engine behind my business. Everything from the logo, the jewellery designs, the packaging, the website and the photography is all done by me. I love having all the creative freedom!”
There are challenges in the solo-jewel business. “Doing it all’ comes with a price,” says Turczyn. As a mother of two with a busy timber-frame builder husband, the work/home balance can be tough. “Another challenge would be the ebb and flow of income and creativity. The summer season and Christmas season are fantastic, exciting, busy and lucrative with craft shows and gallery orders. And then it all dies down in February and March. It can get quiet and boring and my motivation starts to wane.”
For Turczyn, though, the creative freedom and jewel-clutching repeat customers make all the lulls worthwhile. She is thrilled knowing that her creations sell in galleries, online and in stores across Canada.
What are some things that Turczyn would have found useful to know before launching her jewellery design business?
1. Supply Chain
“It was a hobby for so long that when I suddenly started getting big wholesale orders, I had no idea what I was doing! It’s important to develop a strong and consistent line of work and to have it organized and easy to access for potential gallery owners.”
“A good website, strong designs and beautiful photographs of your work are a must in this business.”
3. Social Presence
“I started making jewellery before I had ever even heard of facebook, instagram, pinterest etc. I’ve quickly realized how important it is to stay on top of all that, to promote my business.”
4. A Business Focus
“I should have found myself a good bookkeeper right from the beginning because the financial and admin side of things can get overwhelming if you’re not organized! Balancing business and creativity has been a big learning curve.”
Written by Elizabeth Newton
* All jewel photos inside the article courtesy of Nina Turczyn