Made for the woman who loves Vancouver Island, this wind-whipped island of mud and wet.
There’s no other place she’d rather be.
Made for those who know that rolling off the ferry feels like coming home.
Whose heart aches when she’s away.
Who feels the pull of the tides, pulling her west.
Here’s what you don’t know about the Vancouver Island Necklace.
I think about the waterways I cut into every island. Because I’ve been there.
by my own woman power.
I remember driving north and pulling off the highway at the almost unnoticeable trailhead. Hiking down through dripping trees and spongey mosses to the secret emerald green cove.
Sleeping soundly on a windswept beach, the surf thundering not far from my tent.
Feeling acutely aware of my tiny human size while kayaking amongst a pod of killer whales.
I use recycled sterling silver because the health of our planet is important to me – and I make choices to support that.
As a slightly rebellious act, I leave my saw blade marks around the edges of my little islands. In the jewellery world this is considered leaving a piece unfinished. It should be buffed and polished to a perfect mirror finish. But I see the tool marks as the artist’s fingerprint. I love running my fingers over the ridges of my hand thrown mug, knowing they were left there by the potter. I find joy in the imperfections.
I almost stopped making Vancouver Island Necklaces. When I moved to the mainland it was so painful. I miss my island home. Everyday I wish I was there.
Here’s what you don’t know about the Vancouver Island Necklace.
The first Vancouver Island Necklace I made was just for me. I’d been making jewellery for about 6 months, working on building my confidence and skillset with my own designs. It was a time of trials and a lot of errors.
Earlier that winter Sister and I had travelled to Maui where I’d finally purchased one of Tiffany Chou’s Maui pendants. Something I’d coveted since our first trip a few years ago. At over $100 it was a fairly expensive purchase for me. I’m careful very with my money. I need to know that it’s something I really want, that I’ll wear or use regularly, that’s quality and will hold up to years of use. Who made it, why did they make it, how did they make it? There’s something so special about being able to talk to the maker, to hear their story of a piece. I want to know they were responsible with their sourcing, so I can choose to spend my money responsibly.
Back in my home studio that little idea of being able to wear a piece that reminded me of our trip, an island I love kept rolling around in my mind.
Why wasn’t there a necklace of Vancouver Island?
Walking down the street I’d see the island on almost every passing bumper or rear window. I could buy a Vancouver Island cutting board, vintage chart for my wall, fridge magnet. I started studying the shape, sketching it, learning from it. Could it be possible to cut the coastline from a sheet of silver? How many details to I need to add to capture the spirit of the island? In the first piece I cut in as many details I thought possible without losing the structural integrity of the piece. I was so proud of that first necklace I made, that I actually had skill enough to move my saw blade around the curve of the coastline.
I showed my silversmithing teacher. She was blown away by the detail. But I wasn’t completely happy with the piece. Something was missing. As I brushed my hair in the morning, I’d study the reflection of the tiny coastline around my neck. At night before going to bed I’d hold the island close to my face and ask “what’s missing?” I flipped through my sketchbook, looked at the charts… what was missing?
I was missing the key element that makes Vancouver Island amazing!
It’s not just the shape of the island, but the jagged west coast. The deep inlets and fjords that gives us Tofino, Bamfield, Port Alberta and Quatsino Sound, carved by ice over 15,000 years ago. I was missing the history of the island itself. All those remote campsites, the waterways I’d kayaked through – could it be possible to actually cut in the fjords and inlets I’d gone to!? Could it be possible to capture both my memories and the spirit of the island itself?
I ordered a thicker sheet of silver and (not so)patiently waited for the post, my saw blades quivering in anticipation.
The silver islands I cut now are slightly bigger than the first – more room for details! The ones I cut from 14K gold use the same template as the first little island – but gold holds up better than silver so I can cut in those inlets and the fiddly bits around the fjords. Without the inlets I think the island kind of looks like a turd…
Here’s what else you don’t know.
Six months after making that first necklace, I had to leave my island home. It broke my heart to leave, but I knew I had to go to the mainland for the health of my business. I’d sold a couple necklaces to friends, but no stores were interested – I kept hearing my price was too high.
If I used thinner silver I could lower the price, but wouldn’t be able to cut in the fjords and inlets without the island breaking in two. I could have a mould made and cast endless amounts of the island, but again, no fjords or inlets, no marks of my tools on the pieces, each one exactly the same, cookie cutter. Heck, I could have the thing mass produced in China for pennies.
The details I add take time, and therefore cost money, but I believe there is value in paying someone to take their time to carefully and thoughtfully craft something just for me. I believe in paying for quality – quality of material and quality of life.
Hoping to reach other women who loved the island, I’d posted a photo of that first necklace on Instagram and tagged it with all the local hashtags. Instead, I started seeing other local jewellers making the same design at a much lower cost. The thin metal they chose couldn’t sustain the deep cuts of the inlets and fjords, and, well, we already talked about what the island looks like without those…
I almost stopped making Vancouver Island Necklaces.
I was discouraged. My heart ached for my island home. It was almost too painful to cut those little islands, to be reminded of those places I knew and loved. To be reminded of how far away I was from them. That I may never get back. It was one of my very best friends who encouraged me to keep making them, leave the listing on my website. “People will buy them” she said, “they’ll buy them from you because they know you love the island just as much as they do. They’ll buy them because it’s like wearing a little memory of their island home.”
Here’s what I didn’t know then.
Two years later and the Vancouver Island Necklace is one of my top selling pieces. The first piece of 2018 was a Vancouver Island Necklace ordered from my website which brings me joy to no end. Island stores are ordering them, even though my prices are still higher than other jeweller’s, they see the value in my work, in my time. I no longer wear that first Vancouver Island Necklace I made because it doesn’t represent the skillset I have now. But I still have it, I keep it as a reminder that everything is a process, that times are painful because I care deeply, and that I will figure out how to make it back to my island home.