Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Legend dictates that the high tides of Canada's Bay of Fundy are due to the thrashing of an enormous whale. The rolling tides noticeably influence the waters of the Shubenacadie and Saint John rivers. Canada is also the home base for jewelry brand Bejewel.

Like many blessed with artistic leanings, Bejewel's designers Trudy Gallagher and Sandra Tremblay lived with the nagging presence of creative frustration.

In the early 90s, Gallagher sat uneasily in the lecture hall of a British Columbia college listening to an instructor discuss abnormal psychology.

"I always thought that artists were people who drew pictures," says Gallagher. "It was an epiphanic moment when someone told me that I could actually study jewelry design."

With no hesitation, Gallagher relocated to Quebec City courageously taking on the challenge of learning her art in a program taught in French!

Fueled by the life-affirming energy of finding "the thing I was meant to do" in time, her grasp of the language improved and she set up her company, Bejewel, in her basement.

Fourteen years later, with the company now located on Queen Street in New Brunswick, Gallagher would hire Tremblay who was creating jewelry in the wee hours before trekking off to her financial sector job. Gallagher instantly recognized a kindred spirit.

"If you are a maker, you have that unsettled feeling inside you. I knew that Sandra was a frustrated maker and that she had great potential," says Gallagher.

The designers' minimalist yet colorful aesthetic brings to mind the unique, subtle forms of Scandinavian jewelry. Scandinavian jewelry style, generally speaking, is clean with virtually no frills of bright gemstones, intricate patterns, or surface textures.

Gallagher and Tremblay's design approach, however, is alternately linear and complex. From the beautifully sculpted, cupped sterling silver Satellite Dish disc pendant and earrings, as well as their ridged and hammered version, to the ethereal, sinuous multi-chain links of silver arranged in cascading necklaces and bracelets.

Accents of beach glass, chalcedony, bon bon glass, and crystals add color contrast that seems to soften the white metal. The color intensity vacillates between dusky, pastel, and translucent. The soft hues provide a tranquil energy that evokes the sights and sounds of the beach.

In addition to creating both custom-designed and ready-made trinkets, a project close to the designers' hearts is their Self-Perception/Self-Deception Jewelry Exhibit--where pieces are also sold--currently running at the New Brunswick Crafts Council Fine Craft Gallery through November 20, 2010.

The prompting to do the exhibition came from women's perceived physical imperfections, even when looking for jewelry. Women's self-defeating thoughts emotionally resonated with the duo.

"Our clients will say they can't wear a great piece of jewelry because their neck is too wrinkly, their fingers are too fat, their boobs are too big, or that they have no place to wear it," says Gallagher.

"I feel frustrated hearing comments like that. There is no real fashion police and I feel that there is nothing wrong with wearing a chunky necklace to your kid's soccer game. Sometimes I will say to them, privately, that `We all have earlobes, a neck, and a body. I think what you're talking about is self-esteem.'"

In light of their exhibition, the designing team is encouraged to keep stretching their creative bounds. "The company specializes in custom-made designs, but I feel that artistically you can strike a balance between commercial work and work that satisfies creativity," says Gallagher.

"I don’t believe it's a compromise; it's just a simple reality. We understand that we need to be well-rounded as business people and also as artists."
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Kyoto Wide Tapered, Multi-Chain Link Necklace
Photo 2 (center): Sterling Silver Northern Lights Bracelet with Multi-Colored Beads
Photo 3 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Milky Way Multi-Strand Necklace
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