Today our Featured Designer is Tricia McMaster of Green Bijou. Tricia is the owner and designer of the unique one of a kind vintage jewellery collection. She specializes in bringing new life to antique and vintage treasures. Tricia's business journey started with antiques, working as a dealer and has evolved into a passion for jewellery designing. She credits her travels to Europe as a source of inspiration for her designs, and is moved by the rich history and culture. Tricia's pieces are timeless and today she shares with us her creative journey and stunning designs.
It actually started on a whim! I would get my fashion magazines every month and noticed an increase in the trend for vintage "inspired" jewellery. I kept thinking that I would rather wear the real thing. Having a background in selling antiques, I decided to put my knowledge to use and I created a few pieces for myself. After being stopped by strangers asking where I got my necklace, I think it finally clicked for me that there was a demand for this kind of jewellery.
Where did you receive your training?
I went to Sheridan College for Arts and Illustration, worked in graphic design and later started my own interior design firm. It was after I started sourcing antique furniture for clients that brought me into learning the world of antique jewelry. I feel it is really a compilation of all of my previous roles that has led me into designing, and each part of my background has given me skill sets to use in this venture. Most importantly is having knowledge of antiques, so I am confident in sourcing the right pieces for my designs.
How will you describe your personal style?
I would say a bit eclectic! I love everything from simple Art Deco designs to ornate Art Nouveau. It is the vintage component in each of my designs that ties the Collections together and appeals to me.
What are some of the things that influence your designs?
Quality antiques and current trends have an influence on my designs. Not every vintage piece can stand up to being re-worked into a new way. It is important to me to design pieces that not only fit within current trends, but whose end design will stand the test of time.
What inspires your work?
The inspiration for my work is a mix of where the item is from and the current trend I can see it fitting into. I am also inspired by the history of the places we travel and the emotions they evoke. I especially look for fashion inspiration when I am in France. The French architecture, people and lifestyle inspire me.
What type of materials do you use for your designs?
I am quite particular about the vintage components I use. I probably find one in every 100 items I look at that is of high enough quality, appeal and characteristics. For example, I prefer vintage glass pearls versus cheaper made plastic pearls. The original plating also needs to be of a certain quality. Crystals should be real, not Lucite.
How much time do you spend creating?
I spend quite a lot of time creating. So many of my pieces are truly one of a kind. If I come across a beautiful Victorian brooch for example, I would design a style just to showcase that special piece. Some ideas come together right away for a design, and it just seems to work immediately. Other designs have me at the workbench for hours, trying to figure out the best way to incorporate the items.
Tell us about your creative process?
I often work backwards from a vision. My mind starts whirling when I find a cool item and I start to think of how I could use the piece in a design. Sometimes the end result is not what I might have thought of in the beginning, but to me making the vintage element the focal point is key and so I work around the piece. I will base decisions on the vintage elements; does it need a simple design or complex? What colours work well with the item? All are decisions I make while at the bench working. That being said, sometimes I bring home pieces with no formed ideas for them yet, and the night owl in me has me sketching ideas late at night when a sudden picture forms in my mind. My advice is to always have a pad and pencil nearby!
What is your favourite part of the process?
Sourcing. I love the thrill of the hunt and the whirlwind of ideas that come into play when I've found something interesting and unique. I am always on the hunt for items to use. Whether it is locally at auction sales, antique shows, flea markets, or specialty markets and brocantes when we travel.
My favourite place to source is Paris, France. We regularly source in Paris, and I also source in Italy and other countries while travelling. That aside, did you know most of the antiques you find here are likely from another country originally? Most of the pearls I use are from the UK. Most of the crystals I use are from Austria and the Czech Republic.
Since Canada is a relatively new country, most of our ancestors came from elsewhere and if they were lucky enough to have a few pieces of jewelry, they would bring it with them. So spend some time hunting at a flea market and you can find all kinds of great vintage costume jewelry that has travelled the world!
Tell us about your custom order process?
When a client wants to incorporate their own cherished piece into a new design, I begin by looking over their piece and determining if it is a style worth re-working into a new design. This does not mean the value of the piece. When it is an inherited item the value is often in the sentiment. Whether or not we can use it here depends on the style of the item and can it withstand being altered.
Once I have looked over the component I let the client know how much altering can or should be done to it. From there I ask the client to begin by reviewing my current designs so I can get a feel for the styles that they prefer. Once they determine if they prefer a pendant style, or a statement piece, etc., we review what other items they wish to be alongside their piece. This can be colour or style of chain, other findings, do they prefer sparkle versus subdued items, and really here is where I look to the client to help me understand their preferences.
I then do a mock-up of the piece before altering, get the client's approval, and the final step is to make the piece. Almost every facet of the design is reviewed ahead of time including size requirements. All of these steps in preparation help ensure the client gets the piece they desire and will make them become part of the design process. When you are putting your own cherished item into the piece, it is so important that it be showcased well.
How do other's respond to your work?
My clients love wearing something that no one else will have. They also love the history behind each piece and the story the new piece tells. They feel as I do, that as a society we now have a mindset that moves us towards less disposable fashion. So many of my clients are young and tell me how much they love antiques!
What challenges have you faced in building your business?
Every day is certainly different from the next, and the tasks you perform certainly differ from your first year of business to your current year. The first year is a time to set up, research and prepare. Get your ideas flowing. Get ready to start the business. Research, research, research. I can’t even remember how many hours were spent learning about each facet of the business. Do not think of this as time not making money; it is necessary to prepare the business plan and get your systems, processes and equipment in place. Now in business for three years, my daily duties change as the seasons change. I find the hours I put in can feel overwhelming some days.
I often find myself educating my clients about antiques. This part I love. If someone tells me they love the look of a piece, but don’t know anything about it, you can just see the interest in their eyes as you explain what a Victorian chatelaine was, how it was used, worn, etc. To take an item with that kind of history and create a current piece they can wear today, means they not only have a new piece of jewellery, but can tell the original story behind its’ history.
What is your workweek like?
Every day can be different from the next. It depends on whether I am getting ready for a show, meeting a client, working on orders for a store, sourcing, etc. A common element to my day is reviewing emails first thing in the morning. But when you have your own business you have to enjoy the flexibility of varying events in your day; you never know what issue will come up or what may need your attention.
Who has been the biggest motivator to you, during the development of your work?
I am thankful on a daily basis for my friend and fellow jewelry designer Andrea Tsanos of Stonefox Jewelry Originals. To have someone you trust in the business to share your thoughts and ideas with is crucial. Doing this on your own is hard and when you get stuck, you need someone who can shed a different light on the happenings around you.
What do you have in store for the future?
We have so much in the works right now. A new fall line, new website, the Christmas One of a Kind show, and a new studio where clients can come on an appointment basis to see our Collections.
How do you define success?
For me success is based on a mixture of continuous self-improvement and self-fulfillment. The best question I ever heard was "What will you do with your one life?" We need to feel like we're doing something to contribute to society, to have a sense of purpose and to be valuable to our friends and family.
What advice do you have for others who are thinking of turning their creative passion into a career or business?
Go for it! If you have a passion for something in life, do what you can to make it happen. It feels much less like work when it's something you love to do! To make your business succeed you need to look at the larger picture and try not to get bogged down in the necessities that take so much time. Can you see yourself doing your craft as a business, whether full-time or part-time or is it something you just prefer to do for yourself? When you do it as a business, you open yourself up to feedback from your clients. Do you live in the right environment to support you in the business? Long hours mean less time for other things and it helps to have an amazing support system around you.
All images featured in this post were provided by Tricia McMaster | Green Bijou. For more information visit Green Bijou. You can also join Tricia on Facebook and Twitter.
I will like to thank Tricia for sharing with us her designs and creative business. ~ Yvette-Michelle