Sometimes I look back over the last decade and can hardly believe all the things I've done. This December I'll be marking ten years since Ivaan's death, and February 2019 will be ten years since people started asking me if I could reproduce a piece of Ivaan's jewellery for them. It took me ages to start describing myself as a jeweller, and I still feel like a total fraud when I say that, so mostly I just say, when asked, that I own and operate a jewellery studio. If pressed, I'll add that it is devoted to the metal art of my late husband.
It's now over six years since ATELIER IVAAN moved to Dupont Street. I was really lucky with this building. When I first noticed it was for sale, I was gripped with a passion to own it so strong I could hardly sleep at night. My offer to purchase it was accepted on Valentine's Day, 2012 and I will never, ever forget the thrill of unlocking the shop door for the first time ever, knowing it was all mine: no mortgage, no conditions, no co-owners, no tenants. For better or for worse, it was mine.
Why was I so lucky? Because the previous owner had done the really tough renovation work on the main floor, and the basement was in fine condition, too. The shop and ante-room had beautiful bamboo flooring. The electricity had been updated. She has really good taste and she was a decent human being about the entire process. We worked out many of the details ourselves. She was also generous with advice for a fledgling shop owner about things to look out for, how to handle things, and how to deal with walk-in clients: things I never knew could be a problem until I was confronted with them.
I wouldn't say I'm really cut out for retail. For one thing, I find it really hard to stay put in the shop when the weather is nice, or I want a snack, or a nap, or a pedicure, or someone asks me to lunch. And the roof garden is only 27 steps away, so going up and visiting my beehives is irresistible.
A few years after opening the store, I decided to start a little side-hustle, which I named NAUFRAGE, the French for shipwreck. I like things related to the ocean: ocean liners, lighthouses, marine equipment, even the colour palette of the maritimes. And I am fascinated with shipwrecks. Naufrage is the name of a town on the north side of Prince Edward Island with a beautiful lighthouse, and a restaurant that makes excellent breaded zucchini. I'd go back for the breaded zucchini alone. But I digress.
Atelier Ivaan is not a large shop, so only a portion of Ivaan's work is on display in the showcases, and they tend to be things that are a bit tame. But the more exotic pieces are still around and available as custom orders.
Recently, I've been toying with the idea of having a contrasting line of jewellery here. Problem is: much modern jewellery design is what Ivaan used to call "stringing beads on wire" jewellery. Not much skill, not much art in that. But I know how to make pieces from scratch, and I confess I'm a bit curious to know how pieces of my own design might turn out. Ivaan left a collection of interesting gemstones and I'd like to make some jewellery around these stones.
The other evening, I started looking through the boxes of Ivaan's bronze masters (the originals from which copies are made) and I was so struck by the beauty of his pieces that almost never get seen that I began to cringe at my own conceit in imagining that I could make anything half as worth looking at as his pieces that are hidden away.
So I'm at a fork in the road. I found the bronze master to this quirky pewter fork among Ivaan's art the other day. I used to wear it as a decoration on one of my hats. I just love it and know that no matter how hard I try, I'll never make anything half as beautiful as his work.
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