Go ahead, take a peek under the veneer that is Gabriola Island and you will quickly see that this Gulf Island is a bonafied Mecca for writers, studio artists, sculptors, painters, builders, chefs, musicians and modern day homesteaders.
We were tipped off that a studio gallery space in a recently developed stretch of studios, restaurants and retail outlets was snapped up by owner of Paprika Design, Nina Turczyn, a talented silversmith with a dedicated island following. We stopped by her studio to see for ourselves and chat with the artist.
I went to school for illustration at Sheraton College and then graphic design in Halifax (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design). I found office jobs dull and boring and thought, what can I do from home on my own? So I started a freelance design company [on Gabriola] about 10 or 11 years ago. Ninety percent of my clients were Gabriolan and they kept me going. I would distribute the local Gabriola Studio Art Tour brochure and do local design work. My mom is a silversmith and has been one for 40 years. I learned from her. I never thought of doing it as a career until I just got a bit tired of doing graphic design and needed a change and started doing jewellery on the side as a hobby. Demand grew and I got more galleries carrying my work, so I kind of slowed down with my design clients and moved to making jewellery! Now it’s my main thing.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
I buy a sheet of silver and wire so everything is kind of flat. So from there I stamp and cut things out, use a soldering torch, some forging and traditional silversmith methods. I don’t do any bead work or assembling of ready made parts. I make it all by hand, even my earring hooks. The only thing I don’t make by hand are the chains. I’ve learned everything from my mom, she had a studio when I was a kid and I watched her my whole life, so when I started I knew how to do most of the stuff. I used to work out of a little shack on my property and there were days with no power, no heat and it was mouse infested, but I’d be in there working away. And then this year I decided to open a retail space, it was the only thing missing.
RETAIL AND STUDIO SPACE
People like to come in and see that the jewellery is handmade here. I’ve been bringing in a couple other artists to do some ceramics and some paintings that are new to the island, more for the locals to see different artists work, and to fill out the space. Tiny bits of jewellery only fill up so much space.
[I get inspiration from] my graphic design and illustration background. I’m always looking for ideas and inspiration. I love architecture in art so I do a lot of really structural work like my little Amsterdam houses. I like texture and patterns so I am always experimenting with finishes.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
I usually sketch out ideas. I have tons of drawings and ideas; it’s actually rare that I just wing it and make something off the top of my head. I usually have an idea or I will be flipping through a book and I see a pattern and I’m like, OK, I can use that. Sometimes I will see what other jewelers are doing and I will take from that and add to it. It’s kind of a mix of everything, there is not one particular thing that inspires me. I like symmetry and structure. I like making things that aren’t two dimensional, simple classic designs, nothing overly embellished.
CRAFTING HEIRLOOM PIECES
Modern and timeless. I don’t want my work to look dated in a few years. I like the idea of an heirloom that can be passed down or something that someone in their 60s can wear or someone in their 20s.
ON FINDING INSPIRATION
Pinterest! You just type in the word jewelry and there are so many display ideas. There are jewelry sites like Ganoksin, Metalsmith Magazine or Art Jewelry Magazine. Books are really inspirational for me like Carles Codina whose technique is inspiring. If I’m having a day where I can’t think of anything, I will flip through my library of books for inspiration.
ON RUNNING A BUSINESS ON GABRIOLA
It’s been good, really good. July and August were awesome. We pretty much made back what we put into opening. It slows down in September but we have the Studio Tour coming up and Christmas. That should get us through the January to March slow season, then we gear up for summer again. It’s kind of seasonal but people are always coming in for birthday presents so business is always trickling in during the slow season. I also sell to other galleries too.
WHERE TO FIND HER WORK
Twigg and Hottie in Vancouver, The Craft House on Granville Island, Royal BC museum Gift shop in Victoria, Made You Look in Toronto, Distill in Toronto, Curiosities in London Ontario to name a few. There are 14 galleries across Canada that carry my work.