Vancouver Island Metal Jewellers Guild founder Valerie Harty shows off on of a selection of stones and gems from her bench in the guild’s studio in the Oceanside Community MakerSpace. — Adam Kveton Photo

Shiny new Parksville guild looks to welcome jewellery-makers

Graduate of NIC founds Vancouver Island Metal Jewellers Guild

A brand new guild based out of Parksville is looking to become a hub for jewellery-makers in the area.

Began in the fall of 2018, the Vancouver Island Metal Jewellers Guild already has about 40 members, a studio with shared tools in the Oceanside Community MakerSpace, and monthly meetings after founder Valerie Harty wanted to connect with jewellery-makers in the area.

“I just kind of put an advertisement out there, ‘Who’s interested in getting together?’ And our first meeting happened,” she said, sitting in the guild’s studio space in the McMillan Arts Centre (MAC) building where the MakerSpace is located.

Having moved from Calgary where she was a member of an active rock club with its own jewellery studio, Harty said she took North Island College’s (NIC) Metal Jewellery Design program to expand her skills.

But an aspect of the jewellery-making process is that you’re often alone, she said.

“The personal part of making jewellery is very private, and you just work and you work and you work and you work, but then you leave your jeweller’s bench and you just want to talk about what you’ve done all day,” she said.

“So I really, really appreciate all the people that come and want to talk about (jewellery making),” said Harty.

That first meeting, asking only for donations and holding a raffle for stones and some jewellery tools, drew 42 people, Harty said.

“I was surprised, but I knew it, you know?” she said of the turnout. “It was sort of a public confirmation, but I just had so much faith that it was going to be positive.”

Since then, the guild is now taking paid members, and has a corporate sponsor in Andrea Valis with Royal LePage, said Harty.

Now the guild exists on paper, she said, as well as in the studio and at monthly meetings. The next of those is on Feb. 26 at the MAC (133 McMillan St., Parksville).

Harty said the goal of the guild is to share knowledge, grow its tools available to members, and grow its numbers.

“We have so many things to inquire about. Where do we get our tools, where do we get our stones, where do we get our gems, where do we get our support?” she said.

Much of that knowledge can come from members themselves.And there’s already a culture of knowledge-sharing going on, both in the guild and in the MakerSpace studio itself.

One member began taking measurements of the guild’s jeweller’s tables so she could build one of her own, but was looking for some help with the actual construction. Harty’s husband offered to bring the woodworking skill if the guild member brought the wood and enthusiasm.

There’s also a variety of types of jewellery-making represented by the guild’s members.

Many of the members come from the NIC program Harty took, she said. And while she creates jewellery by cutting out pieces from sheets of silver and making use of a variety of stones and gems, another member has begun to specialize in engraving, she said.

“(Dan Walker) is a graduate from that (NIC) program, and they teach you a small component of engraving,” said Harty.

Though engraving tools are expensive, Walker’s interest in the tools and engraving itself grew. Since then he’s gained various tools and taken a variety of other courses.

“He bought this huge microscope so that he could now also see the fine work he’s doing. So he looks like he’s some kind of a NASA technician, but what he’s making is the most beautiful engraved pendants and rings.”

Now, Harty said she’s hoping to share the knowledge base and resources the guild already has with more members. From creating a website or learning how to sell your work on Etsy and other platforms, to various other kinds of jewellery making, there’s a lot of expertise that guild-members are willing to share, she said.

The upcoming Feb. 26 guild meeting runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, contact Harty via vharty@live.ca

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