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info@handmaderevolution.org

 


Toronto
Canada

(416) 523-1625

Handmade, modern and historical metal and leatherwork. 

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Blog

All the latest news and upcoming events. 

Handmade What?

Aurora Simmons

People sometimes ask me why the things I make cost so much.  If you are comparing my work to something that was assembled from manufactured parts, or other mass produced jewellery, the  answer should be fairly obvious. Because I have to make a living wage in Canada, because I am not a huge corporation who can buy vast quantities of raw materials in bulk and because making things by hand takes time, education and swearing. I also use high quality materials that won't make your ears melt.  Yesterday I made three pairs of studs (really two and a half because I started one of the pairs the day before)  I thought I would document the process step by step, in boring detail, so you can follow me on this magical journey of craft.  If you count the pictures you will find that there are about 30 individual stages that these studs go through before they are finished. Usually I make them in batches because it's a bit more efficient. I have interspersed a few comments through the gallery to clarify details. I hope you follow me all the way to the end :)  

Still with me? That's great. Luckily yesterday I didn't actually manage to make any of the very exciting mistakes that can cause this process to be even more time consuming. For example, you can melt the posts when you are soldering them on. You can fling the studs across the room when polishing and be unable to find them. This actually happened a few times but I found them after only 5 to 10 minutes of swearing. You can break gems when setting which is a real kicker. Sometimes it's because you suck, other times it's because the stone had a fracture plane you didn't know about. If you are feeling really talented you can drop a gem on the floor and be unable to find it. That I have definitely done. But not yesterday. If this magical image series has made you desperate to own your own studs you can purchase them below. I have two pairs that I wear all the time. But of course, I am a jeweller and can't really help myself.  If you scroll down, you can see me squinting awkwardly at the camera with a pair of studs in my ears. Those are peridot and blue topaz. I am probably going to get more holes in my ears just so I can wear more studs. I was thinking green tourmaline. Ok maybe I do have a problem.

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Aurora Simmons

Hello! It's been a long time.

So much has been happening, and I am excited to finally tell you all about it. This summer has been full of an unexpected amount of sewing. I've been fortunate enough to begin creating several custom suits for a client with bold and elegant taste

I have been staying on track with my historical reproduction work. I made a very exciting medieval reproduction knights belt in May and a medieval reproduction necklace, which I frankly had a hard time giving up. I have also been keeping busy with lots of fun historical costuming for a big medieval adventure, which is coming up soon. I am proud to now be featured in two stores in Toronto, Erietta Boutique at 320 Danforth Avenue, and starting this May, DesignNook at 2038 Danforth Avenue. Both stores have a different selection of my pieces, and if you ever want to see things in person, I encourage you to visit these great locations. There is lots of new jewelry listed in the Shop section, and I feel like I am inundated with new ideas every day. I have a few very exciting craft shows scheduled for the fall, so I hope you will stay tuned for exciting new developments. I promise to blog more regularly in the future. :-)

I also had the exciting privilege of creating my dear friend's wedding dress for her recent wedding. I have known her my whole life, and it was a joy to help make her wedding dreams a reality, and to be part of her and her husband's beautiful celebration of love. Speaking of love, I have had a few fun and exciting wedding and engagement ring projects over the last few months, which you can view in the Wedding and Engagement section.

A bit of New Years Navel Gazing

Aurora Simmons

It's a new year, and while I look at the cold reality of my post-Christmas bank account I also find myself reflecting on what it is that I do and why I do it.

Yesterday, while I worked (irresponsibly during work hours) on a leather purse I am making just for myself I was reminded how delightful I find crafting. I walked away from my studio with a happy glow that kept going all evening. I took great pleasure in showing the bag to my partner, asking his opinions and working out the final details.

Leather purse, completely hand dyed, tooled and stitched. You can see the fabric I will be lining with peaking out. The dark pink will be more burgundy by the time I am finished.

Leather purse, completely hand dyed, tooled and stitched. You can see the fabric I will be lining with peaking out. The dark pink will be more burgundy by the time I am finished.

Almost no day goes by in which I don't make something. If I am not at my bench making jewelry, I am sewing historical clothes for myself or my clients. I am embroidering something fun and interesting. I am leather-working in one of my two basement studios. In short, I am addicted to crafting. Hopelessly, completely, addicted. If I was not lucky enough to be able to (mostly) support myself crafting, I know I would spend every available moment that I wasn't working, making things.

Crafting is something I never have fight to motivate myself to do. Embroidery soothes, and delights me. Leather-working calms me. Jewelry and sewing challenge me and keep my mind busy. If I begin thinking about a project while I am trying to fall asleep I can keep myself awake for hours going over each detail. What will the materials be? Where will I get them? How will I form the piece? What colours will it be? How will I finish it? The best simile I can think of is one of a complex cake. Each layer and detail must be created in the correct order, in the right time, with the right tools and techniques. Rushing or inattention can be catastrophic. Some errors can be fixed, some can be incorporated into the piece, or if you have the flexibility on the project, you can find a new direction in which to go based on your mistakes. When I can, I love letting a piece grow organically, working each new unexpected detail or error into the piece in such a way that it is almost like the piece is making itself. Not only am I molding the piece to my will, but I'm also allowing it to flow into a final form that has as much to do with the complexity of the materials as it does with me. This was never a popular tactic with my teachers at college, but I learn so much this way, and it's one of my favorite ways to work.

A piece of embroidery inspired by a medieval bestiary, linen and crewel wool. 

A piece of embroidery inspired by a medieval bestiary, linen and crewel wool. 

The sketch for the finished embroidery.

The sketch for the finished embroidery.

I want to make things that will last. I want to make things that can be used, and cared for, and repaired and maintained for years. I think one of the reasons I was drawn to jewelry is that it can last indefinitely. A piece could be kept, and handed down through generations. It could develop a narrative, a character, a feeling of love and connection to someone special. A little part of me will get to take a journey though lives in that piece that I made, perhaps to be cherished long after I am dead.

A pair of medieval reproduction buckles which are soon to be plated gold and silver respectively. Brass.

A pair of medieval reproduction buckles which are soon to be plated gold and silver respectively. Brass.

I like to give people things that I think they will love. I have to stop myself sometimes from giving my work away, because if I think something I have made will please someone, that can seem so much more important than money. But I must eat and pay rent so I try to be judicious.

I have a lot to learn about business. I am slowly learning it (usually the hard way) but I know I am improving. I try to be patient with myself when I make mistakes and develop strategies not to make them again. I try to roll with the punches. Some days it's hard, but other days I get to create something wonderful for myself, or someone else, which I know will make them smile for years to come. And on those days, (most days) it all feels incredibly worth while.