Studio visit: Queenstown Goldsmiths
Aidan and Erica Stanley are the Queenstown Goldsmiths. They each make jewelry that is inspired, well-made and unique.
They both attended the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, although not at the same time. They met later through the matchmaking efforts of a mutual friend, their teacher and well-known jeweler Brigitte Clavette. It was while talking about techniques of jewelry-making that these two hit it off, and they haven’t looked back. For three exciting years they lived on Baffin Island while Erica taught jewelry at the Nunavut Arctic College, they found their way home to NB, where they now are creating their domestic and creative nest. They live on the picturesque 102, which is one of the most scenic drives in NB and a treasure trove of artists. There they've established a studio and gallery in the front of their little home, where they make and display their jewelry. They are developing a creative hotspot for learning and collaboration, currently building a yurt in the woods behind their house with the goal of establishing an artist residency program. These two are always making, always thinking of new ideas, trying to find creative niches where they can use their skills and build community. They've also just welcomed new baby Tayo into the world just a few short weeks ago. With all this on the go, they still find time to make beautiful jewelry and answer emails from me! :)
Here's what they had to share about themselves. Meet them in person at the upcoming Fine Craft Festival on July 16-17 at the Marco Polo Cruise Terminal!
How did you both get started with jewellery?
Aidan: "I was seduced by the studio. The tools and possibilities seemed endless, and this was enchanting.I grew up taking things apart and making things. I felt like I could change or manipulate most things I came across, except for metal. Then here was this studio that was going to teach me how to change and manipulate this fantastic material. This seemed like a door that I was needing to open for a long time, so taking the steps towards opening this door seemed very natural."
Erica: "I was studying at UNB, doing a masters in english and a minor in visual arts. UNB was making changes to the minor program that didn't suit, so I took a year off school to travel in Australia and New Zealand, a year to wander and get lost in exploration and adventure. While away I applied to a number of art schools, and in the end chose the Craft College. While at the college I also enjoyed the clay studio; I loved throwing on the wheel, the feel of the clay, but I found glazing was over my head. Completely. I found myself sneaking out of my clay class, to tip toe into the metals studio and just play around with whatever project was on the go. I was drawn to it like a moth to the moon."
You attended the NBCCD, what was that like?
We both did a diploma in metal arts, as well as a diploma in advanced studies. The advanced studies focused on entrepreneurship and learner-centered studio practice. We did our studies at different times, missing each other and not meeting until years later. It was thanks to our Metal Arts Instructor (funny enough) Brigitte Clavette that we found one another. To this day Brigitte is proud to call herself cupid. (thank you Brigitte!)
The Instructors at the College are truly inspiring. I thank Jane Geurts, Craig Schneider, Patrick Perry and Brigitte Clavette for prodding me, widening my creative gaze, and presenting conceptual questions. I felt pretty lucky to be a part of a hidden gem of a program - the Bachelor of Applied Arts - which is two year study at UNB and two years studying at NBCCD. It was a great balance of academic and hands on, tweaking both sides of the brain felt just right.
Tell me about when you lived on Baffin Island:
Erica: It was my dream job to teach jewellery and metal arts at a College, and Aidan has always wanted to explore Canada from coast to coast to coast. When the opportunity arose and I interviewed for the job as a jewellery instructor at the Nunavut Arctic College, our dreams were culminating, complementing and coming true. Aidan continued his art practice up North, and also taught jewellery to at risk youth at the high school. We met some fantastic, opened armed inspiring people in the arts community there. Matthew Nuqingaq was a true gem, welcoming us openheartedly into his jewellery studio.
We went out on the land as often as possible, exploring by skiis, snowmobile, or by dogsled with friends. Minus 60 in February did not keep us inside; the way to enjoy (and not just endure) winter is to dress for it and get out in it. sometimes our skiis only lasted 20 minutes, because of the winds and cold. We tried out kite skiing and kite boarding while up there - without trees the wind was just an amazing force to play with. Aidan is so adventurous and athletic, he really took to the kiting, and did some on the lake here this past winter. He’s a wild man. He's also a wild man in the studio. adventurous in trying new techniques and passionate about pushing his limits, both technically and design-wise. He inspires me. We did a lot of creating while in the North, creating together a 15 foot tall sculpture with ice of a man with a kakiavak (hunting tool) for the annual Yurt Fest whose theme that year was "melting man," creating fire spinning performances for various performing arts and community events, Aidan built qamautiqs, a traditional kayak, and of course lots of metal art. "The students I worked with at the college were amazing artists, some coming from a lineage of carvers and printmakers; their skills and connection to the imagery they worked with was unlike anything I had seen before, inspiring, moving, meaningful and heartfelt.
What brought you back to NB?
We have a niece and nephews here that tugged our heartstrings home. We are close with both our families; 3 years away seemed long enough and just the right amount of time. Erica is seriously in love with NB and sees all the natural, gorgeous rivers, hikes, waterfalls and places it secretly offers us. One of the Inuk students I worked with at the Arctic College gifted me an amauti; I was blown away and totally touched. These handmade winter jackets are what Inuit women have designed for baby wearing, with baby’s face peeking out behind them from inside a massive fur-lined hood. This student later told me that she thought our (not yet conceived) baby’s spirit was calling us back home to NB to come into the world in that special place. So she might say our now two-week old newborn is what brought us back home to NB.
What inspires you in your work?
Place. the area space or place we are in has always inspired our work. the clients we work with on custom rings inspire our work. Pushing my limits and chasing a technical challenge, that place of self-directed learning, inspires our work.
How would you describe your style?
Aidan: technically-challenging, lyrical, contemporary Erica: steeped in connection to story, clean design, nature-based Together, our work is high quality, sophisticated, timeless designs.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
We specialize in custom wedding rings, designed to suit each couple we work with. Its an honour to make such heart-full pieces for people, with such stories, meaning, and love behind each concept, each unique ring design. We hope to continue this, working on custom pieces that may be heirloom jewellery one day. We also want to share our space with others; it’s so gorgeous and peaceful here! We are working towards a yurt-based artist-residency program where metal artists will be able to come, use our studio space, enjoy creative exploration time in this natural beauty on the lakes and Saint John River you can see from the studio, and live in our yurt for the duration of their residency. We are currently making the yurt, clearing space in the woods for it and harvesting wood to build it. Did I mention we love building things?! We see our business and practice continuing to grow in order to facilitate more workshops and educational opportunities in the community. We love what we do!
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