While taking a jewellery-making course, Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith ignored their instructor’s design advice, which proved to be a key step in starting their own business.
The wide band ring — made much bigger than their teacher saw fit — wound up being the first piece they sold upon launching their jewellery line Live Beautiful online nearly two years ago.
“Someone from Australia bought it and it was really exciting,” Hart says.
“It was amazing because at that point we had this little Etsy shop and maybe our friends and family would buy things but it was like somebody bought it from Australia!” Nasmith adds. “It was cool and she got it and she loved it and to make something for someone and to know that we’re a part of their life in that little way is great.”
In contrast to poorly made, cheap and mass-produced items, the pair hope to challenge the marketplace by creating unique, handcrafted and sustainable jewellery using recycled materials, found objects and vintage pieces.
“We try to find ethical stones and small suppliers so we’re trying to put a positive product out into the world that still looks great,” Nasmith says. “We offer jewellery with a conscience so a big part of our brand is making everything by hand.”
In April Live Beautiful’s most recent collection, Rough and Tumble, debuted at three stores in Ontario including Aime boutique on Davenport Road, where they held a launch celebration in early May.
This month will also mark the release of the company’s bridal creations, which along with their other pieces are created in their Annex office near Bloor and Bathurst streets, featuring statement pieces that incorporate embroidery, beads and vintage lace.
“It’s very special to be part of somebody’s day and to create something old,” Nasmith says, adding a lot of their bridal work is custom made and she also designed her own wedding ring. “I love using pieces from people’s collection like working with their grandmother’s broach and turning that into a bib necklace. It’s personal and beautiful.”
Prior to this endeavour, Hart and Nasmith became fast friends while attending university in Kingston, where they fittingly worked together in a jewellery store and would constantly critique newly arriving stock.
Several years later they decided to take a jewellery-making course to spend more time together and to do something creative.
“We just kind of realized that we had a talent for it, as we were making stuff in the class, we were like this is something that feels right, it feels natural,” Hart says. “It was coming from us organically, like we weren’t really trying to do things but they were just coming out really cool.”
With varying skills and aesthetics, the pair say they bring different things to the table and complement each other well.
“I have maybe like 700 ideas and maybe three of them are good,” Nasmith says. “I just try a bunch of different things and lots of our designs are kind of accidents. I’m trying to do something else and then I’m like I don’t like it like that but maybe if I do this instead and there’s things I’ll do half way and Laura will come and tell me how she sees it.”
While their personal favourites of the current collection include the large Roxy studs and the bullet shaped Presley earrings, a popular draw are several pieces made with Herkimer diamonds they carried over from a previous line.
“A big thing we do is work with people on Etsy, we just feel like it’s a great community and they’re all small businesses all run by individuals and we want to support that,” Hart says. “The Herkimers are great on many different levels. They are beautiful pieces, people really respond to them aesthetically but they have such a great story.”
With a background in academics, Nasmith devotes a lot of time to researching where the materials come from, the story behind it and making sure everything is conflict free to see if the items suit their brand.
While investigating a batch of Herkimer diamonds, she learned they were from an Amish farm in upstate New York.
“The story just totally captured my heart,” Nasmith says. “They kind of come naturally through soil and they’re quite tough and the farm has horses that plow the fields and the stones were bothering their hooves so they let one miner very infrequently come to the farm and clear them out so its easier plowing and that’s where we get the stones. We paired them with 100 percent recycled metals from a supplier where our purchase goes towards animal welfare organizations. It looks great and it feels great, it’s like a lovely ethical piece and it really embodies what we’re trying to do with the line.”
As the business venture continues to grow, Hart and Nasmith hope the values of the brand will resonate with customers who also like the designs aesthetically.
“A big part of what we’re trying to do is create something that has a story,” Hart says. “It’s creating something that is different and hopefully they’ll want to invest in something they can keep forever and pass on to future generations. That would be the greatest thing if we could create something that people wanted to keep forever.”