Local Designer: Live Beautiful

DESIGN DUO: Live Beautiful’s Laura Hart, left, and Alison Nasmith show off pieces from their Rough and Tumble collection at Aime, a Yorkville boutique carrying their line.

DESIGN DUO: Live Beautiful’s Laura Hart, left, and Alison Nasmith show off pieces from their Rough and Tumble collection at Aime, a Yorkville boutique carrying their line.

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.

WHAT'S THE STORY? Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith create jewellery with a conscience made with materials sourced from small suppliers. Many of the pieces have a back story like the Herkimer diamonds, which are from an Amish farm in upstate New York.

WHAT’S THE STORY? Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith create jewellery with a conscience made with materials sourced from small suppliers. Many of the pieces have a back story like the Herkimer diamonds, which are from an Amish farm in upstate New York.

“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.”

Local Designer: Niki & Lola

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Angie Tingas and Michael Proteau’s children inspired their jewellery line — both literally and figuratively.

Named after their daughters Sophia Niki and Alexia Lola, the idea for Niki & Lola came about because they brought the girls to life.

“When I had them I thought, if I can make those, let me see if I can make other things too,” Tingas says. “I went to school for fashion but fashion management and people used to say, ‘Do you design?’ and I would say, ‘Oh no, I’m not artistic.’ So they actually inspired a want to try and do more.”

While Tingas conceptualizes the jewellery designs, Proteau develops the ideas and executes them into finished products made from raw metal and sterling silver.

“My highlight is when Mike actually interprets what I draw and makes something really, really beautiful,” Tingas says, adding they had a third daughter while they launched the line earlier this year. “I’m more like I want this out of the pieces and somehow he figures out how to make my ideas happen. Sometimes you don’t think your ideas will translate and they do.”

Early Nomad, their first collection of one-of-a-kind and handmade earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets is available online at nikiandlola.com and designed and crafted in their home studio near Danforth and Jones avenues.

The Agny Spear

My personal fave: The Agny Spear

“There are a few people who get super excited about everything we do and they’ve been to every launch or media event and it just lifts your spirits and makes you feel like you’re going somewhere,” says Proteau.

Although Tingas had already started creating jewellery before they joined force, once she decided she wanted to go away from beads and into metal jewellery, collaborating was a natural progression since Proteau already had experience cutting, shaving and polishing metal.

“My background hobby wise has been in automobiles, cars, motorcycles so a lot of metal work was involved there,” he says. “As well I have some other hobbies that include electronics and that’s where the soldering came in.”

Inspired by simple geometry and a theme of early humanity, pieces like the shield ring symbolize protection while the astra bracelet, which has Swarovski crystals placed at random around the bangle, symbolizes the night
sky.

“I think it also speak to us, like we’re so different but somehow it meshed like our aesthetics,” Tingas says. “We get our inspirations off of each other like I’m more pretty and Mike’s a little more motorcycle-edgy
and somehow we try and blend those two.”

“It kind of goes with our name too,” adds Proteau. “Our two daughters, the one is like soft and sensitive and the other one’s like rough and tumble.”

The team behind Niki & Lola
The team behind Niki & Lola. Top image, the stylish and surprisingly light weight Polygonia Bangle.