Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Finding jewels in nature

Julien St-Jean

Marie Chapet always wanted to be free.

She knew it when she worked as an actress in France. She knew it when she studied jewellery making at CEGEP in Quebec City. Now, as she works from her workshop in her home in Chapeau, she has a taste of it.

From her workshop, Chapet works as an artisan under her own brand, ‘M par Marie Chapet.’ She designs and repairs jewellery for clients, sometimes repairing and reworking old pieces into something new, sometimes creating something from scratch in her own style.

“I’ve loved to work with my hands since I was young,” said Chapet of how she discovered her love for jewellery making. “I can spend hours doing it without feeling the time go by.”

Chapet works with all kinds of different medals common in jewellery, such as silver, gold, platinum and copper. She often works with diamonds and other, similar gems to add to a piece. Lately, she’s been toying with the idea of trying to use small glass pieces in her projects.

What she makes depends on the customer and the job. “When I meet someone, I try to catch little details,” said Chapet. “I try to make something just for that person.”

Chapet has made rings, earrings, pendants and more. She’s reworked old rings into wedding bands and created a near-identical earring to replace one that a customer lost.

Jewellery designed and crafted by Marie Chapet

But as much as she enjoys working with older pieces, her real passion is designing and creating her own original jewellery. She described her main styles as nature-themed or minimalistic, depending on the job and what kind of mood she’s in. 

Chapet’s designs often have details reminiscent of leaves and petals. Recently, she’s worked on pieces inspired by the water.

Her style is heavily influenced by the nature around her. She admits that since moving to Chapeau last year, she’s taken inspiration from the nature just outside her front door.

“That’s part of why we moved here,” said Chapet. “Being here, there’s a lot of peace in my mind and I can work better.”

Chapet explained that whenever she lacks inspiration, she can simply take a nature walk and  will often come back refreshed and motivated to work on her jewellery.

Perhaps it’s this relationship with the environment that explains her desire to use ethically-sourced materials.

“I try to be eco-responsible,” said Chapet. She added that she mainly uses recycled materials from older jewellery or other odds and ends. When she needs to use something new, she prefers to use artificially created synthetic gems.

An article from the Gemological Institute of America describes synthetic gems as “one that is made in a laboratory, but which shares virtually all chemical, optical, and physical characteristics of its natural mineral counterpart.”

“They’re made in a laboratory, but it’s still genuine,” said Chapet. “And it doesn’t need to make a big hole in the ground to mine it.”

She feels that since graduating from CEGEP, as her skills have improved, so has her brand. Whereas she previously worked from inside other people’s workshops or in her classes, she now has her own workshop and website where she sells her jewellery. 

Though Chapet still works three to five days a week at a jewellery store in Pembroke, she spends just as many hours working on her own products. While she loves running her own business, she admits it can be tiring at times, making it hard to push forward.

“If you don’t make it happen, nobody else is going to,” said Andrew Jones, Chapet’s partner of four years. 

Jones, like Chapet, also works as a craftsperson. He builds and sells guitars under his own brand, Nichabau Guitars. Whenever one of them feels unmotivated or lacks inspiration, the other will help set them back on track.

“It’s really been a team effort,” said Jones. “We work to help each other.”

The two met at CEGEP as they both took courses in the same building. “Guitar was on one floor, jewellery making was on another,” said Jones. 

Since graduating, the couple have come a long way, something they both take pride in as they see each other working at their craft. They hope to continue to develop their skills and that they will be able to take their businesses even further.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Jones. “But it’s hard not to stay motivated.”

Despite only living in the Pontiac for the last year, Chapet already feels a connection to the community. She credits this to her work, which allows her to meet many residents of the area. She found that because of the community, she hasn’t had to do much advertising. Instead, she’s been able to rely on word-of-mouth from clients to help her meet new customers.

In the future, she hopes her business will become self-sufficient and that she will be able to sell her jewellery in stores and at local markets. She also hopes that she’ll be able to work on projects she hasn’t had the opportunity to craft yet, such as engagement rings.

“I feel like I don’t have any limits,” said Chapet. “I know what I can do and I feel like I have that freedom.”

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