Anne-Sophie Vallée. Ice Cream, 2016. Steel, powder coat

The Essentials

Marie-Eve G. Castonguay, Alex Kinsley, Pasha Moezzi, Amir Sheikhvand, Shawna Tabacznik, Anne-Sophie Vallée, and Alice Yujing Yan

Curated by Curated by Melanie Egan

September 29 – September 29, 2020



January 21 – June 18, 2017

Contemporary jewellery is a term widely used since the 1960s. It typifies a particular genre of jewellery that is made mostly by hand; not necessarily of precious metals, although it can be; often uses alternative materials; is not necessarily functional; and is conceptually driven. Much like contemporary art, contemporary jewellery expands our view of ourselves, society and the world-at-large. The uniqueness and attraction of contemporary jewellery is its direct connection to the body and ability to convey messages at an intimate level.

The Essentials is an exhibition devoted to the contemporary jewellery we wear daily. We deem essentials as basic and important in our lives. To choose contemporary jewellery rather than commercial or mass-produced jewellery defines the wearer and their interests.

At the heart of the exhibition is an opportunity to change perceptions about contemporary jewellery and its role in our daily lives. The work in this exhibition expresses the view that contemporary jewellery is not an extraordinary option but a necessary day-to-day choice.

– Melanie Egan, Director, Craft & Design, Harbourfront Centre

Part of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival (January 16-22, 2017).



Alex Kinsley

Commemoration is a way for me to reconnect with my hometown. I was born and raised in a city that was driven by steel production. This version of the city has been disappearing over time. I want to explore the changing nature of the city through my work by using its defining material: steel. I combine an industrial aesthetic of burnt steel with the form of jewellery, and invite the wearer to experience this material as I saw it growing up; as something sturdy, rough and full of character. Constantly inspired by my own life experiences, as well as stories and thoughts from friends, family and strangers, I use abstracted yet familiar forms in order to pay homage to my time growing up in this industrial city.

Originally born in Hamilton, Ontario, to a family of jewellery artists/goldsmiths, Alex was trained by his parents before moving to Toronto and completing the Jewellerys Arts Adv. Diploma at George Brown College in 2013. Alex was accepted into the Craft and Design residency program in 2015.

Amir Sheikhvand

Amir Sheikhvand’s work incorporates his social values and perceptions of his surroundings, as well as new traditions and poetry. His works allude to the elements of a narrative, rather than telling the whole story, allowing the spectators to fill in the details. Sheikhvand honours the materials by letting them speak, and he manipulates them in ways that make it difficult to recognize their original source. It is an important aspect of his art that he knows each material’s potential to contain and transport the meaning. His use of graphic renderings of Persian calligraphy and typography allow him to explore the boundaries of jewellery art and Persian poetry. He breaks up and connects these boundaries by incorporating a portion of a text or a poem, and presents the characters of the alphabet as if they were the abstract composition of the painter. Geometric, often cubic forms and grid systems mixed with organic shapes, solid colours and repetition are key features in his work. By expressing his ideas through industrial and non-conventional materials, Sheikhvand demonstrates his willingness to redefine the notion of beauty, worth and adornment.

Born in Tehran, Canadian artist Amir Sheikhvand currently lives and works in Toronto. He has studied biology, graphic design and jewellery, graduating from Tehran’s Gold Institute in 1994. He has also learned music troughout his life. Sheikhvand has apprenticed with Iranian masters in the field of Malileh kari (filigree work) and Minakari (miniature enameling). He is a pioneer of educating women in jewellery-making in Iran. He mentors students at George Brown Collage and is an advisor to the Craft & Design Studios at Harbourfront Centre. Sheikhvand’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in both juried and invitational exhibitions, in galleries such as: Vallry Art Gallery, McMaster museum of art, Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Arta Gallery, Tehran contemporary museum of Art and Harbourfront Centre.

Shawna Tabacznik

By abstracting the Star of David – the most recognizable Jewish symbol- into a 3D form, Shawna is able to transform a cultural element of Judaism into wearable pieces of jewellery that subtly combine meaning with aesthetics.  She uses the abstracted form in multiple ways throughout her work, making it an essential component to the legacy collection.

Shawna Tabacznik is an award winning Jewellery designer from Toronto, Canada. Born in Israel and raised in Colombia & Canada, she completed her Bachelors degree from OCAD University. Her expertise in transforming meaning into Jewellery, alongside her skills as a goldsmith, has allowed her to create unique Jewellery that tell a deep story. Much of Shawna’s work represents the transformation of experiences of everyday life into Jewellery Design. She became an Artist-in-Residence at Harbourfront Centre in 2013.

Anne-Sophie Vallée

I aim to propose a platform for interaction through the pieces of jewellery I create. I work around the notion of play as an invitation to reinterpret our relationship with the objects that surround us. With endless possibilities of bodily response, the work acts as a means to escape the ordinariness of everyday life. Allowing spontaneous response to the unexpected character of material invites us to question the concept of reality. Because the idea of play enables communication of experience in a sensitive way, it carries the potential to link and harmonize the personal and the social body at the non-rational level. I make jewellery that aims to increase the participative role of the wearer in the work’s possible form, function and meaning.

– Anne-Sophie Vallée

Anne-Sophie Vallée is a jewellery artist from Sherbrooke, Quebec. Her first exposure to metalsmithing was in 2008 at UNAM (Universidad Autónoma de Mexíco), in the metal department of Taxco, Mexico. She obtained a collegial diploma in Craft with focus on Jewelry from Cégep du Vieux-Montréal in partnership with School of Jewellery of Montreal in 2011. She is a recent graduate from NSCAD University, and holds a BFA with major in Jewellery Design and Metalsmithing. She became an Artist-in-Residence at Harbourfront Center in September 2016. Vallée has shown her work in Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, Chicago and Barcelona.

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