Friday, 24 May 2013

Cree's a Charm...

One of the things I love about smaller communities like Kelowna, is the connections - when six degrees of separation becomes more like three.  

Case in point. 

I recently worked the BC election, spending a 14 hour shift at Rutland Centennial as a Voting Officer - which could have been hell, if not for the fact that my partner for the day was the loveliest - and funniest - lady ever, who's son just happens to be an aboriginal jewellery designer by the name of Justin Rivard. After finding this out, of course I had to pop down to Turtle Island Gallery to have a look at his work. 

I really like aboriginal art, especially when the artists or craftsmen manage to add a contemporary element or angle to their work. Rivard has managed to do just that with his wonderful 'silver totem charms'. 

Think traditional Pandora charm bracelet, but with an added 'Cree' twist; Rivard's tiny silver totems are carved with traditional native animal or bird totems, like the eagle, raven, bear, wolf, hummingbird, killerwhale, etc, and fit any Pandora, or Pandora style charm bracelet.

What I also love about Rivard is the fact that he fell into carving and jewellery design by accident. According to Justin's website (and his mother!), his story goes like this:

'I was 21 in 1985, and I needed something to do -- the local technical school’s automotive program was full. My father, being actively involved in west coast native communities, introduced me to Ray Dumont, a local native artist. Ray suggested I try carving, and the rest, as they say, is history.'

Rivard's  design aesthetic fluctuates between west coast and plains styles, due to his having been raised on the West Coast but having roots in the Cree tribes of central Canada. 'Each offers its own unique quality, stories and history,' says Rivard, 'and its impossible for me to limit myself to just one type of design.' 

In addition to the totem charms, Rivard also creates a full jewellery line (bracelets, necklaces, earring and rings) and sells his gold and silver pieces at locations like Turtle Island Gallery here in Kelowna, and galleries in Vancouver; he  also is available to design custom pieces for private clients. 

'When I create a new piece, I always picture the wearer in mind. My job is to produce jewellery that makes the wearer feel good. Many of my favorite pieces came from custom requests, because I had a specific wearer in mind, and was able to shape the piece to that person’s personality and taste.'

For more information about Justin's work check out his website at, or pop down to the aboriginal treasure trove that is Turtle Island Gallery, #115 - 1295 Cannery Lane, Kelowna, BC, V1Y 9V8.

(PS: Justin Rivard's mom is really proud of him. TG(N)L couldn't agree more.)

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