by Janet Davies
Beverly Dunnington’s shop is called Lustre & Tarnish, an evocative name for a shop filled with evocative things including new, vintage and antique jewellery – whole and in pieces. “I create custom jewellery using old and new components,” she explains. “From 1950s brooches to antique skeleton keys, old rosaries, even bits of chandeliers and, of course, heirloom jewellery.” Beverly came to Bloomfield from Kitchener in 2015. “My friend, clothes designer Kelley Derrett has a house and business in Wellington and always talked about The County. I knew nothing about it, apart from seeing signs on the highway, but I Googled and saw this building for sale. I came out for the first time in January 2015 to see it and I loved it. It’s a long way from Kitchener, but I have sons in Kitchener and a daughter in Montreal so it’s actually a perfect halfway.
WHY THE COUNTY? I’d had a tough couple of years with family health issues and I was ready to re-evaluate my life. I’d had a similar business with a partner in Kitchener and our lease was coming to an end. I was ready for a change. It felt like I was spending too much time always going somewhere but never just BEING somewhere. My dad and my kids all said I’d know when I walked into the right place for me. And I did. I hadn’t been thinking about moving east, but as I took the exit onto Wooler Road it just felt right. This building was perfect. I’m a solitary person, so living and working by myself didn’t bother me. I didn’t really know about the strong arts community here either so I was thrilled when I discovered that.
BEVERLY’S JEWELLERY My jewellery is different. I love working with old pieces and there’s a lot of it around. My generation is getting older and inheriting large quantities of old jewellery. If we can’t wear it as it is – too flashy or dowdy or too big – what do you do with it? You don’t want to melt it down, your kids are not going to want it. Bring it to me in that old shoebox and I can rework pieces into new, fun jewellery from your box of treasures. It’s still your legacy stuff but now it’s custom and wearable and the whole family can appreciate it.
I had one wonderful client who was 95 and had eight children and 18 grandchildren. She wanted to give something to all of them while she was still here to enjoy the giving. So we sat down together with her bits and pieces and made little groups to work with. She chose things that related to each person, maybe it was a gift from them or just reminded her of them, and over a few months we made everyone a custom piece for her to give them at Christmas. She sat with them individually and talked about each piece. She didn’t just leave a box of things, she left something special for each of them.
THE PROCESS People bring me old things, broken things, new stuff they don’t wear and we talk about what they want. Bracelet? Earrings? I put pieces together just to see what they find visually and aesthetically pleasing. Then I have to find ways to put it all together, because I do not work with heat. I connect pieces using a cold connection or a rivet or a loop of something. I just begin and see how it evolves. I don’t know what’s coming until I am physically working with the pieces. It’s challenging and very satisfying.
I have ready made jewellery to sell, too, and a vast collection of bits and pieces to work with as well as working one on one with clients who bring me things. I love creating jewellery with someone’s personal pieces, because the memories are all theirs. But it’s nice, too, when someone says ‘do whatever you want with it.’ One client brings me pieces and leaves it entirely up to me. I call her when I have something to show and she’ll exclaim “Oh you put that piece with that piece!” and then tells me stories about them. It’s especially poignant when the pieces are from our mothers or someone special to us. We remember occasions when they wore them and it brings the past alive. Even pieces I make with no outside input seem to have connections for people. If the right person comes in and tries something on I swear the jewellery seems to come alive.
DEMOGRAPHIC I do see young people who love vintage jewellery but I see a lot more middle-aged women and older. Nothing against younger women, but I find older women have more confidence in who they are, how they dress, what they like. They’ll often wear pieces that are less safe, more dominant. On the other hand young people today are very interested in recycling, not wasting, giving new life to things. My own daughter doesn’t want anything throwaway or disposable. She wants things that last.
I have local clients, visitors and people who have summer homes here. That can be fun when somebody brings me pieces and ideas in October and asks me to have something ready when they return in May! It gives me plenty of time and helps support me in the slow time.
Business is steady in Bloomfield and it’s growing as people are more aware of me. I’d love to be more involved with weddings and events. Bridal parties that come here for the weekend could come in here for an hour or two and create a special piece using things they bring or things I have here. I do a lot of custom work for brides using something from grandma or mum to make something new and special for their day.
PAST AND FUTURE I have always worked with jewellery. When I started doing what I do now people asked me what I would call it, what I would call myself. I think of a goldsmith as a fine craftsperson, a skilled technician, whereas what I do now, putting things together, figuring things out, creating something new from lots of bits, is more like art. So I consider myself an artist. I am on the Arts Trail and I’m submitting to Art in the County this year. Art is very very diverse here.
I have a little bit of online presence but not much. In Kitchener I had co-op students doing social media and PR stuff. Young people are so smart. They’ve grown up with it, Facebook and Instagram is their world, but it’s all a bit beyond me. I tend to think why would anyone want to see my stuff? Even though I do a lot of online browsing and shopping myself. But I do have a Square account and I use Instagram and I’m amazed at the response I get when I do actually post something. When I moved here I lived in the apartment above the shop, but I met someone and moved in with him in Picton so now I have a full time tenant. There’s a big need for rental accommodation in The County and I’m glad to be able to provide some, and it helps to pay the bills, too.
I’m so glad I came here. I am indulging myself aesthetically. When I go hunting for pieces it is all about the aesthetic – I don’t necessarily see what it is now, I see what it can become – and it doesn’t have to be jewellery. I have used compasses, clocks, cutlery, belt buckles. A friend brought me something peculiar that we couldn’t identify, so I researched it online. Turned out to be a skirt-lifter. It had a kind of ring to put on your finger and when you pushed it, it opened. Women didn’t want to get their gloves dirty when they raised their skirts to walk outside, so they used these little pincher devices to do it. I made it into a necklace! I love what I do, and I love where I’m doing it.
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