From its everyday pieces, to custom wedding and bridal jewellery, ATTIC Jewellery was founded on principles of integrity, longevity and simplicity. "We want people’s jewellery to work for them, and to be a part of their everyday lives," explains co-owner Melissa Gobeil, "Not something that sits in the back of the jewellery box collecting dust.
She and Susan Shaw met while training to be goldsmiths at George Brown College in Toronto. "Goldsmithing school was very challenging," Susan reflects, "So we took a lot of coffee breaks together and dreamed up scenarios of what the perfect studio would feel like." That dream eventually led to them founding their jewellery brand together in an inspiring, industrial building located in Guelph. Back in December, I had the chance to chat with Melissa and Susan about their journey building their brand, and their collaborative approach to their designs.
What brought you together to launch ATTIC? What has the experience been like building a brand together?
Susan: After studying at George Brown we worked in the industry separately, but still kept the dream alive. Finally, 8 years after our first day meeting, we decided it was time to either give our dream a go or stop talking about it. By that time, the concept of ATTIC had evolved and been refined into something that we both thought the industry needed. And so we jumped in.
Melissa: Building ATTIC has been a lot like designing and making a piece of jewellery. We started with a concept, a brush stroke - and then we continually refined that idea until we were ready to jump in and get our hands dirty. The only difference between the design process and building ATTIC is that we will never necessarily be finished. ATTIC will never be a perfectly polished piece, all wrapped up in a grey suede box, because ATTIC is a is a living thing.
Can you share a bit about your creative process?
(Susan) Melissa and I have a similar design aesthetic, but it’s not identical, so the collaborative process is really what develops those design ideas into something that is truly ATTIC. With a new piece we always ask is this simple? Does it have classic qualities? Will it last? Would we wear this? If the answer is yes, we start prototyping.
As jewellery designers you create both your own collections as well as custom designs. How do you work with clients to represent their personal style?
Listening is the most important part of custom work. People don’t always know exactly what they want, but it’s our job to figure out how to transform their ideas into a functional and beautiful piece of jewellery. You get to know someone through the process -- you find out what’s important to them, what the purpose of the piece is, and what they like and don’t like. It can kind of feel like mind reading sometimes, but there is nothing more satisfying than being able to take someone’s concept and turn it into a wearable piece that they’ll cherish forever. It’s pretty amazing, and an honour to get to do this for our clients.
How has living and working in Guelph influenced your brand and approach to your design?
Melissa: Susan and I both grew up pretty close to nature, but in different parts of Ontario, so having a studio in a quiet and peaceful place like Guelph feels pretty great to us. It gives us lots of mental and physical space to fully absorb into the creative parts of our work, which we love. That said, we’ve both spent the a good part of our adult lives living in big cities, so ATTIC is absolutely influenced by the culture of cities, as well as the work of other creatives around the globe. We are both pretty hands on women. We are physical in our goldsmithing work and our worlds, and so we are always taking comfort, ease of wear and durability into account when designing ATTIC pieces.
What do you hope you contribute to the community and the broader Canadian design community as a whole?
We want to be part of the growing conversation around building for longevity - to create pieces that will have long lives and that will be inherited by the next generation, and the one after that. Using a treasure from the earth to adorn ourselves is a tradition that goes back as long as humans have lived. We love being a part of this tradition and yet understand that it has more recently come at a cost to the earth. It’s a delicate subject that we try to approach with humility, and with small solutions that hopefully amount to a larger difference. We choose to work in gold, because it is a resource that has always been, and will always be captured and put back into the supply chain. Whenever possible, we use 100% recycled gold that has been refined right here in Ontario. In the end, we really just want to add some simplicity and beauty to people’s lives, and to do it with honesty and integrity. Thankfully, there are more and more brands that understand the importance of designing for longevity, and that care about what they are making and how it is made. It seems that there is an emerging group of people that are finally tiring of over consumption, and instead interested in investing in core pieces that they will have for life. These are the people we want to connect with.
And of course I had to ask some fun, personal questions too!
We have a thing for grey stones, so this past spring we started working with rosecut grey Canadian Diamonds, which are beautiful and very unique. Lapis Lazuli is our latest stone crush. With both of our winter wardrobes being mostly black and navy, we thought that pop of royal blue would be really striking. Oh and we LOVE Sapphires. And Spinels. And Tourmaline. Ok, so that’s not a single favourite, but rather a collection of favourites...
How do you like to wear your favourite pieces?
Susan: We each have a couple core pieces that we never take off, and even sleep in. I wear the Pinky Signet and our Ball Chain with a vintage charm every single day and now the Bayonet Necklace and Lil’ Hoops that we just launched. Melissa wears the Poe Earring even in sweatpants and looks amazing. The Poes, the Fisherman’s Bend Bracelet and Shield Ring are her everyday pieces.
Do you have a most treasured item in your personal jewellery collection?
￼￼Susan: It’s weird but I really don’t have any family pieces! My Mom wears a simple thin wedding band with each of my grandma’s even thinner wedding bands stacked next to it. I’ve always loved how beautiful and simple it looks.
Melissa: My most treasured items is the engagement ring my father gave my mother. My parents divorced decades ago, which is why I have the ring. I have never worn the ring (it’s not at all my style,) and I will likely never remake it, but I treasure it nonetheless, and keep it because it holds the story of where I came from.
What was your last great find or steal?
Our couch! We have this gorgeous green velvet midcentury couch that has to be our most prized possession. It’s the first thing everyone mentions when they come to our studio. We got it at an auction when we were supposed to be buying tools. It was in perfect condition and the biggest steal imaginable.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAUREN KOLYN, SUPPLIED BY ATTIC JEWELLERY