If you’re looking for the latest in trendy department store necklaces, rings and bracelets, you won’t find it here.
But the “wabi-sabi,” organic and unique, is everything that jeweller Karyn Chopik specializes in.
Chopik, a renowned jewelry maker, sculptor, metalworker, fashion guru and business woman, began making eclectic jewelry in 1984, with three friends and a $350 investment.
A teacher by trade, she had just graduated from the University of Alberta and was unable to find a job.
As people started to discover their jewelry, the business took off, Chopik said.
Within two years they had agents, stores and 12 employees.
“It was the right place at the right time,” Chopik said.
But the industry began shifting.
Consumers’ tastes for hand-made, artsy pieces were being replaced by the clean lines of items mass produced offshore.
“Everything was very shiny and polished and everyone matched their buttons with their shoes and it was such a boring time,” Chopik said.
“It was killing me.”
That’s when Chopik decided to open a fashion agency in Vancouver, where she worked for several years.
This was an invaluable experience, she said, as it gave her the education she needed for the industry.
“But,” Chopik explained, “my heart yearned for creating.”
So, 15 years ago, she decided to make jewelry again.
Working out of a studio in Fort Langley, Chopik wanted to stay small, but her business kept getting larger and larger.
Five years ago, she relocated to her current 5,400 square-foot facility on the Langley Bypass, and just last month opened a retail design centre for the public.
Here, Chopik and her team of four ladies create more than just jewelry. It’s “wearable art,” she said.
Everything is hand created in this space. From idea to design, to cutting the metal and assembling the pieces, it’s all done in Langley.
“Us five girls have a hand in everything,” Chopik said. “We each touch it and we each do our own thing with it.”
And because of that, no two pieces are ever identical.
“I don’t like anything too balanced and perfect,” Chopik said.
“The art of wabi-sabi is there’s an intrinsic balance between the elements. It’s a Japanese philosophy. Nothing in nature is perfect.
“They’re kind of off and organic, but they still work.
“I like doing that.”
Her design centre, which she describes as “Soho, Berlin, Paris — but Langley,” features more than 100 pieces of jewelry on display.
The walls are hung with antique frames with hooks to showcase her work. On one wall, an old, distressed rake holds up $600 strands of pearls.
“We have a unique style no one else can copy,” she said.
Even the tools they use are not standard. A railway tie, an old anvil and a tarnished block found at the bottom of a lake are used for creating texture in metals.
And if nothing calls out to her clients in the design centre, they can view her sample line upstairs, order from her collections online, or even work with her to custom-design their own jewelry — with one catch — “It has to be done in my style,” she said.
“I won’t design anything that I won’t be proud of.”
But with a 25-year collection of unique beads, it’s unlikely that clients won’t find something they love.
She has Tibetan beads, African trade beads from the 1790s, beads she has hand-carved from a woolly mammoth horn, beads made from Roman coins, a large freshwater pearl pendant with 14K gold plating, heart-shaped beads from the 1950s, amber beads, topaz beads and large chunks of coral that are no longer available on the market in that size.
“I try to design stuff that’s sustainable that will never go out of style,” Chopik said.
“Edgy, but classic at the same time. I do trunk shows and people come to see me that bought my line 15 years ago when I first started—and they’re still wearing them. It’s edgy, and it’s art, but it will stand the test of time.
“Good jewelry doesn’t ever go out of style.”
People have caught on. Chopik’s jewelry is sold in stores across the United States and Canada, and her name is recognized at trade shows in New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Las Vegas.
One of her favourite memories is designing a prayer locket with singer k.d. lang, but it’s the stories close to home that hit her heart.
“I have a spiritual vibe in what I do — I am a very spiritual person,” she said. “I make many sacred pieces.”
One lady told her that the stones in Chopik’s jewelry gave her strength during her cancer treatments. Another used her stones to help move on after her son was killed in a car accident.
“I am so blessed to have the opportunity to share my art,” she said.
Chopik’s design centre is located at 112-19289 Langley Bypass. Walk-ins are welcome, however custom made work requires an appointment. Please call 604-575-9318 or email customer email@example.com.
Visit www.karynchopik.com to order online.
Chopik and her team of four. From left: Colleen Sarber, manager; Kailey Sarber, in-house photographer and assembler; Natalie Hoffart, silversmith; Karyn Chopik, owner and designer; and Janelle Stewart, assistant manager.