Desiree Girlato is a jewellery designer. Her home studio is located above her retail space Armed, north of Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park. Armed jewellery has been featured in various magazines, blogs, television shows and on the Toronto International Film Festival’s red carpet.
When I make jewellery, it’s usually at night and I listen to the same song over and over again. It’s strange. I pick one song and it keeps the flow of everything going. I listened to Oddisee’s remix of ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ for four hours straight. It’s background music and I almost forget that I’m listening to it.
As you can see, there’s jewellery mess everywhere. I always spill shit. The plan was to initially work at my desk but now that’s become my storage. It’s too packed, so I do all my jewellery making on the coffee table and usually you can’t walk in this space–it’s just covered with stuff.
A lot of the time, I’ll make something and then in the morning, I’ll reevaluate what I’ve done. Often, I’ll take it apart and start again. It’s very rare that I’ll make a piece from start to finish and be like, “Great,” and let it go. I will never–it’s totally against my religion–I won’t make something that I don’t love and then put it in my store.
It’s important to challenge myself and maintain a level of artistry, as oppose to just making things someone will buy. Of course I want to run a business, and you can’t do that if no one is going to buy it, but if you love your product and you’re passionate about it, someone else is going to love it too.
Good jewellery is great fucking chain. I think that’s what makes or breaks it for me. When I found this really great brass chain, I put down a few grand but it’s worth it. It makes each piece look a million times better. It adds so much value to a piece. It takes it to the next level. It makes a world of difference. I love great chain.
If I’m not making jewellery it’s because I’m not inspired and I don’t like to force creation. I’ll come to it when I have something great. To get the ball rolling, I’ll make one piece and it will spawn ten other new pieces. The greatness of working within my own mess is my work is always on hand and I can always get in touch with it.
In the future, I would love to keep my work space in my house but have a separate room so I can close the door and let myself refresh. At this point, between the store downstairs and living room studio upstairs, I literally live in jewellery twenty-four hours a day. It would be nice to have everything organized. I’m sure there’s some great vintage stuff I’ve forgotten about that’s just lying there under some mess.
I do a lot of shopping at Value Village. I pick up old jewellery and deconstruct it. My grandmother is the bougiest woman ever and she rolls up in her Mercedes to Value Village to pick up stuff for me. My first piece of jewellery was made from her old stuff. The whole Armed store is outfitted with things she’s given me. She’s an unbelievably stylish woman with a passion for garage sales and thrifting.
I go to Tucson, Arizona for the Gem Show every year. It’s a plethora of the most amazing stones, rocks, shiny things. I also go to New York quite often, four times a year, and source materials. You can tell when other designers stay within the city because it’s all the same material. I travel so that I can bring new things to the table. It’s more interesting for me and it gives my customers something they might not have seen before.
There’s a connection between the artist and the product. You lose that when you’re dealing with mass production. I work on every piece of Armed jewellery. It starts as an idea and ends up being a tangible piece. A lot of care and thought goes into everything I make and I never want someone wearing something that I don’t love. There’s a lot of fucking tears and blood in this.
–Desiree Girlato, as told to Studio Beat
Photos by Courtney Vokey
Check out Desiree Girlato’s website for ARMED here.