Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Meet the Maker: Slashpile Designs

Freedom Clothing Collective is dedicated to celebrating independent Canadian design. With dozens of makers in stock we thought it was best for you to get to know them a bit better! Every other week we'll be profiling a different designer on our blog so you can know a little bit more of the who, what, where and why of Canadian style. 

Art and design is a family affair for the Toronto based Slashpile Designs. Twin sisters, Tara and Courtney Neray are the dynamic duo behind one of the most idiosyncratic and witty jewellery lines we carry. Their work is unique for its variety of styles, shapes, colours and materials.  It's safe to say that they're never ones to be pigeon holed! Tara an Courtney are just as comfortable working with technicolor gemstones as they are crafting earrings and necklaces from molecular structures. Tara was kind enough to give us a bit of insight into their influences and approach to jewellery design. Come by and have a look at their their work!

If you can't make it to the shop you can find them online and follow them on instagram here! 

1. When did you first start making jewellery?

Courtney and I have honestly been making jewellery since we were old enough for craft projects. In grade 5, we even started a club to make jewellery that we sold to raise money for charity. We both studied design at OCAD University from 2004-2008 (Courtney studied Industrial Design, and I studied Material Art & Design, specializing in Jewellery & Silversmithing). We officially started our jewellery business in October of our graduating year.

2. What is your favourite material to work with? 

For jewellery making we mostly work in sterling silver, although we also use copper, brass and gold in some cases. Silver is my favourite to work with though, since I think of it as the perfect balance between casual and special.

3. You guys are such versatile and prolific makers! And your work is so cheeky and influenced by humour. Is that something you wanted to incorporate from the beginning or did that come in over time?

I think handmade pieces really are an extension of the artist, and that our personalities show through in our pieces. When we first launched our business in 2008, we took a look at the kind of work we were already making and expanded on that. It’s important to us that our pieces mean something to the people who buy them beyond just aesthetics. Our tagline is “jewellery to start a conversation”. The idea is that if you’re wearing one of pieces and someone asks you about it, the piece (and the story behind it) gives you an opportunity to talk about something you’re proud of— whether it’s your crazy chocolate addiction, the number of trees you planted last summer, or the incredible bond you have with your dog. We try to create a body of work that’s lighthearted and quirky (like us) as well as beautiful.

4. Could you describe your heroes and influences?

We grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. Our grandmother on one side sold her painted silk scarves in France and then Montreal, while our grandfather on the other side was an antiques dealer in Scotland. Both our parents have their own businesses (branding/motivational speaking and dog-walking, respectively). This made it an obvious choice to run our own business, and having all of that experience and knowledge trickle down to us is extremely helpful. Our work is influenced by all of our varied interests and hobbies (karate, roller derby, snowboarding, quilting, gardening…just to name a few!). We usually come up with our new concepts while we are walking and talking about nothing in particular and an idea suddenly strikes. We’re always admiring other handmade designs of all kinds, whether is at craft shows, on Etsy, or in the stores we sell our work in. It’s easy to be inspired by all of the amazing things others are making, and it’s so interesting how there can be endless different takes on similar ideas!  

5.What's it like working as sisters?

We get along extremely well as sisters and business partners. Being twins, we have always been very close, and I think we make a great team! Interestingly enough, it’s our differences that made us such good business partners. Courtney is a bit more technical, and has always managed more of the efficiency/production side of things, while I take on more of the crafting and customer service side. Courtney has recently gone back to school to study Technical Apparel Design in Vancouver, so now I’m running the business solo. I am super grateful to still be able to talk to her almost every day about business stuff, and she still does our 3-d modelling and web updates while I adjust to taking care of all the daily tasks myself.

6. Do you feel like you're part of an artist community in Toronto?

When we started out, we participated in a lot of craft markets and shows, and that really helped create more of a community feeling. We would often see the same vendors at different shows and share business ideas and advice. Now I get my community fix from being part of Freedom as well as our other Toronto retailers. I love working at Freedom weekly and meeting the other designers my jewellery is displayed alongside, as well as seeing how customers react to the whole collection of handmade Canadian pieces at the shop.

7. What are you looking forward to these days?

The holiday season is always a bit of a whirlwind, and we have to spend the first few months of the year just catching up! I’m looking forward to the spring and summer, when I have a bit more time to develop concepts, work on our website and think about any marketing I want to do!