Today in our Meet the Maker series, we’re chatting with Toronto-based Designer, Kim Drosdick! New to the Gem Breakfast roster but a veritable veteran in the design world, Kim is the artist behind the ultra-unique rough sapphire stunners and magical spinel confections you’ve been spying on IG! Keep reading to learn more about her creative process, her love for recycled gold, and her jewelry’s moments on the red carpet!
How did your love of jewelry start?
It’s been a lifelong love - I’ve been making jewelry since I was seven! It started when I visited my grandma in Belgium; she would take me to a hobby shop to keep me occupied (and quiet) and buy me little glass bottles of beads. At first, I was so fascinated with the bottles that I threw out the beads and just collected the bottles! After a while, I started keeping the beads (I still have a container of those Belgian beads at home) and making jewelry with them.
At home, my dad was a hobby woodworker, and while he was cutting wood, little end pieces and tiny triangular pieces would fall off. I’d collect all the scraps and glue clothespins on them, cover them in glitter, and create little art pieces that my dad displayed on his car visor.
I’ve always loved making things with my hands – taking things apart and remaking them into something else. If I hadn’t been a jeweler, I would’ve been a carpenter for sure!
How did you get into jewelry design?
When I became an adult, my beaded jewelry turned into more intricate pieces which I mostly made for people in my family. I taught myself different techniques and started expanding my knowledge with every creation. Then I went to York University for two years and sold my first few pieces which was amazing (and very surprising at the time).
In the meantime, I wasn’t feeling like I belonged at York, so I decided to drop out. Shortly after, I met a woman who’d made a sterling silver ashtray in a night class at George Brown College. I couldn’t believe that was a real thing! I had thought all jewelry was made in Mexico since all my silver pieces were stamped ‘Made in Mexico’.
So, I went to George Brown and fell into one of the loves of my life – Jewelry. It’s funny, I was accepted on my first try, but was so shocked about getting into an art school that I pinned the letter to my bulletin board and forgot to reply on time! I had to wait a year after missing the deadline but I got in the following year and never looked back. I went full steam ahead, loved every second of it (and cried a little here and there because jewelry is hard sometimes). I just knew it was where I was supposed to be.
When I graduated, a classmate of mine, Sarah Dougall offered me a trade; I became her right hand gal in return for a free bench rental. We created a space for 12 artists called Made You Look. We were busy from the first moment the doors opened – It was an amazing place to be. 6 years in, I was feeling a bit burnt out and an opportunity arose for a studio mate and I to open our own space called flux + form. That’s where we’ve been for 13 years now, and I still love it so much to this day.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? And how has it evolved?
It used to be ‘classically simple, beautifully bold, modern statement pieces’. And that’s still true but it’s evolved with every new custom piece; the combination of a client’s ideas with my aesthetic always creates new life and shifts my aesthetic a little bit.
What my style is now – I still love simple, classic, elegant, and timeless but I also like to turn it on its head a little bit. I love the original and innovative juxtaposed with classic and minimalistic. And I've made room in my heart for daintier pieces where I used to be fully on team bold and chunky.
How do you find inspiration?
Stones inspires me the most – whenever I see a gemstone, I just know what to do. Gem are like candy, I almost want to eat them! They're also the only area of my life where color seeps in – everything else is neutrals!
I have ideas come to me all the time – I’m constantly sketching designs down and making notes on my phone at all hours of the night!
You use a lot of recycled gold – is that important to you?
About 80% of my work is reworking old jewelry. I love taking things apart (like I did when I was a kid), melting it all down, and building it back up into something completely new and unique.
When I make pieces with heirloom jewelry, clients have the option to trade the gold in for credit or keep the gold for a future project. About 50% of clients give the gold back to me, so I’ve amassed A LOT of gold over the years which I remake into other pieces.
In the end, I’m trying to avoid taking more from the earth - the most sustainable option is to reuse what already exists. And yes, the original gold and gemstones were mined to begin with, but I reuse old materials whenever I can!
How did you get into reworking old jewelry?
Maybe 15 years ago, I did a jewelry show for Wedding Bells Magazine. The show’s theme was Eco so I came up with Re-jewel (which I trademarked in Canada), which means reworking old jewelry to maintain the sentimentality but make it wearable.
A lot of jewelers don’t want to rework jewelry because it’s not the easiest thing. But I’ve never shied about from anything difficult – I tend to run towards problems because I love finding solutions.
What’s your favorite stone?
Blueish green Montana Sapphires – both the rough stones and finished sapphires.
How did you meet Catherine (GB Founder)?
I’ve known about Catherine for years – I’ve been following her since the Gem Hunt days. I’ve always had her on my radar, loved what she was doing, and hoped to work with her someday!
Then around May this year, she put out a call for new Designers on her IG stories. By the time I saw it, it was 17 hours old and I thought ‘Oh no, she probably already has everyone she needs’. But I messaged her anyways, we chatted, and I was in! It was the one of the best things that has ever happened to me – I felt so validated after following her for so long and seeing some of my friends join GB too. It was one of the best things to come out of 2020!
You create lots of jewelry with rough stones – what’s the story/meaning behind that?
I love that they’re rough and not perfect. Then, combining that supposed imperfection with a perfect, polished, pristine setting is just so stunning. I love the juxtaposition of the fineness of gold with the complete and utter opposite of what people think is traditionally precious.
But on the other hand, I also love totally faceted, beautiful gems – but only the most awe-inspiring and magical ones really speak to me.
Who is the person who loves your designs?
When I think about the people who react most strongly to the pieces I’ve made for them, it’s strong, empowered, grounded women who have either reached a goal or are on a journey.
What jewelry do you wear on the daily?
I wear almost nothing except my stud earrings – they’re my only expression of jewelry nowadays. I mostly alternate between a black diamond and yellow gold pair (such a beautiful combination), and pair of rose cut dark blue sapphire studs.
Ever since having kids, my rings haven’t fit and I haven’t wanted to alter them so I just wear whatever rings I’m working on at the moment.
Can design be taught or are you born with it?
I’m not sure, but I know I was born with it. I think you could be a born artist but have a lifestyle that doesn’t support it or nurture it. My husband for example, worked summers in his Dad's glass factory at 14 so wasn't exactly encouraged to be creative. And though he always wanted to be an illustrator, he never got to try it as a career. Who knows what would’ve happened with different life circumstances!
More is more – true or false?
False. Less is more, but it should have an impact with just one glance.
How do you choose gemstones? What are your criteria or is it more instinctual?
The cut has to be impeccable and the rest is instinctual.
I have this wonderful supplier I’ve been buying from since design school – I’ve purchased probably 60 stones from him over the course of my career. He goes around the world sourcing them and only works with one cutter. Every stone he brings me is unforgettable and one of a kind. He's the source of those amazing spinels I've used in my latest Gem Breakfast designs.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve designed for GB?
The Bisous Black Diamond Earrings (sold)! I love the halo with nothing in middle – they feel very special and untraditional.
What’s your design process like for a GB piece? What parts do you do yourself vs outsource?
- I see a stone I love.
- I start designing in CAD (I can’t draw so CAD has been a godsend – it’s design and creation in one step and it looks so realistic. I used to use Photoshop but that would take me 2-3 hours to create an image).
- I print the wax model (I have a 3D printer at home so it prints while I’m sleeping).
- I cast it in gold (I outsource the casting unless I’m hand-fabricating it).
- I clean it up.
- I send it off for setting (I do bezel settings myself and send the rest to my stone setter, who’s literally the best stone setter in Canada).
Some designers outsource a lot of the fabrication steps - lots of people don’t need to have their hands on everything and they might not love the fabrication side. In my case, I love the physical making and being a part of every step. I think that makes me a little bit control-freaky but I want to make sure it comes out exactly as I envisioned!
Are your clients mostly bridal or buy-for-yourselfers?
It’s about half and half!
What’s your favorite ring you’ve designed for GB?
This is the hardest question you’ve asked me! If I had to choose, I’d pick the rough Montana sapphire rings.
What about your favorite ring ever?
This pink + orange sapphire ring! It's a Padparascha story, using 2 slightly different shades of Padparascha, a pink sapphire, and an orange sapphire. It's the most colorful thing I've ever made.
What’s it been like working through COVID?
My work has become even more of a love affair if that’s possible. COVID has really made me focus on what’s important – it made me feel more and connect more with my clients. That’s been a silver lining for me (and not having to rush my kids to school every morning for the first 6 months).
What was the most exciting moment in your design career?
One of my other loves besides jewelry and photography is movies. I have friends in the movie industry, and because of them, I’ve been able to mix my two passions!
The first most exciting moment – I made anniversary cuff links for a long-time client who is the Co-Head of the Toronto International Film Festival and he wore them to the Oscars last year! My jewelry (and childhood) dream is to have Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchette wearing earrings I’ve designed.
Another amazing moment was meeting Ally Sheedy from The Breakfast Club. A friend was working on a movie with her and they asked if I could make some hoop earrings quickly for her (they were already using a couple of my pieces). I got to meet her and she was just as I’d imagined!
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the way designing and working with my hands makes me feel!
I also love when you get a design right for a client with just one rendering and they’re over the moon about it! Some people say my superpower is listening to people and translating it into jewelry.