Langley jewelry designer puts women to work
By Sierra Jones
There’s more to Karyn Chopik’s jewelry than just stones placed in metal.
Behind each eclectic ring, bracelet and necklace, are hours of hammering, sawing and silversmithing by five sets of manicured hands.
“You come out of the back everyday looking like you’ve been working under a car,” said Janelle Stewart, assistant manager at Chopik’s studio in Surrey.
“Or with a moustache.”
Working under the guidance of artist and designer Chopik, the team of five ladies hand makes more than $50,000 in high-end jewelry every month.
Using antique anvils, hammers and other odd tools, they take sheets of metal and transform them into “wearable art” that is sold in boutiques across North America.
“We do typically what’s known as men’s work,” said manager Colleen Sarber.
“We hammer all day, we saw, we drill, we use machinery — that’s what we do.
“We go home gritty and dirty and it’s certainly not a feminine job.”
Though the work is not always glamorous, the end result is.
Chopik is world-renowned for her contemporary jewelry that is rugged, organic and chic.
“It’s yin-yang,” she explained.
“The yang is the metal. It’s strong, it’s powerful and it’s balanced by the beading and the sophistication of the crystal.
“It’s the contrast that makes it work. If it’s all too old school, it looks witchy. If it’s all too high gloss, it looks fabricated. You’ve got to have that balance.”
This theory applies to more than just jewelry design. Chopik infuses yin-yang into her business practices everyday.
“I’ve been told that I have a very female way of running the business,” Chopik said.
“It’s about giving authority and empowering the girls. I watch them do stuff, and it just blows my mind.
“This, versus a controlling more masculine way of running a company where there’s one person in charge and you do what they say or else you’re out of there. The new female dynamic is more cooperative. There’s a lot of support, and you get lots of legs that way. It just brings out the best in everybody.”
For the girls, it creates a sense of pride in their work.
“It’s quite amazing when you think that every piece is made by hand,” Sarber said. “We make every piece, and that impresses me.
“When you look in the back and board is covered in papers — those are all orders — and sometimes it gets a little intimidating. How can we pull this off? But we always do.”
This style of leadership works both inside the studio and out. Many of Chopik’s clients are also looking for a sense of ownership and personalization in what they wear.
Chopik’s one-of-a-kind, custom-made designs are quickly becoming her most popular.
She has had several clients bring in heirloom items, such as an ancient Petra coin from 250 A.D. or sapphires and diamonds passed down from a grandmother, to transform into necklaces and cuffs.
“Women want meaning in their lives,” Chopik said. “People are wanting really special, sacred things that are really powerful and enrich their lives.
“[This jewelry] is empowering and it’s historical and it’s something you can give to your children.”
Recently, a woman brought Chopik a dragon stone that was gifted to her by a Shaman. She was an oil executive in Alberta, and had given up her job to become a healer. Chopik played a large role in this lady’s transition process by setting her special stone into a silver necklace.
“Some people, when they pick up their pieces, they’re crying over it,” Stewart said.
“Women are very sentimental. That’s why they really appreciate the art that Karyn does and that she is able to incorporate their heirlooms.
“We say that all of Karyn’s jewelry is timeless, as it is, but to incorporate all of that into it makes it even more so.”
To see Chopik’s fall collection or to have a custom-piece made, visit her website karynchopik.com.
Sierra Jones is a lover of jewelry, anonymity and Fraser Valley berry picking farms. She’s also got a soft spot for strong women.