Toronto Artisans: Ali Laure

I originally came across Ali Laure jewelry in my daily check of all of my favourite blogs. Upon clicking over to her Facebook page and Etsy shop I quickly became obsessed with the pieces, so when V and I sat down to decide who we wanted to work with next Ali Laure was on the top of my list. Naturally I was beyond excited when designer Ali Clarke, of Ali Laure, agreed to chat with the ladies of On Crawford St. and give us a peek into one of our new favourite local businesses.

How did you get started?
Ali: It started really randomly. I was buying a gift for a friend at a retailer where the products were priced between $6-$30 and found that the quality was really poor. The kind of quality that turns fingers green and I felt there had a to be a way to make jewelry that was good quality without the expensive price tag. I looked into jewelry making and silversmithing classes in the city, and started taking classes at The Devil's Workshop on Queen West. I fell in love after the first class. Then I wanted to expand and go more in depth so I enrolled at George Brown. You never know what you're going to fall in love with and you can try a million different things and never find your passion, but after one class I was hooked.

What did you study in school?
Ali: I first got my B.A. in Mass Communications at Carlton University. Then I took some time off to travel and live in Europe. I eventually came back to do a post grad in Public Relations at Humber College, which is now what I do all day long.

Would you say this has helped you in your business?
Ali: PR-wise? Most definitely. I understand brands - how brands works, how people want to see a brand and how to get media to become interested. I know how to pitch. This has all helped in creating Ali Laure, and I'm quite lucky to have a network from my PR job, but of course, I don't want to abuse it while i'm just starting out.

Tell us about your jewelry and your inspiration?
Ali: The main collection is ideas that I've been sitting on for awhile. I like really clean lines and really simple jewelry. The current collection is very clean and very linear. Next year it could be different. I want to try to move into new shapes, adding stones and settings.

I started designing for myself based on what I would want to wear. I was drawn to triangle shapes. I really try to figure out what pieces are ones you can wear everyday vs. ones that only work for special occasions. Ideally I come up with a piece that works for both.

As for inspiration, I'm constantly on Instagram looking at what other jewelers are doing and wearing. I think art imitates art so I'm constantly looking around me for inspiration. I don't really have one place of inspiration.

Walnut Studios: how long have you been here and how did you find out about it?
Ali: I used to have a studio in my old apartment, but I moved and needed a new studio space. I just did an internet search and was lucky to find Walnut Studios. I work and live nearby which is great, and I've been here for almost a year. The jewelry studio space is run by one of the other designers. He provides us with the bench, the torches, and all the large equipment and materials, which is great because I didn't have those in my old space. I brought my own tools and drill.

How long for each piece?
Ali: Rings take about an 1.5-2 hours. I rarely do one piece from start to finish in a sitting. Usually I work in stages. Earrings from start to finish take about half an hour. There's definitely a process. For example - I clean them, solder them, clean them again and then they go for tumbling. This necklace [above] takes forever. I hand-cut every piece, hand-file every piece, hand-drill every piece and then string them. I'm working on prepping the individual pieces before hand, so that the process takes less time.

My materials are mainly sterling silver, but I also work with copper and brass, which are the materials for the necklace. I'm hoping to begin working with gold in the new year.

What is a typical day for you?
Ali: Monday to Friday is at the PR office agency. My 9-5 is really more like 9-7 or later, especially when it comes to events that we host and attend. Evenings, when I can, I come here; usually 2-4 evenings a week from 6:30-10 and Sundays I'm working in the studio. Needless to say, I don't watch much TV.

Have you reached a tipping point with your business, or would you say that's still to come?
Ali: I think it's still coming. I've got a bit of coverage. People are buying the pieces, which is great. Before I was definitely just gifting it to people. In the past 6 months, since I've launched my Etsy site, it has started becoming a bit more of a realistic business in a way. I have to grow a bit as a designer and expand my brand and designs. I know people like what I do, but I also know I can do something a bit different that will catch some attention. It's very much a learning experience, making mistakes is the best part. I'll sketch out something and when I start working on the piece it might not turn out the way I thought. My favourite thing to do is custom pieces because it lets me get more creative and work outside of what I normally do, which breeds new designs for the future.

You mentioned receiving some coverage. Where was that from?
Ali: A few blogs as well as fashionmagazine.com have done interviews with me. It was pretty exciting. Ottawa Life magazine also featured me in the print version of their holiday gift guide. Flare is actually doing a a partnership with Etsy and they have an account where they feature their favourite things. They included one of my rings which was really great especially because it brings it right back to Etsy.

In terms of shows like One of a Kind, I've wanted to do them, but I haven't had the time to prep the stock. I want to, and now that you're printing this it pushes me! There are so many shows and events out there and I think they're so valuable. You get to meet amazing people and work and be out there with other artists that are doing what you're doing. It's really something I look forward to doing in the future.

Any advice for other female entrepreneurs?
Ali: For me, I've always been a dreamer. If you think you want to do something, try doing it despite what people might tell you. This might never be my full time job, but if I think that it won't be, then it won't be. For advice? Don't set limitations. You learn along the way, you adapt. Talk to people, getting their feedback can always be used to better yourself. Finally, I think when you're doing something for yourself, make sure to take risks and chances. If you're dedicated and you love it, it doesn't really feel like a job or a risk.

What's next for Ali Laure?
Ali: Ideally, for the new year, try to come up with some brand new designs and start working with gold and other materials. I want to move from having just the Etsy shop to having my designs in local boutiques in Toronto, as well as across Canada. I'd love to be in stores. I also want to work towards a website with eCommerce. I'm ready to take the next step.

Where can people find you?
Etsy Shop
aljewelry and alilaure on instagram
@alilaure and @aliclarke on Twitter

And finally, a few more photos because I can't help but share!

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