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Erin Tracy at work in her studio Erin

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Independent jewellery shops seem to be burgeoning in the city - Metalurge, Made You Look, Studio 1098 to name a few - why do you think that is? Why is there a new market for this type of thing?

People in the city are becoming more aware of alternative jewellery. There's a lot of boring jewellery out there and a lot of Torontonians tend to have unique taste. They don't all want that "classic" Tiffany ring, nor do they all have the money for it, so they seek other options. It only takes one successful business for another venture to catch on… things start spiralling from there.

How big a role has The One of a Kind Show played in the success of your business?

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At base, the sheer crowd that the show brings out has been tremendously helpful. But it is also the place where I learned that there really is a culture of style in this city that isn't necessarily devoted to shopping at Gucci or Prada. I also realized that these same people love jewellery and they don't require one-carat diamonds or platinum to take pride in what they purchase. I really believe in the human element of jewellery, in the legitimate relationship between my clients and the work they buy.

While we're slightly on the topic of "down to earth," as much as the show attracts "real" designers to exhibit, there are the earthy boondogglers and the One-of-a-Kind-lifer quotient to contend with… Isn't there a fear that participating alongside vendors of this calibre might do damage to your brand?

Yes. I definitely believe that the potential exists and the people who don't see this downside end up with failed businesses. Everything has its time. There is a big range of quality at the show and often the same stuff gets put on display year to year. I launch new collections every spring and every winter and I always have new things to show there. That said, getting into the One of a Kind Show Hall of Fame is not a goal of mine.

That really exists?

It does. And I'm not interested in sticking around for 15 or 20 years. I think you know when it's time to leave and in the next couple of years I think that'll be it for me.

Does the Christmas-season kitsch factor cause you problems, especially in your custom work?

There are some things that either don't work or won't work and if I had to say no to a request, I certainly would. I have been lucky though because my customers tend to come to me with a knowledge of my work - they "get me," in a way. The people who want my work aren't the same sort that might want a Christmas-tree pendant with functioning lights.

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I like your brand allegiance, after all, you do have an aesthetic that is rather elemental - simple yet still surprising. You tend to build your pieces with components that are otherwise foreign to the jewellery world, how did this tendency become practice?

The first jewellery designer I was really intrigued by was Alexis Bittar - out of New York. He does a lot of things with different materials, not just with silver and gold. He uses colour and lucite. I'm always looking for different textures, colours - anything, really, to use in jewellery to make it more interesting. A trip to the Home Depot opened my eyes to concrete - I use it a lot in my collections and my customers like it.

So, you have a client base with taste. You've recently opened a studio in Liberty Village. Did the decision on location have anything to do with the west end being home to "legitimate" art spaces and artists as opposed to the more craft-friendly east end?

Yes. My natural path is toward doing more custom work and I understand the people in this area; it's the right fit for my type of work. And this is a job - I want to make money, I want to own a house - so having a slightly more affluent clientele who also happen to be fun and funky is great.

Are you an artisan or are you an artist?

I would call myself a designer before I would call myself either. But I am okay with both. There are people out there who consider the term "artisan" an insult but those people take their lives too seriously.

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This interview has been edited and condensed.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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