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Sea plus

Caitlyn Purcell’s ocean-inspired jewellery evokes Stevie Nicks on a seaside stroll.


Purcell’s jewels evoke the ocean.
  • Purcell’s jewels evoke the ocean.

Caitlyn Purcell's jewellery designs are both fragile and tough, offering a contemporary interpretation of life by the ocean. Her pendants, rings and bracelets mix gold, silver and bronze castings with treasures found in the sand---think Stevie Nicks on a seaside stroll.

"Beachcombing is this kind of magical inherited tradition that most of us who are lucky enough to live near the ocean share," Purcell says. "I try not to be greedy when I go to the beach. The feeling of seeing something special, but leaving it in its place, can be inspiring. I have been working on restraint...that said, I'm a sucker for sun-bleached, bright white lobster claws."

Other marks of sea creatures show up in her work, too, like the occasional handful of long, beaded strands, reminiscent of the floating tentacles of a jellyfish.

Purcell, a NSCAD alumnus, who currently resides in Cape Breton, will be holding a solo show as Seeds Gallery's spotlight artist, running December 7-24. For her, jewellery making is a process that slowly builds. "There's a cycle---inspiration, design and production," she explains. "These three things live together in a cocoon at the back of my head. Sometimes, one is louder than the others, but they all have their place and must work together."

Her technique goes through phases along with the seasons. "For me, summer is the time to gather inspiration. Piles of sticks and stones, shells and ocean-tumbled plastics. I hardly 'make' anything; it's a fun time. Early fall becomes a tornado of sorting through the piles and analyzing different compositions." This stage can be one of second-guessing, she says, comparing it to "writing a sentence and then scratching it out." It's during the chill of late fall that Purcell tends to see her creations through to their final versions. "It's hard to say what the final effect that I look for is, but it has to have a delicate, balanced composition that represents a certain feeling," she says.  

Purcell finds the joys and challenges of Cape Breton grounding: "It's a rugged, wind-ripped beauty. The people and traditions are so full and rich. It reminds you that there's much to be learned and appreciated."

Last summer, she opened Salty Rose's, a seasonal craft and trinket shop on the Cabot Trail, where she showcases the work of fellow NSCAD grads, family and local talent. "It gave me an excuse to spend the summer in Ingonish and I met some crazy old artistic souls as the summer progressed, which kept the shop feeling fresh," Purcell says.

Exhibiting close to the holidays means an excuse to add a touch of glitz. It's "allowed me to be a little more glamorous with my designs, which feels fun!" Purcell says. She's named her show ocean glister---"glister" means to glitter, gleam or sparkle. "I've been thinking about that icy, blinding light that emanates from the sea on a sunny winter day. Hopefully people get that feeling when they see the show."

Also at Seeds, the NSCAD Jewellery Department's yearly show ends Sunday, December 4. Aptly titled You Wish..., the displays promise to make any trinket-lover sigh and pine. So bring your holiday shopping list, but be forewarned: The temptation to Treat Yo Self will be high. A range of price tags on the work by second, third and fourth year jewellery students means reasonable rates to suit most budgets.

And because all of the jewellery is handcrafted, it's also one-of-a-kind, unlike that necklace from H&M.

ocean glister, Opening Wednesday, December 7 at 5:30pm, To December 24, Seeds Gallery, 1099 Marginal Road, Suite 116

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