A Fascination with Jewellery
“I can’t believe that 40 years have already passed. My grandmother used to say that the older we get the faster the years pass… She was right.” — Gloria Bass
Although Gloria Bass’ interest in jewellery goes back to her childhood, it is only as an adult that her passion took shape. In the 1970s, she accompanied her husband to San Diego where he was studying. While in San Diego, Gloria decided to enrol in a jewellery-making course to occupy her free time. Despite having little familiarity with the field, during her first course she recognized, almost instinctively, the poor quality of instruction that was being offered to her.
Thereafter, luck was in Gloria Bass’ favour. While searching for the tools needed for her coursework, she stumbled on a book about fabrics and metals. One of the book’s authors, Steven Brixner, caught her attention. Luck had it that he lived in San Diego. She contacted him and asked if he’d teach her. She recalls, “From the moment I entered his studio, I loved his work. He had jewellery that you just couldn’t find in Montreal; they truly were works of art. He took me as a student and even suggested that I enrol in the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, one of the largest craft schools, where he taught. I said yes! Thankfully, my husband supported me in all my endeavours[[more]]. The experience was amazing. We were in these huge workshops that we could stay in all night; it became possible to fully immerse ourselves in our creative projects.”
Upon her return to Montreal, Gloria set up a small workshop in her basement. Always loving a challenge, the young woman decided to participate in a jewellery-making competition. Not knowing how to execute her piece, she contacted Johnny Blackwood, a European jeweller who was well established in the city. He taught Gloria the rudiments of the profession. “He truly was my mentor; he taught me a lot, and he always encouraged me to go further. I watched him and I listened to him; at the time, I was a sponge. After six years, I was ready to spread my wings. I opened my first workshop on Queen Mary Street.”
Little by little, Gloria’s reputation grew. At the time, she also taught jewellery-making courses at the Saidye Bronfman Centre. However, it was word of mouth and the originality of her creations that earned the trust of her clients, some of which remain loyal to her to this day. “I was never afraid that the market would be too small, but I often felt frustrated; sometimes that feeling comes back. Building a clientele was a long learning process. The first step is often the most difficult. It certainly helps that I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology; understanding different personalities helps me deduce what type of jewellery a client would like to wear.”
These good listening skills and her unrelenting search for perfection are what make Gloria Bass an exceptional jeweller. “I am a self-taught goldsmith. I think that it is essential to be able to imagine the fabrication of a piece. When we have a vision, we need to know how it is going to be constructed and how it will be worn. We need to evaluate the weight as well as the movement of each piece. Every detail counts. In my workshops, I design, and my team creates the pieces; we are always in an ongoing exchange.”
What do we hope for Gloria Bass after 40 years of incredible artistry? A long life, even more recognition, and to one day possess the magnificent ruby of her dreams.