A Labour of Love

Meet Sasha Oda, a Toronto-based goldsmith who welcomed us into her world to discuss her trade and what it is like to be an emerging designer.

With international retail expansions and mass production of clothing and accessories, it can be effortless to forget the labor and exuberance that goes into constructing an individualistic and handcrafted piece of work. Meeting with Sasha Oda — the founder, creator and designer of Archerade, a locally produced jewelry line, is highly conscientious of this. She provided insight into her process — from inspiration to the physicality of holding a finished piece and the timeline associated with producing it. Based in Toronto, Oda has been intensively developing her line for just over a year. The pieces she creates are carefully curated, evolving into a signature style. We discussed working on her craft and her experience establishing herself as an artisan in the Toronto community.

Sasha Oda in her studio

The Spark

Inspiration can strike at any time. Oda discussed how anything she encounters can create that spark. With so many other designers on Instagram and social media, it is a good tool to implement influential images. Oda believes it is a great tool for finding inspiration via design and architecture, but makes a point not to follow jewelers, as means of preventing their work from influencing hers and keeping a distinct style.

Design class created an effective means of translating ideas into motifs through sketching. She continuously draws as a means to evolves her ideas through each rendering. With unlimited output on a design and allowing the ideas to come to as much fruition as possible, she doesn’t use an eraser, dismissing none of her

Jørn Utzon’s sketch of the Sidney Opera House

ideas. By terminating nothing, this allows her to take ideas further from this starting point, play with the dimensions, and then refine from there. The key technique for developing pieces is to utilize drawing as a thought process — working out the lines and general shape first, then the design. Recently, she fabricated a ring in a minimalist design of the Sidney Opera House from a copy of the architect Jørn Utzon’s plans. Each arch on the Opera house is carefully translated into 5 of minimalist peaks on finished ring. Ultimately, a long process, however, it effectively utilizes the translation from inspiration to design stage.

Minimalist take on the Sidney Opera House

Sasha became involved in the goldsmith trade after meeting a goldsmith who at a crafts fair and discussing what he did. After returning from teaching in Japan, she took an Introduction to Goldsmith course at a local college. One of the biggest draws to the field was the idea of hands on learning; building something from scratch with your hands. After finishing the course and working in a non-related field for a year, she eventually started to look for a studio environment. Her current studio has about 10 people utilizing the working space which also runs classes from the premises. The studio is well equipped for everything she might need, including all the tools required for the casting technique, something not always provided in a goldsmith’s studio, as many choose to outsource casting. Sasha has always been casting her own work and she was kind to outline her physical process of creating pieces below.

The Process

Once a specific shape is finalized after sketching, she begins carving out the physical piece from wax at a larger than life size, as it will shrink during the casting process. The surface design work can be added at this time. Sasha continues this process until she is content with the piece. We talk about the carving process, the idea of physically building something from scratch and how therapeutic it can be. The next step is creating a fire-proof mould by immersing the wax in an clay-based substance leaving one of the end pieces of wax out and setting aside to dry until hardened. After both components are heated allowing the wax to melt away. This leaves an abscess intact version of the original hand-carved piece. The silver or gold can now be cast into the mould — pouring in enough to fill the void left by the wax. The precious metals are heated and then poured into a centrifuge allowing the material to be safely transported into the mould and hardened

A casting in process

into shape. After the individual pieces are cast, she assembles them together via soldering. She utilizes a wide variety of stones and gems — using turquoise, diamonds, opals, which are also added at this time. If there are small stone settings, she takes the work to a stone setter. As she occasionally uses diamonds that are smaller than millimetre this can be a real skill. We discussed her frustrations with the start-to-finish process, with the largest annoyance being time. With many ideas for new products and designs, she works on multiple projects at the same time — as of right now, she is at 4. Ultimately, Sasha is highly selective with her output and feels unable to sell a work she is not happy with. She wants to be excited about the finished work and be able to talk about. Now working more intensively, she has seen her individualistic style, not so much change as more narrowed down. And it is true; her pieces are more recognizable and individualistic.

The Business

Being an entrepreneur is time consuming —

with photography, social media, sourcing supplies and accounting all playing key roles. While it is fun to focus on the creative aspects, the business side must be fine tuned to the direction you want to follow. The studio atmosphere provides a fantastic support system — filled with other designers working towards similar goals. Being in the studio 6 to 7 days week, it is more than a full time commitment. Trade shows have provided a gateway for first hand customer feedback. Archerade previewed at the Etsy show last September, she described it as a busy and amazing experience.

Sasha is driven and passionate about her line, clearly dedicating large amounts of time and energy into it. It will be great to watch her grow as an artist and see her line develop.

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