Treasure Hidden Inside a Pod
One of the questions people often ask business owner Sasha Shkolnik is where she came up with the name Juvelisto for her jewellery boutique. She explains the word stems from a universal language created in 1887 called Esperanto, and in this language the word for jeweller is juvelisto.
Sasha trained as an artist in her native Ukraine where she worked in the disciplines of oil paints and ceramics and she designed theatre props. During this time she also discovered jewellery making and began to create with clay and porcelain; this led to her dream of pursuing metal arts.
In 1995 she and her husband Leon Shkolnik and their young son decided to leave their homeland for a better life. Sasha mentions, “There was no economy for art during the recession in Ukraine and we saw no future for our family.”
While they had no previous connection to Canada they felt fortunate to have the opportunity to immigrate here. They arrived in the country with nothing, and like many immigrants worked their way from the ground up. Sasha enrolled in the respected Jewellery Art and Design program at Vancouver Community College while Leon worked at assorted jobs to support them. When Sasha completed her diploma it was Leon’s turn to attend school to train in computer studies.
Upon graduating Sasha approached Karl Stittgen in South Granville with examples of her work and she was instantly hired. Her career as a goldsmith continued to blossom during the 12 years she spent at Costen Catbalue in Kitsilano and finally at Bill Chow Jewellers in Kerrisdale until she decided it was time to consider opening her own business.
“I needed to find my own path. There was a lot to lose but also a lot to gain by going out on my own.” Sasha Shkolnik
Sasha and her family (their daughter was born here) have lived in Richmond since moving to Canada. On a weekend walk in Steveston in 2011 they spotted a for lease sign on a vacant Moncton Street storefront. Sasha dialed the number immediately and promptly signed an agreement.
Her concept was to create a European style boutique where customers could observe the creative process and communicate with the jeweller. Sasha’s bench was literally centre stage, located in the middle of the floor plan until the shop was renovated last year.
What will you find at Juvelisto? In addition to Sasha’s exquisite work she represents artists from Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia, Turkey and the United States.
Sasha’s creations are breathtaking. She draws inspiration from organic textures, shapes and nature. Her gorgeous nuts and pods collection is inspired by objects found in nature, such as pea pods and peanuts, which are cast in silver or bronze and set with different beads, pearls and gemstones. She describes this collection as “treasure hidden inside a pod.”
The primary focus of her business is custom work. This gifted artist has the talent to recycle and redesign sentimental pieces of jewellery into masterpieces. She loves hearing the stories that frequently accompany custom orders. She says with a smile, “The stories I hear and the people I meet are so diverse.”
She presents clients with beautifully rendered sketches (which are also works of art) depicting numerous ways new life can be breathed into a treasured possession. Metals can be recycled or reclaimed and gemstones can be used in new designs. Sasha’s creative mind conceives so many original possibilities it must be hard for clients to narrow them down to the final choice. Many of the orders involve a significant life event such as a birthday, wedding or anniversary. Sometimes clients have an idea of what they would like and other times Sasha is given free rein.
“I love my job. I am in the best profession in the world because I make people happy.” Sasha Shkolnik
Last year Leon left his career as an information technology manager to join the business. Sasha is appreciative of all his hard work and notes he is responsible for all of Juvelisto’s impressive professional photography. This is the first time they have worked together and they are enjoying the partnership.
Leon is also fully responsible for Juvelisto’s stunning renovation that took place in April 2015; he transformed the vacant retail space next door (formerly an ice cream shop) into Juvelisto’s School of Metal Arts. The two spaces are joined together with a spectacular sliding barn door constructed of steel and wrought iron created by local artist Miran Elbakian. Sasha mentions that much of the functional decor found at Juvelisto, including the door, is for sale.
Customers had always expressed an interest in jewellery making lessons; Sasha kept a list of names and over time saw there was a demand.
One year ago the school opened. This is a very unique concept, incorporating a school with a jewellery shop. The workspace is visible from the front windows. Sasha laughs when she mentions, “We have to clean the nose marks from curious passers by daily.”
Eight students can be accommodated in the attractively renovated space, seated around a striking custom-made bench constructed from reclaimed wood. Each workspace is equipped with its own tools. Classes and workshops are offered year round and benches are also rented to artists when classes are not in session. Leanne Guthrie is one of the instructors along with invited guest teachers including Andrea Roberts from Circle Craft and enamel artist Peggy Logan.
Depending on the project, participants can leave with their own creation the same day. Other classes take place weekly over a five to eight week period. All classes are project based and are designed to stimulate the imagination. It is entirely possible to create a piece from scratch without previous experience. Ideas for new classes are constantly germinating and Sasha is currently excited about the idea of offering a class for couples to design their own wedding bands.
Sasha concludes with a smile, “I love Steveston. There is a real sense of community with people supporting and helping each other. From day one people supported me and entrusted me by leaving their precious pieces with me.”
120-3500 Moncton Street
Richmond BC V7E 3A2