Meet the Maker: Samantha McAdams
When you know, you know: From a very young age, it was clear that goldsmith and jewellery designer Samantha McAdams was born to make gorgeous things (trinkets, if you will). We caught up with her to hear about how she got her start in fine jewellery, and what's next on the horizon.
Trinket: How did you first get into jewellery design? Why are you so passionate about it?
Samantha McAdams: I have always loved working with my hands, and ever since I was little, I've loved playing with beads and crafts. I was drawn to all things visual. And then, as I got older, there was a bead store in downtown Oakville where I grew up, and, basically, when I was 13, I was in there so much that they gave me a job. I started teaching at birthday parties, and eventually ran summer camps there. I was obsessed with the art form and the outlet.
T: And that continued into high school and beyond?
SM: I made jewellery as a hobby in high school, and then, when it came time to go to post-secondary, I knew I wanted to do something in the arts but didn't realize there were jewellery programs available. I ended up going to the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). The first year was a fine arts baseline, where you tried a bunch of different disciplines, and you chose a major the second year. But once I was there, I heard rumblings of a program called Material Art and Design, which was goldsmithing, metal-smithing, soldering...I was fascinated and knew it was something I had to do. So, I ended up getting a Bachelor of Design degree.
T: That's very cool. Were you able to go right to building your own business at that point? What was the next stop in your career?
SM: Once I got out of school, I knew I wanted to continue making jewellery, but I didn't want my work to be in an art gallery. I wanted people to be able to wear it, and I didn't want every piece to cost $10,000. So, I worked in a fine jewellery store for a year after I graduated, and then ended up going back to school at George Brown College to do a two-year Jewellery Methods diploma. I think because I was a little older and had already done the school thing, I just dove in and completely immersed myself. Then, in the middle of that program, I was given a scholarship to apprentice in Sicily, in Italy. It was the chance of a lifetime, working in a female-run fine jewellery business. I remember thinking, knowing, "This is why I'm here."
T: You're lucky. Lots of people never find that. So how did you end up starting Samantha McAdams Jewellery?
SM: I launched SMJ right after I graduated from George Brown. I worked at Birks in the Eaton Centre in Toronto, but I was setting up my own business at the same time. I started having people approach me for custom jobs, and I knew I wanted to get into that, so I came to Made You Look (a Toronto jewellery design collective) and really hit the ground running. That was just over three years ago.
T: So is the majority of your work custom design?
SM: Right now it is. It keeps me super busy, and it's in high demand. But I've learned so much working with people on their pieces, which has informed how I want my jewellery to look, and how it does look. There is an aesthetic that just comes naturally to me. That was always something I struggled with, because I love jewellery so much and never knew what style I wanted to pursue. The custom work has helped me to refine that better.
T: Your designs feel classic, like heritage or vintage pieces, with really stunning details. Would you say that's fair?
SM: I'd like to think so! That would be such a compliment. I definitely connect with the sentiment and emotion attached to jewellery, so I really love high-quality, antique pieces. I'd like to create jewellery in the same space. My pieces are meant to last a lifetime, so I'd like the aesthetic to be just as timeless.
T: So, what's the next step for you?
SM: I'm currently working on a bridal collection that should be ready to launch in the next year or so. The pandemic has obviously pushed it to the sidelines a little bit, but that's the goal. I want to focus on branded pieces and create a look to my work and my business.
Scroll down for some of Samantha's gorgeous work (in a range of price points, whether you're in the market for a special keepsake piece for a friend or family member or a stunner of a ring to become a family heirloom). Want to learn more? Check out instagram.com/samanthamcadasjewellery.