If you’ve ever found yourself examining your career path or torn between life choices, answers can sometimes arrive in unexpected forms. For Vancouver-based jewelry designer Negar Khatami, her answers arrived in the form of junk mail.
Fuelled by her desire for a passionate and fulfilling career, Negar founded Katami Designs and now lives her dream every day. She pours her creativity into handmade earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings to create intricate jewelry that is just as unique as she is.
Jewelry design was not always in your career aspirations; tell me a little about the events and things that led you to where you are now.
NK: After graduating from business school, I thought I was going to work my way to becoming a stockbroker or bank manger. But somewhere along the way, things changed internally and I felt the need to search for a different career — one that was fulfilling and enabled me to follow my passion. Like many people, I didn’t know what it would look like; the only thing I knew was that I would do something that I loved and it would nurture my soul.
A few months later, a flyer from Vancouver Community College came in the mail for some continued education courses. Normally, I throw junk mail into the recycling bin, but this time I felt like maybe there was something in it for me. After some deliberation, I decided to enroll in a jewelry-making course to see where it would take me. It was a long shot, but I had nothing to lose, and an experience to gain. The first time that I cut my first piece of sterling silver sheet, I got a huge rush of excitement. I still feel it to this day when I cut metal, and I hope that it will never go away.
After I finished the course and learned the basics, I took classes from a talented German goldsmith to learn more hands-on techniques. I turned a small storage room in my house into my workshop and would cut metal and create jewelry after work hours. It eventually became very clear to me that my little workshop wasn’t able to supply the demand that my business was experiencing, so I had to do something about it.
Darrin (my fiance/business partner) and I decided to turn a warehouse in the historical Cedar Cottage area of Vancouver into a beautiful, spacious studio. It’s like a little piece of heaven and has also allowed me to create a small artist community; I have four independent artists that rent a jewelry bench and we all share the main area of the studio.
In an effort to ensure a quality final product, you learned how to do all your own casting. What is casting and how does it fit into the jewelry-making process?
NK: Casting is an ancient process in which we turn wax carvings into metal. Not everything can be created with metal, and that’s why the masters before me discovered this method that is still being used today. Through a certain process and by using equipment and a variation of high temperatures, we melt the wax in an investment compound and then pour the molten metal into the compound to create the piece in metal.
The casting process is always amazing; it’s very satisfying to see a piece come to life right in front of my eyes.
Your Aevum collection was inspired by Eastern iconography and doorknockers. What sparked this collection and how did you go from seeing a doorknocker to creating one in a pendant form?
NK: Aevum is an accumulation of years of inspirations. I was born and raised in Iran, a country with natural beauty, culture, and design. Later, I traveled around the world in historical countries with my camera and captured a common theme in each of these cities, towns, and villages: old doors with ornate doorknockers.
I became fascinated with them, and eventually discovered that doorknockers are meant to ward off evil spirits at the entrance to a building. And there it was: the history, the purpose, the design, and the idea.
The name for my collection, Aevum, came from the term Aeviternity, which in medieval science means “the proper measure of existence for the saints in heaven” and “the proper sphere of every created spirit, and therefore of the human soul.” Each design is associated with a Roman god or goddess with the intention to ward off evil spirits.
What type of materials do you use for your jewelry? How do you suggest taking care of silver jewelry?
NK: I use sterling silver and 14/18K white and yellow gold. I also use semi-precious beads, pearls, and precious stones.
My advice for taking care of jewelry is simple: wear it and enjoy it. You may occasionally want to use a polishing cloth on sterling silver pieces to shine them up.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far as a Vancouver jewelry designer?
NK: Finding everyone I work with. I now have the dream team that I’ve always wanted, but it took a long time for me to find the gems in the city.
What advice do you have for anyone who can relate to your story?
NK: My advice is to never give up on your dreams and always keep them alive in your heart. No matter what you do, enjoy it; if it is not making you happy, find a way to change it. Making a choice can be overwhelming, but at the end of the day, choices are what steer our lives to the directions we dream of.