This article is an interview with jewelry designer Gregore Morin. Read on to get his insights and genius behind his jewelry and designs!
“I strive to pay attention to everything around me and bring it into my work.” – Gregore Morin
How did you get started as a jewelry designer?
I didn’t know I wanted to be a designer right away. My high school required everyone to take a week off to work somewhere, and I asked to work for my neighbor, who manufactured jewelry. He kept me as a part-time worker in his Vancouver shop, Trio Diamond & Gold Jewellery, and after graduation, I became a full-time apprentice there. [Canada had a government-sanctioned apprenticeship program at the time.] During the night, I attended Vancouver Community College, and during the day, I worked.
How did you realize that you had a natural aptitude for the craft?
I was able to carve waxes very easily. It took no training. I liked wood carving as a child, and this was similar. When I started working with metal, I picked that up in less than a year. I became better than some of the teachers. They’d tell me that something couldn’t be done, and I’d do it. For example, they said that cluster setting was highly technical and couldn’t be made by hand without any jigs, and I did it.
What drew you to the field?
It was easy for me to do good work and get reasonable pay. I was originally going to go into computer graphics or industrial design, but illustration was heading toward computers and that didn’t intrigue me as much as hand drawing.
What was your career path?
I worked at Trio Diamond & Gold Jewellery for about five years. After that, I found a job at Valerie Hand Jewellery, a small boutique in Vancouver, where I worked for a year and a half. Then, there was Ragnar Jewellers for two years and Montecristo Jewellers for another two. Later, I moved to California to work for Silverhorn Jewelers, a place that was instrumental in a lot of jewelers’ careers. It was nice to study their drawings. [Past jewelers left their sketches at the shop.] Seeing how they thought inspired me.
How did you transition from being a technician to becoming a designer?
I didn’t pay much attention to design before Silverhorn. Becoming a designer was really hard work. I was drawing all day and weekend long, going through big sketchbooks in a week, capturing anything and everything. I’d bring drawings to the owners, and they’d ask me to make the piece if they were interested.
I opened my boutique in 2003, but still designed for Silverhorn while operating my own business until 2012. I wanted to be pushing the edge. I wanted to leave some residue behind when I’m gone, to put ripples into the system. I wanted some of my pieces to be remembered. Look at [Henri de] Toulouse-Lautrec—a hundred years ago, he was the most important artist, and [Vincent] Van Gogh wasn’t—that’s Why he cut off his ear. Now Van Gogh is more famous. The best you can do is be yourself. Be happy, do what you can do.
Who were some of your professional mentors and what are the most important lessons they have taught you?
I had good training. A jeweler from Switzerland—Gerald Wyler—taught me well. One person who was a huge mentor and taught me a high- level skill was Hon Chiu Wong, a jeweler who used to run
Workshops in Hong Kong and Japan. It would be hard to quantify all that they taught me. Also, the late James Currens was a mentor; he taught me that nothing was impossible.
What, if anything, surprised you about your chosen career path?
It’s all surprising. I remember sitting at the bench six months after graduation, filing, and thinking, “Is this all there is? Will I file for the rest of my life?” I thought that this was it, not realizing I’d become accomplished. All the stuff I’ve seen and done—it’s stupendous. There’s so much to do in our industry. We are so lucky! At the Tucson shows, I meet people who are miners, cutters, mounters, retailers. I enjoy the connections and friendships.
Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
I like where I am, but I wish I’d been able to work for Toni Cavelti. He couldn’t take on another apprentice at the time, and I wish I’d have pursued it more. He was the most important jeweler in Canada. Even though he told me to come back, I never did. I wasn’t the type of person who pursued my dreams with the intensity of some people. I was more of a go-with the-flow person.
What inspires you?
I strive to pay attention to everything around me and bring it into my work. Everything I see inspires me. I record it With writing, drawing, and cell phone photos. Yesterday I was inspired by some interesting shapes I saw online—of flowers. I snapped some pictures of them. Sometimes, my inspiration becomes a piece of jewelry, but most of the time, I honor my response [to whatever moves me] by recording it for future reference.
What advice would you offer to new jewelers?
Pay attention to everything. Be the voyeur in your own life. Be dedicated. We all lead tremendously rich lives. Record your observations.