Warm Metals and Powerful Patinas

Written by Rhonda Lee McIsaac

I like bringing multiple textures, mixed metals and aesthetics into each piece I create” she says. Through trial and error a work of art emerges, and when it doesn’t, she simply begins again.
“I’ve been making jewelry for a long time, but just recently got into metal smithing", Tammy Muller says about her artistic endeavours working with precious metals and gem stones. “Just before Covid 19 hit I had a series of life changing events happen, including the sudden loss of my mother, she explains. "I redirected my life and plunged into a deeper creative process that shifted my focus and practice. This time gave me a new found passion for making and working with my hands which was essential to my healing process" she shares. From this time the name Gigi & Grace was born, a name to honour her mother and grandmother.

Inspiration for GiGi & Grace Handmade Jewelry first started in Vancouver, while working for an arts store with others who attended art school and became drawn to the world of various arts. In her twenties and as a single mother she felt that art school was out of her reach. But now in her fifties, with her child grown, and with possibilities easier to navigate, she embraces the chance to pursue jewelry making on Haida Gwaii.

“Haida Gwaii and the people are amazing. There are so many talented artists working in a variety of different mediums, it’s all so inspiring” she gushes about the artists on Haida Gwaii.

Making jewelry in sterling silver, 14 carat filled gold, copper, brass, and embellished with gem stones, Tammy makes what she sees in the land and sea scapes.

“I like bringing multiple textures, mixed metals and aesthetics into each piece I create” she says. Through trial and error a work of art emerges, and when it doesn’t, she simply begins again.

Imagination, intuition, and specialized skills like soldering & riveting enable strong connections between two metals. “Some days will be soldering days and some days will not be. It doesn’t always work”, she states about the challenge of soldering. “It’s an intuitive organic process” she concludes.

Her favorite and most requested pieces are made of copper and brass with its unique patina brought out by weathering outside over time or by a chemical process and some good luck as well.

“Oxidation (patina) creates a one-of-a-kind batch. The next one is completely different and can be fun” she says of the process to create the discolouration on copper and brass. A lot of the process depends on the light and even the temperature outside which she has recently figured out.

“Sometimes the patina shows up turquoise or green and sometimes it’s black” she says of her process. Her most popular jewelry pieces are her patina earrings. 

Getting lost within the walls of her studio for hours at a time, working with her metals, she notes how easily it becomes an obsession.

While her imagination is limitless metalsmithing is no easy feat on the body, constant repetitive motions to mold and shape the metals can certainly pay their toll. She hammers and stamps the metals to achieve a a plethora of textures in her work.

The organic, intuitive effort she puts into her earrings is evident in the polished and sleek look she achieves. Her jewelry shines just as brightly as the smiles on many happy customers' faces.

Come see all of the stunning creations Tammy is producing through various retailers on and off the island and in her Shop Haida Gwaii Shop: Gigi & Grace, she is always a busy bee making new items and delighting us with her creations!

This article was written by Rhonda Lee McIsaac and photographed by Jessica Fairweather.

Rhonda is an Anishnawbek writer, journalist, and artist based on Haida Gwaii. Her work focuses on local, national, indigenous, and environmental issues.

Jessica is a Haida Photographer who was born and raised on Haida Gwaii. She has been practicing photography for 9 years and began her business "Studio Simone A." In 2020. She has experience with product, portrait, lifestyle, maternity, weddings, and many other forms of photography. 

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