10 QUESTIONS WITH CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY DESIGNER ELLINOR STENROOS of EVSTENROOS
CANARY favourite, and internationally renowned, jewelry designer and artisan Ellinor Stenroos is best-known for creating contemporary, handcrafted fine jewelry from the highest quality gemstones and precious metals available. Born and raised in Finland, and formally trained at the Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD) in the UK, Ellinor made the move from designing for others to designing under her own name in 2010 when she started her own company, EVSTENROOS.
EVSTENROOS' Accolades & Achievements include:
• Winner of Avenue Magazine's 'Calgary’s Best Wedding Jewelry' feature (2021)
• Reader's Choice Winner of Avenue Magazine’s first annual ‘Made in Alberta’ competition (2019)
• Collaborating with Canadian fashion designer Lauren Bagliore to bring a runway jewelry collection to the international stage at Toronto’s LG Fashion Week & the Mercedes-Benz national start-up final at the World MasterCard Fashion Week (2011, 2012)
• Being featured in global publications including: British Vogue, EnRoute, Western Living, The Globe and Mail & WestJet Magazine
1. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR JEWELRY DESIGN STYLE/AESTHETIC?
My design style has evolved over the years, but I’ve always been drawn to what I like to call “contemporary Germanic architectural style”: putting together exquisite, fine materials in a sort of industrial way.
Also, as much as I find it so cliché to say, nature and its organic way has had a huge influence on my design style. Growing up on a farm in very rural Finland, the landscape was quite barren. Extremely beautiful, but also very simple and clean...uncluttered.
A lot of people say there’s also a trace of Scandinavian style in my design work. I've never actively pursued or particularly felt that, but just by having grown up where and how I did the “less is more” concept is ingrained in me.
I believe that a good piece of jewelry can be simple; it doesn't need more details. It’s exactly how it’s supposed to be—it's complete as it is. I also feel strongly that a good piece of jewelry should be made to last, and I create with that in mind. I always say that I don’t create the gems, I just create the setting in which they live. So I’m very particular when it comes to selecting the best quality and most interesting gemstones and, as a certified silversmith and goldsmith, I take great care to construct pieces to withstand the tests of both use and time.
2. HOW DID GROWING UP IN RURAL FINLAND AFFECT YOUR APPROACH TO DESIGN?
Well, in addition to the influence of the landscape, my family didn't have a lot of money. And there wasn’t the opportunity to spend it on extracurricular hobbies and interests even if we did since there weren’t ballet or music lessons or movie theatres or malls nearby. Not having these influences meant I literally had to use my imagination and ingenuity to occupy myself.
I learned from a very young age to craft things out of what was available. The idea of “if I want something I have to build it” wasn't foreign to me. I created my own little stories, dolls, doll houses, etc., from what was at hand. Like, I would roam around my dad's garage and find interesting things to hang off of ribbons and cords and then call them necklaces. I’m so grateful for that since it gave me an innovative and creative mindset.
3. WHAT MOST INSPIRES YOUR CREATIVE APPROACH?
The innovation process involved really tickles my fancy. When I design something organically [non-consigned], I like to invent things…come up with cool things that I like for me at any given moment in time. What’s interesting is that when I create and wear these type of pieces for myself, it’s often not until two years later that people are like “Where did you get that? Where can I get that”? I do like setting a trend, even if I’m a bit early!
I also enjoy creating with a purpose specifically for someone [consigned], knowing that I'm designing something meaningful and beautiful for them that's also going to work for their lifestyle.
When designing a consigned item, I’m often asked to create a piece that's my take or approach to something that's already been done. That’s what many people are most comfortable with; it’s what they have seen and know. I do try to push the envelope a little bit, knowing that I'm familiar with more variety, gemstones, materials and ways of putting things together. After all, it’s my job to let people know that when they think there are 10 possibilities, there’s actually 100. And from there we can start to think about what could be and narrow it down from there.
4. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PRECIOUS METALS TO USE WHEN CREATING JEWELRY?
I'm a huge fan of platinum because it’s always exactly what it's supposed to be. For instance, many people prefer white gold since it’s more affordable. But, white gold is treated (rhodium-plated) to look like platinum, and will need to be polished and re-plated about once a year. This can affect its structure and durability over time. Platinum certainly dings up and dulls down over time like any other precious metal, but is good as new after a professional clean and touch up.
I also love 18 karat yellow gold. It just has this richness and warmth to it that can’t be imitated.
5. FAVORITE GEMSTONES?
I go through phases, but I've always been a huge fan of Zircons. Many people confuse these with cubic zirconia’s since they’re usually not familiar with Zircons—but they’re so different! There’s a certain fire in Zircons, a sense of mystique and intrigue that makes them exquisitely appealing.
6. WHAT KIND OF PERSON WEARS YOUR JEWELRY?
Well, everyone is different! But there are common traits: they have a confidence about them...they're not scared of being independent in their style or showing their individuality. They’re worldly; they’ve travelled, seen and experienced different things. They want jewelry that looks good and works well, have a sort of practicality: “I know what I like, I like what I like, but it also needs to work with my life”.
7. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT REDESIGNING/REPURPOSING CLIENT’S HEIRLOOM OR PRE-LOVED JEWELRY IF IT DOESN’T SUIT THEIR PERSONAL STYLE IN THE CURRENT SETTING?
When asked to redesign existing stones into a different jewelry setting, I do enjoy the challenge and creativity involved—but prefer to start with great quality gemstones since that is a hallmark of my design.
For example, commercially graded gemstones won’t ever look as good as higher quality, hand-selected, hand-cut gemstones no matter how stunning the new setting is. Commercially graded gems tend to be the most basic of colours and cuts, and just don’t have the same interesting inclusions, or fire, to them.
That being said, while it would be really wonderful if we all had the highest quality of gemstones to work with, I know that’s not always possible. So, if a client comes to me with a piece that may not have the highest quality of gemstones, but it means something to them, I’ll take on the challenge of making it look as great as possible. After all, I would rather create a lovely piece with them than not at all! Perhaps down the road the client will decide to, or can more easily afford to, incorporate higher quality gemstones into the piece to make it exceptional.
8. DO YOU HAVE A MOST-TREASURED PIECE OF JEWELRY IN YOUR PERSONAL COLLECTION?
I do have a couple, but one that means a lot to me is a necklace I designed before I started my own business. I was working for a high-end retail jeweler, and they gave me all the freedom in the world to create a piece. I chose to be really daring to make a truly wow item.
I feel I achieved that with the finished product: an orange beaded Carnelian necklace with a Topaz stone. My employer surprised me by gifting it to me because they knew I loved it so much. That was incredibly generous and kind of them, and I so love that it became mine.
It’s a bit of an unconventional piece, but every time I wear it I feel wonderful—and receive multiple compliments by friends and perfect strangers alike.
9. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OWN PERSONAL SENSE OF OVERALL STYLE WHEN IT COMES TO APPAREL?
Probably like most designers, I find it difficult to stray away from black and neutrals most of the time! I prefer a monochromatic look over prints or lots of color. This kind of wardrobe provides a sort of easy canvass where the jewelry I wear can really stand out and be the focus.
I gravitate toward items that are well-made and well-designed since, true to my Finnish nature, I want them to last. My go-to going out style is most often a black dress and a pair of killer heels. And fabulous jewelry, of course!
10. TELL US 3 RANDOM/FUN FACTS ABOUT YOURSELF:
1. Food and wine are a huge passion of mine. I like cooking and eating new and different things…even trying crazy things! I enjoy having the full experience of fine dining, but I’m also not above licking pizza grease off my fingers (I’m a pizza aficionado. I love pizza, and have eaten a lot of it at a lot of different places—if anyone ever wants a recommendation I can tell them where they should go)!
2. I love photography. I got into it when I was 15 or so. I love the process of capturing how I see the world and how I see things; shapes, forms, colors, textures—as you can tell from my Instagram feed! I consider my photos as sort of my mental scrapbook…my inspiration scrapbook.
3. Not being able to travel since 2020 – which I love, love, love to do – I recently learned how to fly fish. I like being able to escape and spend time on the water here in Calgary. I find the repetitive nature of aiming and casting incredibly meditative and calming.