Sydney-native Angela Grace Arsenault’s jewelry exhibit, Sinners and Saints, closes this week (Wednesday, March 28), after a month on display at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, but that won’t be the last you see of this talented young artist’s work. In fact, the next time you see Angela Grace Jewelry may just be on the red carpet.
“Last Wednesday I was contacted by Nathalie DuBois of DPA in Los Angeles,” says Arsenault. “She asked me if I would like to bring my work to the Cannes Film Festival. Of course, I was dubious at first because the offer seemed a little too good to be true and came out of thin air. I did some research and found out that DPA is the world’s most highly regarded and best known gifting suites at events such as The Golden Globes, The Toronto International Film Festival, and The Cannes International Film Festival, and is the only gifting suite at the Venice Film Festival.”
As it turns out, DuBois is responsible for taking Cape Breton handbag designers Michique to the Toronto International Film Festival, the Golden Globes, and Cannes, so she receives the newsletters from the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design.
“That is where she found me,” Arsenault explains. “In Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design’s most recent newsletter, they featured my show, Sinners and Saints. Nathalie saw my work, loved it and looked me up.”
Sinners and Saints features Arsenault’s unconventional, hand-made, fine jewelry. She combines excellence in technique, imagination, artistry and sense of humour to create highly wearable works of art on a small scale. Angela Grace Jewelry is made of sterling silver, gold, copper, brass, wood and other alternative materials, raw gemstones, and high quality cut stones. All materials are sourced as locally as possible, recycled when possible and works are produced without the use of the harsh chemicals usually associated with the jewelry industry.
“I have made a lot of knuckle dusters (double finger rings) and oversized and exaggerated pieces,” says Arsenault. “I have primarily used stones in their natural crystalline structure with a sprinkling of cut stones. Most pieces are constructed and a few are lost wax cast or cuttlebone cast (cast in the bone of a cuttlefish). Some pieces are a combination of both casting and construction. I have used a variety of stone setting techniques – basket settings, tube settings, bezel settings for example. Sterling silver, rose and yellow gold, bronze, brass and copper are the main materials used in this series – aside from the stones, most of which are quartz.”
“In the past, in my gallery work, I have concentrated on unwearable works. The Sinners and Saints series is a combination of the wearable, unwearable and implausible.”
Arsenault says she developed the exhibit during a summer residency at the Centre.
“I had to propose the idea for the show before I was accepted for the residency at the CBCCD. I proposed Sinners and Saints from the very beginning and I feel that I had a very clear vision the whole way through. I was thinking about Saints (the traditional kind) and I thought about how they walk a fine line and often meet a violent end and are sainted afterward. For example, Joan of Arc or Saint Sebastian (two of my personal favourites for mythology), they had to ‘sin’ and be judged, persecuted and meet a horrible end before they attained their sainthood. Essentially they were very controversial characters in their time – misfits. This made me think of controversial characters in recent history and the way they compare—especially celebrities in art, music, literature and film. It made me think that maybe Keith Richards, James Dean, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Oscar Wilde, Candy Darling, Freddie Mercury, Bukowski, William Burroughs, Kurt Cobain, etc. are our modern saints. They existed on the fringes of society at some point before their rise to ‘Sainthood’ in the counter-culture of the time and place. They are antiheroes. Controverisial, freakish saints.”
Arsenault was born into and raised by a family of creatives on Cape Breton Island. Moved by a desire to further nurture her creativity, she attended Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, graduating with a BFA in 2004. In 2007, Angela attended the Jewelry Art and Design Program at Vancouver Community College. She received the prestigious Circle Craft Award for her 2009 VCC graduating show, Bibliophile I. Upon graduating from VCC, Angela was an artist in residence in the jewelry studio of the Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design in Halifax. There her work was included in the group exhibition, Propel. In winter 2010, Arsenault’s series, Bibliophile II, was exhibited at the Circle Craft Gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver, BC.