This time on the Living Jewelry project, I have Margaret Kus, of Wolf Dottir. We were across the aisle neighbours at the One of a Kind show last winter. Rather than just stare across at each other for 11 days straight, we started talking and quickly became friends.
Margaret is one of the loveliest, most encouraging people I know – and she tops it all off with a wicked sense of humour. Her subversive plate designs fly in the face of traditionality while simultaneously paying homage to the vintage designs. If you fancy a bit of playful dark humour, a trip through her instagram is a must.
So, here we go!
Welcome Margaret! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Margaret and I am the artist behind Wolf Dottir, I grew up in Northern Ontario and currently reside in Hamilton where I live with my husband and three dogs that I call “the yucky gang”.
I got my start doing re-touching and graphic design. I did a lot of retouching for the fashion industry, working on images for everyone from American Vogue to Vera Wang. But it became very repetitive, boring and soulless. It wasn’t a good fit in a lot of ways, so I gave up on trying to pursue jobs in that realm and turned instead to making art again.
Wow! So how did you transition from corporate retouching to making humourous china plates?
When I left photo editing, I started painting. First on canvas and then I began using antique plates as a medium. I liked the idea of transforming something so formal and precious into something more subversive.
Bone china tends to be the type of ephemera that is associated with grandmothers and inherited familial obligation. I wanted to turn that on its head and make it relevant to today’s generation in a way that makes you think. And in a way that is fun and playful.
Well you’ve definitely been successful with that!
It sounds like you were suffering in a repetitive job without a creative outlet. Why do you think creativity is so important in life?
I have been an artist since I was little. And I have always expressed myself through art in one medium or another.
Creativity is the energy that fuels everything. It’s a necessary cycle of self-expression and exploration. For me it is soul food and making an idea tangible is one of the most satisfying things I can do.
Absolutely! In this crazy world we live in, the act of creating something, no matter how seemingly trivial, can give us a sense of control and achievement.
You used to work in the fashion industry, do you think that influenced your style?
Not really. I prefer to do my own thing.
I am obsessed with Scandinavian minimalism and I tend to stick to a colour palette of grey and black. If I had to give it a name I would call my look a “Viking Witch mashup”
That definitely paints the perfect picture! How does jewelry fit into the equation?
Most of what I wear are pieces that I have an emotional connection to.
Culturally I have always been taught the symbolism behind wearing jewelry. From the Claddagh ring to the symbol of the cross. I see them often as talismans and a visual statement about who you are and what you feel defines your identity.
And I feel that jewelry can tell a story about who you are.
I agree! If your jewelry told a story, what would it say?
It would say “I love nature, I value craftsmanship, and I might cut you”
I love it. Very specific! How do you get that message across?
I wear things that reflect nature in some way or have some sort of mystical connection. All of what I have is handmade, almost exclusively by jewelry makers I either know or admire.
I only wear a few things at a time, so I tend to go for larger pieces that really stand out – chunky rings and a statement necklace are my go-to.
If I’m feeling wild I’ll add some bracelets.
How does it make you feel when you put on those meaningful pieces?
Jewelry makes me feel put together and confident, it’s like the rug in the Big Lebowski: it ties the proverbial room together.
Hah. Totally off topic but I actually really love that rug – my amma had the same one in her living room, right under the claw foot couch.
That’s not off topic at all! It shows that objects can have emotional power – you like that rug because it brings up happy memories. Meaningful jewelry pieces are the same. They can be imbued with special energy I can feel when I touch them or look at them.
For example, my wedding/engagement band which I designed with the help of my goldsmith pal Jason Bellchamber. It means much more to me than any piece I could have picked up at a commercial jewelry store. Jason made that ring specifically for me and that level of care and attention is reflected not only in the quality of the piece but in the energy the piece emits.
What’s one piece of jewelry you never take off?
My wedding rings and my new Vegvísir pendant.
Oh man that makes my heart sing! That’s why I do this – I want to make things that are meaningful and special and that you never want to take off. That feeling never gets old.
What jewelry is at the top of your wish list?
Pretty much everything in your new collection Andrea.
Aaaand now I’m blushing!
On that note, I’ll call it a day. Thanks so much!
Thank you! You gave me an excuse to get dressed up and run around in the woods.
Do you really need an excuse to do that?
You can see and shop Margaret’s jewelry collection here.
Want to join the Living Jewelry Project? Have an interesting jewelry story to tell?
Fill out the application for consideration.