When children grow up, they may find themselves in an unexpected — and occasionally, unwanted — line of work. But that isn’t the case with Galadriel Rael, whose business is a natural progression of her childhood fascination.
“I, as a little girl, was a rockhound,” she said. “I was obsessed with rocks. I always had rocks in my pocket.”
As Rael grew older, she began to study crystals.
“I guess that was a precursor to jewelry,” she said.
Rael now operates La Gala Jewelry in Crawford Bay, where she offers all types of jewelry, much of which, particularly intricate silver pieces, she makes.
Her exploration of jewelry began with beading, which morphed into an interest in silver. To expand her skills, she studied silver smithing in Mexico City, but it was several years before she turned it into a career.
To get started on a career path, she took a beginners silver course at the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson — although she had the skills, she needed the studio time.
Rael opened her Crawford Bay store, next to Dog Patch Pottery, in 2004, when she finally decided to turn her art into making a living.
“It was really exciting,” she said. “I had worked across the street at the Forge and Furnace Gallery, finding irony in the fact that I was selling other people’s art.”
Her shop added to the East Shore hamlet’s diverse array of artisans, including broom makers, weavers and blacksmiths.
“The more, the merrier,” said Rael. “The more we offer, the more reason there is for people to make the trip on this very winding road.”
The products in her shop include both precious and semi-precious gemstones, and earrings, rings, necklaces and silver pendants she makes.
Other local products found at La Gala are fused glass jewelry from Crawford Bay and stone pendants set in leather, made by a retired geologist in Boswell.
Among the most unique pieces are butterfly wing pendants from Peru; the wings are sustainably harvested, providing jobs for indigenous people.
For the products not made by Rael, their origins are of extreme importance — they must be local, or have an environmentally friendly or humanitarian component to their creation.
Some clothing in the shop, for example, is made of cotton and bamboo, while the silk cloth is recycled and fair trade. Also on display are recycled paper beads made by women in Uganda.
Rael’s silver pieces are easy to spot, with intricate layers on top of other intricate layers to form jewelry both unique and breathtaking. Some of those specialty pieces, she said, can take six to 10 hours to make.
“Those are the ones I get the most pleasure out of,” said Rael. “I come at them like an artist with a painting. I don’t come at it with a strong idea of what it will be. I just keep building and building.”
Because all of her jewelry is made by hand, with no moulds or castings, each earring in a pair, while similar, is not identical, adding an additional touch of distinctiveness.
And to maintain the uniqueness, Rael doesn’t copy or simulate anything current and popular.
“I tend not to find inspiration in magazines or modern art,” she said. “I’m more attracted to Victorian and art deco … And, of course, the beauty of the Kootenays.”
And she avoids custom work — in replicating a required design, much of the creative process is lost.
“When I endeavour to make jewelry, I’m very intentionally trying to make something different,” she said.
But there is one aspect of her business she can guarantee she enjoys.
“I get to play with pretty things all day.”