Photos by MARITES N. SISON and RENELYN QUINICOT
By BEATRICE S. PAEZ
The bullet shells just sort of fell into her hands is how Renelyn Quinicot explained her decision to take a shot at using recycled materials or found objects to make wearable art.
A beloved teacher had passed on the discarded shells and encouraged Quinicot to repurpose them. It triggered her exploration into jewelry making. Restless and undetermined in her artistic pursuits, the gift had come at an opportune moment.
Earlier, Quinicot had taken part in Clutch, a youth arts program run by Kapisanan Philippine Centre, a Filipino-Canadian arts and cultural centre in Toronto. She decided to bite the bullet by using the seed money it provided to participants in order to fund her venture.
The program’s workshops and circle of creative mentors had provided Quinicot with a gateway to learning different artistic practices, from fashion to graphic design.
“I never had money to take classes for the stuff I wanted to pursue,” Quinicot said, emphasizing the life-changing impact the program had on her. “I came from actually nothing in the art world, and left feeling like I had everything.”
She found herself surrounded by a community of artists, willing to indulge her curiosity in music, photography, and eventually, jewelry making.
With its immense versatility and decorative functionality, the necklace became her canvas of choice. To her, they reveal as much about an artist’s state of mind as much as a photograph captures a person’s mood.
“It’s an interesting way to give art,” she said. “You can carry it around with you all day. It’s a way for people to give off an emotion.”
She named her business Espada, which means “sword” or “blade” in Spanish, in keeping with her vision for pieces that embody strength and independence.
Her off-kilter designs strike an intriguing balance of “harsh and dreamy” elements, incorporating bullet shells, crystals, the hand of a grandfather clock, and screws, which enjoy wide appeal among both men and women.
Conscious that mixing bullets and crystals are on trend, Quinicot decided to go for a makeshift approach in her execution, with chains not aligning in a perfect scoop around the neck. “I try to always make it look weird or off,” she explained.
The first piece that the caught attention of BlogTO, a trend-setting weblog that reviews everything from art exhibits to boutiques, was a used screw scavenged from her father’s toolbox, fixed horizontally on a set of copper-coloured chains. The necklace’s unvarnished treatment of the materials gave her an edge over other artists with an eye for recycled parts.
While the charming imperfections are what make her designs distinct in its sensibility, Quinicot acknowledged that she is still honing her craft.
When she had vague ideas of how to execute her designs, fellow artists reached out and showed her how to develop a discerning eye for identifying the chains and rings that are most functional.
“I didn’t know much about how to put a functional necklace that will stay together,” Quinicot said, citing instances when her work would just fall apart. “But I knew how to make a visually appealing one.”
The process of discovery is one of trial and error, digging for the right combination of materials, she said.
Quinicot believes in letting things unfold naturally and isn’t afraid to dive into unknown territory – a perspective that she has applied to her art, with success.
To illustrate: She never purposefully hunts for unusual objects, and can be easily convinced to crash a stranger’s birthday party. Her mentor, Toronto indie musician Maylee Todd suggested she tag along with her to attend a local dancer’s bash and market her creations there. “I brought six necklaces with me and I got a bunch of friends to wear them and show up at this party,” she said. “We were complete strangers, but it really struck people.”
Crazy as it was to show up uninvited, her rogue tactics worked, she sold her necklaces and attracted people to her website.
Rather than relying mainly on Internet and market sales to build demand, Quinicot roams the party circuit, styling herself to match the spirit of the design that she’s wearing and promoting.
The best way to share your work, she explained, is to connect with people on the ground. “You can sit around at a market all day, but you’re just another jeweler. Nobody can sell your brand better than you can.”