Be it money clips or wedding bands, making jewellery is the order of the day, every day, at The Den Toronto.
When you walk into The Den, located in Carleton Village, you get the sense that you’re entering a bicycle factory of sorts, except this one is not in a basement, it is not 2a.m. and you’re not assembling parts on the line. Greeted by some smooth tunes, fit for a warm Sunday afternoon, you know you’re here to have fun while making something sentimental.
Kristin “Krissy” Calkins, the brainchild and master of The Den offers a very rare experience in jewellery making. Hailing from Alberta, Krissy was “dropped off in Toronto like a hot potato” by her mother almost a decade ago, because she wanted to make sure her daughter realized her dream. At the time, Krissy, who was all set in Edmonton—near her family, with a good job and boyfriend—was not thrilled with her mother’s antics. “She made sure I had a place to stay and food in the fridge before leaving me to do what I do,” Krissy recalls, “but I was not happy about it.”
Not one to turn down a challenge, Krissy finished school and opened up shop in 2010 and in 2012 she started holding workshops for individuals and couples to make their own money clips and wedding bands.
Before the ring workshops, couples go in for a consultation where they can play with different types of metal; anything from rectangular, square, silver, gold and platinum. Here they decide on shapes, sizes, thickness of metal and various designs and really take the time to try different things because as Krissy reminds everyone: “You’ll be wearing it for the rest of your life.” Within 12 hours of the meeting, a couple of quotes are sent to be considered before participating in the actual workshop.
Looking around at all the different tools, Krissy can’t help but reminisce about how her grandfather—a very hands on, “Mr. fix it” kind-of-guy—used to “kidnap” her for the holidays where they would spend all summer building things by the lake and cottage. Her mother also made sure she was involved in all kinds of after-school activities, such as beading, pottery and other forms arts and crafts. But it was at 16 years old when something awe-inspiring caught her eye at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. A woman had made jewellery through a process called lost wax casting, where artists carve or make their pieces out of wax first then cast them into silver or gold.
Her grandfather’s friend also happened to be a jewellery maker and helped hone her skills even further. All signs were pointing in the right direction for Krissy.
She then took classes at City Art Centre in Edmonton and further jewellery making classes at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), majoring in Art History. Being the self-proclaimed calculus nerd that she is, she quickly mastered the art of mixing her own alloy, learning the density of a metal versus the volume of metal and unless you’re in the trade, your head will spin as she tries hard to make you understand all the processes involved. One thing’s for sure though, she knows what she’s talking about.
All the metal used at The Den is recycled, making it environmentally friendly. The Den acquires it from UMICORE ensuring that it is all quality controlled and government spot checked, although they also have their own metal tester.
But it’s not just about the metal. Should you wish to add some bling or any stone to your jewellery, The Den will find one that fits your wants and your pocket without compromising on the quality.
After about a four hour workshop, satisfied customers can take their money clips home. The rings however, remain with The Den so they can be appraised. This builds up the anticipation and is well worth the wait as those numbers often bring even bigger smiles to the customers. “Sometimes they throw me off too!” exclaims Krissy. It truly becomes a sentimental investment.
Every summer, The Den hosts a fundraising event, Femme Fatale, where different artists and vendors showcase and sell their products. The event is open to the public and filled with different activities alongside the displays, which include Venetian style glass blown products by Kris Watson. You can get your hair and makeup did as well as ink in a henna tattoo. There is a shisha lounge upstairs and outside there are balloons and a splash pool for kids to play in. All products cost under $20 and proceeds go to the charity of choice that year. It’s one big block party!
Krissy talks about:
The Den: “We also accept custom orders, particularly for body modification jewellery and we do repairs!”
Hobbies: “Mixology – I’m often called upon by different restaurants to set the drinks menu, I’m a social butterfly. I love it!”
Favourite tool: “Definitely the blow torch. Don’t worry it’s all controlled. Actually our most popular hashtag is #playingwithfire
Mum: “I’m thanking her all the time. I love what I do.”
Asked what super power she would like to possess: “When you go from one place to another…teleporting!” she yells out excitedly. Especially since she’s discovered Montreal and is starting to make more and more trips there—could something be brewing in Montreal? Watch this space: The Den.