Samantha McAdams, Toronto jewellery designer.

Samantha McAdams, Toronto jewellery designer.

A multimedia project for Sheridan Journalism - New Media. Scroll down for a video of our conversation, a photo gallery of Samantha's favourite pieces, and an original podcast! 

“More is more,” is Samantha McAdams’ philosophy. I could have guessed that, judging by the six sparkling studs trailing up her ear lobes, or the silver rings wrapping every other finger on her hands. As a jewellery designer, you are your own canvas, and Samantha has embraced that outlook since she was five years old.

It is a rare gift when a childhood hobby becomes a career. The hundreds of different paths available to young people nowadays can be overwhelming. Yet, for Samantha, the choice to pursue fine arts was not much of a choice at all, but the continuation of a passion that never seemed to let up. “Ever since I was a little kid,” she said, “I was always playing with little things, making things, always the last one at the craft table…I knew that art was the pathway for me.”

In high school, Samantha experimented with photography and theatre, and spent her weekends hosting kid’s birthday parties at the local jewellery craft store. The idea of jewellery as a real career began to take root when she watched the store’s owners live their passion. “They knew so many different things about the industry,” she said. “I thought it was so cool and I saw that they were having a lot of fun with what they were doing, and I wanted to do that too.”

With a degree from OCAD under her belt, Samantha took a year off to work at a jewellery store in her hometown of Oakville, Ontario. She earned extra money on the side doing repair jobs and custom designs for friends and family. Through word of mouth, demand for her services grew, and so did her bank account. Although it was exciting to earn a living doing what she loved, she felt stuck. “I was unable to take on certain jobs because I didn’t really know where to start,” she said. “They were things that I have dreamed of doing, you know, bridal, working with gemstones, doing really high-end jewellery repairs.”

Samantha's workbench. Photographed by Hailey McAdams.

Samantha's workbench. Photographed by Hailey McAdams.

Two years later, she graduated from George Brown College as a trained goldsmith. “I remember asking my parents if they thought that I was taking the easy way out by going back to school for two more years,” she said, “but they backed me up one hundred per cent.” The scholarship she earned from GBC has allowed her to begin the process of starting her own business as a jewellery designer.

Through the ups and down of her career, she believes she was able to stay on track with the support of “a lot of really wonderful mentors.” Over the years, working under industry leaders like Toronto’s Dean Davidson and Sicily’s Malafimmina has shown her that success in the jewellery field “can be possible.” While the new business will be challenging, Samantha said she would have been a lot more anxious without role models to guide the way.

Her greatest mentors will always be her parents, who taught her “before anything else, to just be a really good person.” Her father, Kevin, works in finance. A small business owner himself, he taught Samantha to never give up on making her dreams a reality. Her mother, Amelia, is a nurse who stayed at home during her four children’s early years. “She would keep all kinds of old colourful things for me to glue together,” she said, “beads, glass, ceramics, paper.”

Samantha’s face lit up in a rosy smile when she remembered her first taste of creativity. “I was in my happiest place sitting at a big, messy craft-table, just doing whatever I wanted,” she said, “and I still do that.”

Memories of time spent gardening with her father and playing dress up in her mother’s clothes have left their mark on her designs. “Different pieces are inspired by my past,” she said. One of Samantha’s creations hung from her neck, a silver butterfly curved outwards, as if in flight. “I am inspired by what is going on in the industry right now,” she said, “but I would also like to think that I have my own take on it.”

The next chapter in Samantha’s career has been years in the making. Even after all the preparation, it will be her biggest challenge yet. “It’s a little bit scary,” she said of starting her own business, “but I kind of always knew that doing something like this is what I’d be happy doing.”  Like most artists, she is fearful that her creations may not do well enough to pay the bills. But her hesitations are quiet in comparison to her confidence about her skill and passion for the work. “I know I’m going to work really hard,” she said, “…it’s what I love to do.”

I asked Samantha to share five pieces that have influenced her as an artist. View the slideshow to see which ones made the cut!