November 12, 2022

Contemporary Art Jewellery and the Craft Ideal

Session 1

Gabrielle Desmarais

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Desmarais


The studio craft movement solidified the concept of individual creative genius applied to craft. Individual genius is still crucial in current discourses around contemporary craft, notably contemporary art jewellery, which struggles to strip itself from the romanticism of studio craft to adopt various distinctive values of third-wave craft, where making stands in response to certain politics, fosters community engagement and is embedded in social networks. 

With the glorification of individual genius comes a never-ending search for the craft ideal: one that is loaded with notions of sacrifice, devotion and commitment. “True” artists are expected to devote themselves to material or technique, sacrifice their lives for the good of their work and constantly transcend our material culture through their practice. 

This discussion with jewellery artists Gabrielle Desmarais and Paul McClure, led by artist and independent curator Marie-Eve G. Castonguay, will touch upon the impact of such an ideal on the current art jewellery practice and how it resonates with artists today in a field that is stirred by a changing demographic. 

About Gabrielle Desmarais

Gabrielle Desmarais is a jeweller who lives and works between Chambly and Montreal. Graduating from the École de joaillerie de Montréal in 2010, Desmarais stands out for her artistic and aesthetic vision. Following her graduation, she took part in Le Labo (, Noel Guyomarc’h’s research workshop in Montreal, she continued at the Alchimia jewelry school in Italy and then explored the many possibilities of textiles at Concordia University in Montreal. She has received various distinctions, prizes and support for her research and experiments. Desmarais has participated in numerous national and international exhibitions and her jewellery is part of the permanent collections of the Musée des Beaux-Arts Décoratifs de Montreal and the Musée des Artisans du Quebec. 

In addition to her practice, she teaches at the Montreal Jewelry school workshops, where she shares her passion for jewellery while inviting students to explore the artistic boundaries in crafts and promoting free and uncensored creativity in the field of jewelry in Quebec. Among other things, she is a mentor for emerging artisans and participates on a jury for major exhibitions in Quebec. 

About Paul McClure

Paul McClure makes jewellery that is about, as it is for, the body. His work — through a melding of digital and analog making — reflects his interests in biology, pathology, mortality, additive manufacturing technologies and traditional jewellery methodologies. He renders microbiological forms like viruses and cells and magnifies them to express their power, prevalence and beauty. McClure is a leader in the contemporary craft and design community and an avid educator and professor in the renowned School of Jewellery at George Brown College in Toronto. His work is in many public collections, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Canadian Museum of History, the Design Museum of Barcelona, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the National Museums Scotland. He graduated with a BA from NSCAD University, Halifax, Canada, Escola Massana, Barcelona, Spain and the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland, with a Master’s degree. In 2015, McClure received the Saidye Bronfman Award, A Governor General’s Award: Canada’s foremost distinction for excellence in the visual arts.

About Marie-Eve G. Castonguay – Moderator

Marie-Eve G. Castonguay is a jewellery artist, writer and independent curator based in Montreal. She holds a diploma from the École de joaillerie de Québec and a BFA from NSCAD University, after which she completed a four-year residency at Harbourfront Centre. Castonguay is currently pursuing a MA in Art History at Concordia University. She has received numerous grants and awards, notably the Jean-Cartier Award in 2020. Her work was included in many exhibitions throughout Canada and internationally.  

An active jewellery and craft community member, she co-founded MetalAid, a Canadian contemporary jewellery network, and she is currently the Art Jewelry Forum Canadian Ambassador. Recently, she co-curated the touring exhibition Paysage de l’intime, and she is currently curating the Quebec exhibitions at the biennial Révélations, which will take place in Paris in 2023. 

Access Info

If you require wheelchair or accessible seating, please contact our Box Office ahead of time at or phone (416) 973-4000, Option 1 – Wednesday–Friday from 1-5pm.

Dates & Times

November 12
10:15am – 11:35am


Fleck Dance Theatre in Queen's Quay Terminal

207 Queens Quay West, 3rd Floor
Follow signs and take escalator or elevator

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Purchase of 1 symposium pass gives you access to all Shifting Ground Symposium events over the 2 day period.

Keywords Public ArtTalk/Storytelling