Martha Sturdy returns to jewelry after 20-year hiatus

Limited collection features brass and resin wearables

After decades of focusing on her sculpture and furniture design, West Vancouver's Martha Sturdy is returning back to "wearable sculpture" with a new, limited collection.

Sturdy started out designing jewelry and made a name for herself internationally when her designs graced the covers of fashion magazines worldwide, including being in Vogue and appearing on catwalks in New York and Europe with fashion designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein - to name a few.

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"They're all handmade," she says. "A lot of people picked up on that because they've been saying to me for years, 'When are you going to do another collection?' And I go, 'Never.' But, in the end I did a very art-driven collection."

Sturdy previewed her wearable sculpture collection at the IDSWest convention in late September, but people can still view the pieces as she recently opened up her Vancouver studio to the public for viewing and shopping. "We're doing a lot of sculpture and art and furniture and we wanted to get the general public to be aware of what we're up to," she adds.

The wearable art was all designed by Sturdy and made by her in-house artisans, which she says makes them all one-of-a-kind. "Every single one will be different because they're hand done," she adds. "It really makes a statement."

The materials composing the pieces are either brass or resin, which are signature ones utilized across all her designs and work.

The artisans who work with Sturdy have done so for about 20 to 30 years, she notes, which helps with the quality behind each piece. "It's about the integrity of the creation," she says. "I make things that I would wear, that I like, and if I don't like it you don't get to see it." Sturdy says people were always remarking about her handmade jewelry and it led to her sharing it through her studio.

"I was making things for myself," she notes. "I just create all the time and so I just decided maybe I should do it since people like it so much. It's a limited collection and it's only available at our studio. It's not going to be wholesale all over the place." Although she first started out doing jewelry after graduating from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, by the early 1990s she moved into home décor with a collection of resin tabletops and home accessories.Eventually, her work went in a bold direction with large-scale items such as 12-foot brass dining tables, seven-foot steel plates, resin floating tables and sculptural chairs.

Her furniture, like her wearable sculptures, are all handcrafted in her Vancouver studio.

"I have a strong integrity about what I'm up to," Sturdy says, noting she designs things she would want herself instead of aiming to please everyone. "I don't do it that way."

Sturdy says she draws her inspiration from the environment around her. Although she has a home in West Vancouver, she splits her time with her farm in Pemberton. Her walks in the forest on her farm led her to incorporate cedar into her furniture.

Sturdy's latest wall sculptures were inspired by ice, water and snow as she spends a lot of time outside in Pemberton. When she observed the weather's impacts on the river - from freezing to melting - she said it led to her series appreciating that environment.

"I'm very interested in everything," she says. "What I like to talk about on every level is appreciate all the wonderful things we have in Canada, the environment."

After decades of producing her work, Sturdy says she has no intention of slowing down.

"The thing for me is (when) people say, 'Well, when are you going to retire? And the answer is, 'Never,'" she says.

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