When North Vancouver resident Kolton Babych was a boy, he would spend summers visiting his mother’s side of the family in Connecticut.
There, while he and his family relaxed poolside, Babych would watch his aunt making beaded jewelry. Babych was intrigued, so he too began to experiment with beading. By the age of nine he was selling his jewelry pieces, and at age 12 he started working with metal and goldsmithing.
“I took two courses with a friend and then taught myself,” the jeweller says over the phone from his home in North Vancouver, which also has a studio space.
Babych, who grew up in Deep Cove, is now 26 and his jewelry business in buzzing along with design credits for firms such as Juicy Couture, as well as award-winning television productions, to his name.
After completing his bachelors of fine arts in graphic design and printmaking from the State University of New York, Purchase College, in 2014, Babych set up his atelier in Vancouver, crafting ready-to-wear pieces for men and women.
The pieces are made mostly of silver, gold and gemstones and take organic, undulating forms, incorporating nods to nature.
“I really like the idea of ephemeral imagery; things that eventually will die or disintegrate. That’s where a lot of the things I’ve been working on lately, such as the (Stag Beetle charm) and the (Hydrangea Antler charm), come from,” he says. Babych also takes inspiration from Vancouver-based jewellers Pyrrha and Shereen de Rousseau.
While Babych works mainly in silver, he has recently branched into other metals.
“I just finished a few engagement rings in white gold and rose gold,” he explains. In terms of technique, Babych says he draws on his background as a graphic designer, using a computer to create the intense detail of some of his pieces. Then, he says, “I send it to somebody for a 3D model so it becomes an actual object and then it’s carved by me into a block of wax. So I’m actually combining two totally different sides of the jewelry industry where I’m doing a lot of the design on the computer and the actual manufacturing process is a centuries-old technique called lost-wax casting.”
Babych is proud to be part of the Lower Mainland arts community which involves participating in pop-up shops such as Couture Therapy, which took place this summer in Gastown. The shop featured a number of other designers including Sarah Couture, Estelle Liebenberg, Billy Would Designs, Daub + Design and Pillar Heights, and Babych says there are plans to repeat the pop-up at other locations in the city. Babych’s jewelry can also be purchased via his website at koltonbabych.com and at Vancouver retailers Obsessions and Tiny Finery.
The young jeweller’s pieces have been carried at a few different retailers on the North Shore that have since closed, though he is planning to approach other retail partners in West Vancouver. While Babych admits it’s challenging for creatives and artists to get their careers off the ground in the Lower Mainland because “the market doesn’t quite understand the handmade movement just yet,” he’s hopeful.
“We’re really moving towards (the market) understanding (the movement) and realizing that this really is a potential future way of buying, but I think we do have a ways to go … I do appreciate that there are artists that are willing to network with other artists to further the movement,” he continues. Babych is currently working on a new collection which he will be presenting at an East Vancouver show, First Pick Handmade, on Sept. 15 and 16 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Taking place at Heritage Hall located at 3102 Main St., the show will feature handmade clothing for men and women including activewear, jewelry and accessories, as well as body care.