Much like the hidden businesses featured in the April 2017 Business Beat, this month’s article will focus on business people in Old Ottawa South that do not have a brick & mortar presence in the neighbourhood.
Andrea Mueller Fine Jewellery
Andrea Mueller studied jewellery at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design because she “wanted to make something wearable, permanent, and precious.” And now that she is a well-established jeweller in Ottawa, her main goal continues to be to create meaningful, well-designed, and carefully crafted pieces.
Working with gold, silver, and platinum and often using pearls, semiprecious and precious gems to accent her designs, Andrea creates simple, elegant, and beautifully timeless pieces of jewellery. Andrea has a collection of small batch production work that includes wedding and engagement rings, gemstone rings, earrings, and necklaces. In addition to this line of hand-made production pieces, Andrea also does work. When she works with a client, she takes the time to get to know them and what it is that they are looking for in a piece of jewellery. Using this information, she will then sketch out her ideas, and upon the client’s approval, proceed with crafting the unique piece of jewellery.
One of my favourite stories from Andrea about her custom work is one where she designed and crafted the wedding bands for a Toronto Star reporter who went to Burkina Faso to observe the gold that was to be used in his wedding bands being mined, before bringing it to Ghana where the gold was melted down, and then bringing it to Ottawa where Andrea turned the gold into rings. And while this is maybe not the most typical way people end up creating custom jewellery, it does highlight the fact that what Andrea tries to do is to create more than just a piece of jewellery, she tries to also create an emotion, a sentiment, and an everlasting memory.
While Andrea didn’t start off her career in Old Ottawa South, she did have a home-based workshop for several years when she and her family moved to Ottawa from Creemore. Several years ago, she moved her workshop and studio to the Rectory Art House in the Byward Market, a space she shares with eight other artists.
In recent years, Andrea has also been focussing on redesigning old jewellery into new, custom-made, contemporary heirloom pieces. Many people have jewellery at home that has been handed down to them, and these pieces often have a tremendous sentimental and emotional value. But also quite often, these pieces might be broken, ill-fitting, or maybe not that timeless in their look and feel. This is where Andrea comes in. She takes these old pieces of jewellery and creates a vision of what a new piece could look like, before embarking on the process of creating the new piece(s). The result is custom, hand-made, contemporary jewellery that still carries the sentimental and emotional value of the original piece(s), but can now be worn every day and/or handed down to future generations.
Christopher Solar Design
Even if you’re only slightly interested in design and home decor, there is a very good chance you have heard of local OOS resident Christopher Solar. Scrolling through his “about” page, there are links to articles in newspapers like The Globe and Mail, The Ottawa Citizen, and The Toronto Star, as well as links to design magazines and websites like Canadian Living, Azure, and Design Milk. And to people who do know his work, this large amount of glowing press comes as no surprise. Christopher Solar’s designs are clean, elegant, and beautiful, and are sure to instantly be a conversation piece in any home.
Chris’ story is not that different from many successful Ottawa entrepreneurs. While working in the tech sector as a software developer, Chris started working on furniture design as a hobby. And when that hobby turned into creating custom furniture, he left the tech field to focus on becoming a fulltime furniture designer and builder.
When Chris left his tech job, his daughter was under 2, and he spent more time at the Firehall, Library, and Brewer Park than making furniture. And in the beginning, Chris exclusively created custom pieces, but over the past few years his focus has shifted to a manageable line of unique pieces. And just over two years ago, Chris moved his workshop from his basement to Little Italy where he and a small staff continue to create a line of handcrafted furniture that includes chairs, side tables, and cabinets, as well as accessories like lamps and mirrors.
On occasion, Chris still does custom pieces, and he is currently working on a large, one-of-a-kind cabinet that is to become a showpiece in the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
Personally, I am particularly partial to the “Drum Table” which combined hundreds of white oak slats with white resin and a solid white table top as well as the “Mosaic Mirror” which combines pieces of solid ash with black resin in a circular frame. Part of what I like about these pieces in particular is that they utilize pieces of wood that might otherwise be discarded, thus reducing waste while simultaneously creating something beautiful and unique.
Erik van der Torre has lived in Old Ottawa South for over 8 years. He is a member of the OSCA Board, the Traffic & Safety Committee, and Hopewell Avenue PS’ Parent Council.