Extreme Makeover: Jewelry Edition

Ecocessories.ca wants to save the world—one recycled bead at a time.

Credit: Davinia Yip

The first thing you’re drawn to when you meet Jessica Reiss is probably her friendly smile. Then your gaze will quickly and inevitably shift to the gorgeous necklace she’s wearing, or perhaps the extraordinary earrings. “It’s the best form of marketing, I guess,” she laughs.

Jessica is the driving force behind ecocessories.ca, her new online boutique that showcases recycled jewelry, including earrings, bracelets and necklaces. From her cozy studio nestled in the North Shore, Jessica takes salvaged beads, buttons, earrings, metal pendants—basically any old jewelry pieces she finds—pairs them with hand-wrapped silver and reinvents them into beautiful, wearable works of art.

Her work is a study in imaginative pairings, inspired juxtapositions of colour and texture, and skilled handicraft. It is, as she puts it, an “asymmetrical” aesthetic that brings distinctive elements together in surprising harmony. A vintage clip-on earring paired with crystal beads and silver loops with a signature handmade clasp. A gold chain offset with creamy ovals and orange glass beads. The possibilities are endless.

Where does she get her ideas? “Books, magazines, movies—those are good places to see what’s in.” But Jessica is quick to add that she is not hung up on trends. After all, she is not in the business of replicating but rather re-creating. Very often the material itself serves as the best source of inspiration, and her creative vision is versatile and always evolving.

While she does keep her eyes open for good finds when in vintage stores, Jessica gets a wealth of materials from her own closet and from friends, family and the community.

“People often ask me what kind of stuff I’m looking for, and I keep saying, ‘It’s not about that!’” she states. “I’ll take anything. The point is to recycle, to help people de-clutter their lives and reduce waste.”

Even pieces that have grotesquely outlived their 15 minutes of popularity will have one or two stand-out elements that can be incorporated into a stunning new design.

Since ecocessories.ca launched in January this year, Jessica has been most pleasantly surprised by the positive response and overwhelming support she has received. Her mission clearly resonates with others, and she has received donations of old jewelry from as far as Toronto (she does reimburse shipping costs). It seems that people are receptive to making sustainable fashion choices, but sometimes just need a little inspiration and motivation.

“Sometimes when people think of recycling, they think junk,” Jessica smiles, “and I want to show them that it can in fact be artful, fun, beautiful and interesting.”

The pride and passion Jessica instills in her craft is unmistakable, and ecocessories takes great care in providing a sense of personal service to visitors. Every item is accompanied by a lively description of its design and components, along with suggestions on outfit pairings. Jessica also keeps a companion blog where she shares her latest design thoughts, new finds or the creative progress of a project and engages discussion on eco-living.

And it is not just jewelry that Jessica aims to make lasting. It’s also about building relationships. She invites comments and feedback on her pieces and provides jewelry care tips for her site visitors and customers. She relishes custom design requests as they allow her to interact with her clients on a deeper level and hear stories about the pieces she’ll be working with. So has she been maintaining friendships with customers after the order has been delivered? “Absolutely,” Jessica nods enthusiastically. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Ecocessories Tip:

Jessica recommends: Don’t throw away the silica gel packs that come in shoe boxes or other packaging you may come across. Store one or two with your silver jewelry. The silica beads absorb moisture in the air and help keep silver shiny by limiting oxidation.