Artist Profile: Christina Toufexis

Making jewelry started as a hobby for Christina Toufexis. She still considers it a hobby, in fact, even though it’s been a source of notable income recently. Toufexis got a part-time job at the Bead Emporium, a bead store in Westmount, a few years ago while she was at theatre school. She said she enjoyed working with beads during that time because it gave her a creative outlet that was different from theatre.

Having never taken a jewelry-making class in her life, Toufexis learned how to make her own creations by watching her co-workers and people visiting the store as they worked with various materials.

Eventually it became clear Toufexis had a natural talent for jewelry-making. Her co-workers asked her to join them in putting together a show. The first show she and co-workers Christine and Alex put on was a small gathering in a private residence. The event was catered, and musicians were on hand to play while the shoppers browsed.

The second show the trio held was at a gallery they rented on St. Laurent near the Mile End. Toufexis and her co-workers discovered the gallery had a last-minute opening and they ended up having just one month to produce their wares for the show. Toufexis worked long hours to come up with the 100-piece quota the three designers had set for themselves.

The gallery event lasted a week and was a huge success. Going into the project, Toufexis was concerned she ran the risk of losing the money she had invested in her work. Much to her delight, Toufexis’ designs were very well received. She ended up making enough money to more than double her expenses.

“It’s really a good feeling,” she said, “when somebody is wearing your pieces.” Toufexis has seen people on the street wearing pieces of her jewelry. She often runs into friends, or family of friends wearing pieces she’s designed.

“Sometimes I’ll go out with my friends” Toufexis said, “when we go out dancing, and everybody’s wearing my jewelry – it’s fun. It’s nice to know that people actually like what you’re doing.”

The interest in Toufexis’ work wasn’t limited to family and friends. At the gallery show the three designers were approached by a photographer and make-up artist who asked to do photo shoots using their jewelry. Toufexis said it was strange to see her pieces being worn by models, but that she was flattered by the request and happy for the added promotion the photos brought to her collection.

Toufexis said her style of jewelry making isn’t outrageous. She likes to make pieces that a person can wear anytime, with anything. She said she can make bolder pieces, but she prefers to keep a certain practicality to the items she includes in her collection.

“I don’t make jewelry just to show what I can do” Toufexis said, “I want people to be able to wear the stuff and be like ‘Oh, it’s comfortable, it’s small, it’s well made. and it’s nice!'”

Toufexis uses mostly precious and semi-precious stones for her work. She buys her supplies either at the Bead Emporium, or at a wholesale bead store in the U.S.. She uses sterling silver for the clasps, and connecting pieces for her work.

Toufexis’ collection is called “Toufexi Collexi” – a name she said was given to her jewelry by a friend of hers in theatre school. Toufexis used to give pieces to friends at school for birthday presents. One day, someone in her class said her creations made up the “Toufexi Collexi”. Toufexis thought the name was cute, and decided to use it when the gallery show called for an official name for her collection of work.

Toufexis now teaches one-on-one jewelry-making classes at the Bead Emporium. She said her students often ask how she goes about designing her pieces. Many of the students have a hard time believing Toufexis when she tells them her designing process is usually random.

Toufexis said she is inspired by jewelry she sees in magazines, and sometimes in stores; but that those pieces only serve as vague ideas for her own creations. When it comes to designing her own work, Toufexis sits with a collection of beads in colours she thinks go well together; she then forces herself to go with her gut.

“I go against my brain” she said, “when my brain’s telling me to do a pattern I say ‘No, I don’t want to do a pattern.'”

Since she started selling her jewelry, Toufexis does pay attention to the changing trends in the fashion world. Even when she tries to cater to a particular taste, though, she likes to keep the designs within her own style.

“If I don’t like it, I’m not going to sell it” she said.

Selling is actually the part of the deal Toufexis said she isn’t at all good at. Toufexis openly admits she is a terrible businesswoman and said she has to rely on her co-designers to help her price her work. She’s learned she has to double the cost of the materials, and then add the cost of her labour and design for each piece.

“That was really hard for me” Toufexis said. She doesn’t want to charge outrageous prices for her work, and she said she finds it especially difficult to sell things to family and friends.

At certain times during the gallery show, Toufexis’ co-workers had to stop her from talking to her own clients.

“I would convince them not to get it” she said. “I’d be like ‘You know what, wait ’till the show’s over, come over, and you pick what you want’.”

Toufexis said she tried to let people shop freely at the show, but that she found it difficult to watch the people she knows pay for the articles she made. Although she recognizes her own talent, and believes her pieces are well-made and artistically designed, Toufexis said she probably doesn’t take herself seriously enough to ask high prices for the work she does. Luckily for her, Toufexis has keen mentors in the business department who won’t let her sell herself short.

Toufexis doesn’t have particularly high aspirations for jewelry-making, but it is definitely something she wants to continue doing for the rest of her life. She said she’d love to continue selling her pieces, and finding original ways to showcase her work. Toufexis has already designed jewelry for three weddings, and has another two lined up for the future. She’s made pieces for theatre performances, and would be happy to continue in that area as well because it is an interesting combination of her two major interests – jewelry and theatre.

She and a fellow jewelry-maker are putting on another show on Dec. 9 starting at 5:30 p.m., this one will be at a private residence, but anyone who contacts her is welcome to attend.

Toufexis is also putting together a website where clients will be able to view her collection and find her contact info if they are interested in making a purchase.

While it’s not a top priority in her life, Toufexis is casually making a name for herself in the jewelry world. It is a talent she stumbled upon, and has since become a huge part of who she is.

Toufexis can be reached at: [email protected] or 514.250.8756

Classes at the Bead Emporium cost $30 for two hours, material costs are extra and can run anywhere from $25-$50 approximately.

The Bead Emporium is at 368 Victoria Ave. in Westmount

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