February 04, 2021 5 min read
Contagious energy, positive, passionate - all words that we associate with Sylvia Tennant, who we had the pleasure to interview for our newest journal feature.
She runs & designs intentional pieces for her brand Zaleska Jewelry, and has played a big part in our designs' extended size range. We loved learning more about Zaleska, what inspires Sylvia's creative process, and the rituals that help her keep an optimistic mindset.
For those that don't know who you are, how would you describe yourself?
I describe myself as a Vancouver creative who is passionate about jewelry design, community, and the journey of feeling good in my own skin.
Your energy is so magnetic and positive - what rituals help you keep an optimistic mindset?
Thank you. I'm fascinated with the pace of people's lives, and how much more I can optimize mine. I have the common entrepreneurial habit of crashing and burning, however, movement and wellness rituals keep me grounded. There's nothing like a dance class to remember the strength of your lungs and your legs.
I also think my positive perspective comes from the people in my life who hold me up. I truly believe you're the product of the energy you curate.
What inspired you to start your jewelry brand, Zaleska Jewelry, and what kind of artisans do you employ?
Zaleska was actually started by my best friend, Danielle Noel, with whom I created jewelry alongside during university. It was initially inspired by the esoteric and mystical arts. A few years in, her brilliant tarot decks were really calling to her, and jewelry continued to be my passion. We decided to divide and conquer. The Zaleska brand is steeped in friendship and love. Those are the reasons it exists.
I work with incredibly talented second and third-generation artisans directly through the studio I contract in Bali. Every step of the design and production process is done by hand and I believe there is something sacred about this.
You and your fiancé work from home, which must have its ups and downs! What are your best tips on balancing personal and professional work time?
Rod and I have been together for 11 years and he joined Zaleska full-time almost 4 years ago. Having a strong understanding of each other's work ethic and communication style is imperative. We don't have a tight work schedule that we abide by - we're both very open to doing what needs to be done and communicating when we're finished for the day. We don't place hard lines on work conversations and we're usually open to talk about Zaleska, even on date nights. There's a lot of flow in our world right now.
It's rare that we see size-inclusive rings. We love that your brand offers them and all the education work you do around it. Why do you think this is a conversation we need to continue having?
I am very proud to be vocal about this shift in my industry, however, I'd love not to be special for this reason. There is an underserved market who have been waiting a long time to shop a website that is stocked with their sizes. I realize that it isn't easy to scale sizing right away. We are still learning and expanding our size range as we go.
I'd also like to note that inclusive sizing includes smaller sizes. I cannot tell you how many people have thanked me for making size 4 rings.
On the topic of size inclusion, you've quickly become an important model in Vancouver over the past few months. You've also began to consult brands on extending their size range (including us!). How do you hope to continue this role this year and what does it mean to you?
I've had the honour of consulting some of my favourite brands on their grading and plans to extend their size ranges. I've spent my entire life living in this body and there are specific things I look for that help me dress it well.
Consulting has been a by product of modelling and I hope to continue both at a steady pace this year. Although modelling is not my full-time job, it has brought so much joy to my daily life. I recommend everyone step in front of the camera - it was one of the most healing things I've ver done and it's an honour to represent my size on various platforms.
What most greatly affects your creative process?
Positive: time alone, my best friends, baths, feedback.
Negative: sleep, stress, the sound of Rod chewing.
What does your creative space look like? Paint a picture for us please.
Rod and I run Zaleska from the dining room of our one-bedroom apartment and aesthetically, it's not too bad. We have white shelving that holds everything we need for packaging, all our stock, and various other business-y things (like a printer).
I have a sit-stand desk and it is currently an explosion, which goes against every inch of my Virgo self. For transparency reasons, here's exactly what is on it right now:
-A pile of international fashion magazines
-A vintage book on unicorns
-All my tools and chain (packed away nicely in a white box)
-Two laptops (I definitely only need one)
-A variety of pencils, tracing, and measuring tools
-A vase of flowers in varying states of aliveness
-A 2021 sample I'm working on
Tells us about your special connection to Bali & what work looks like when you're there. Help us dream here!
Bali has been a part of my life since 2013. The streets smell like a combination of sweet rice and incense. It's like a giant, magical magnet on this planet - there are a million special reasons why people go.
I travel there yearly for design and production meetings, so my first few weeks are centered around work. On any given day, we could have meetings with our studio owner, account manager, illustrator, various carvers, gemstone buyer, and/or the wonderful assistants who translate our questions for the silver and goldsmiths. I've been known to spend days in the gemstone drawers. Sometimes the air conditioning works, sometimes it doesn't. Rod will make sure that all our decisions pass through a business lens.
On our days off, Rod is on waterfall/adventure duty, and I'm on sunset cocktail duty. Part of our trip is a waiting game while I make changes and edits to the designs, so that's when we'll travel to other parts of the island, or countries nearby. When I'm not designing jewelry, I'm usually designing clothes and shoes for myself with other artisans. Bali is my creative playground.
What do you love most about working with us?
It's very special to have witnessed the growth of the brand. You and I used to do markets together years ago and I love that we're both still in the game, building our brands with intention. I most enjoy our shoots together because of how immersive your studio is. The clothing, space, and energy are equally sophisticated.
Lastly, what do you hope 2021 will bring to you?
I hope it brings me a lot of moments worth smiling about.
Becoming more inclusive as a brand is one of our 2021 goals, which includes showcasing our pieces on more bodies other than our typical size small samples. One of the steps we took was to feature Sylvia's try-on videos on our Instagram (saved to our highlights!) as well as having her on our Model Size Guide. But we're not ending there - there's still future things to come!
Shop Sylvia's hj picks here.
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