Maybe you’ve seen Mangie C’s bright, metallic shapes glimmer off the ears of some fashionable Winnipeger, each piece its own tiny sculpture, organic and yet still. When Mangie makes jewelry, she thinks about fun. She says, “I think, ‘Could you wear this on a night out and feel really good about it?’”
I pull up to Mangie’s West End home in the middle of the day in the middle of March, and she’s ready for me with a smoothie. We chat at a table by the window in the dining room she’s split into her workspace. Both a little nervous at first, we ease into the interview with stories from trips we’ve taken, descriptions of our favourite things to eat for breakfast. By the time I’m getting set to leave, we’re giggling over the funny dolls she keeps on the dresser off her bedroom, and I’m going through her personal jewelry collection piece by piece. We’re fast friends.
FULL: What got you into making jewelry?
Mangie C: I started in 2012. I was in my third year of university and getting pretty bored of the books — I needed a creative outlet. I stumbled across a Christmas church sale and talked to a woman who made jewelry. I looked into it and found classes with a jewelry designer starting the next week. I worked with her for three years and learned the basics.
FULL: What helpful skills did you learn in those classes?
MC: I learned how all the tools work, and which ones are the most necessary. I try to be a minimalist with my tools.
FULL: What would you say is your favourite tool?
MC: My ball-peen hammer. It’s a polished, spherical steel hammer you use to make indents and patterns on metal. When I started hammering, I was really good at it, which is probably why I like it so much. It’s about using your eyes and knowing where the indents need to go.
FULL: How did you transition from making jewelry as a creative outlet to running it as a business?
MC: I started wearing my jewelry around, posting things sometimes, and people would ask where they could buy it. I felt shy about it at first, but decided to try it as a business. It’s still surreal to me that people want to put my work on their bodies.
FULL: What’s been helpful for you in terms of expanding your business? How did you get from selling to friends and people you know to where you are now?
MC: When I first started, the markets were super helpful getting me in touch with other people in Winnipeg. I was able to meet people. Selling at different stores across Canada has also expanded my business. Wholesaling is intense, you have to make a lot of product. But it’s helped me build a consistent income.
FULL: What inspires you? What does feeling good mean to you in terms of translating that into a design? Do you research, or are you pretty intuitive?
MC: I make things that I want to wear. With my earlier collections, I was coming out of university with a minor in Classics. I was inspired by ancient civilizations like the Greeks and Romans. My last collection was more inspired by experience. I did a lot of travelling last year, and spent time snorkelling in Honduras. I would go snorkelling every day, just swimming around until I found a colony of fish in the coral. I’d float on top and study it. The shapes and the ocean inspired the wavy-ness of the last collection.
FULL: What does an average day look like for you?
MC: I try my best to wake up early. 8 o’clock is my favourite time to wake up. I go through my morning routine, have my granola bowl, and get to work. I usually plan out what I have to do for the day the night before. I work until lunch time, eat a quick lunch, and then work again until 6 o’clock. I work pretty long days, and sometimes it’s challenging to stay focused — it’s easy to get distracted by snacks. My boyfriend moved in, and that’s made things easier. He works eight to six, and when he comes home, it’s time to stop working. It gives me a nice structure.
FULL: How do you feel about lists? Are you good at finishing them?
MC: I love lists. I’m pretty ambitious, but I’m not harsh on myself. I just tell myself to do my best. Sometimes I start worrying about all the things I should be doing, but the other half of my brain goes, “Do what you can. That’s literally all you can do.”
FULL: What kinds of creative things did you do as a kid?
MC: I was an only child, so I kept myself occupied with crafts. When I was in the third grade, I made sketches of houses. My mom would take me to show homes, and I’d look at the blueprints, then design my dream home. I also loved drawing clothes and shoes. I never designed jewelry as a kid, but I loved designing.
FULL: You’ve been doing this for awhile, so I’m curious what parts of it are still exciting and new for you. What are you focused on right now?
MC: I love styling shoots and putting them together. My first shoot was with Meg Kroeker. We collaborated on a tapestry for it, and spent a lot of time together. It was a special experience. With the last few shoots, I’ve been experimenting with taking my own photos. I’m trying to learn how to use my camera better, how to create an image. It’s kind of a new hobby for me. I’m also trying to show more diversity in photos. Growing up, I saw one type of beauty a lot, and that’s something I want to challenge through the work I do.
As a kid, I was one of the few Asian people at my school. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how much it affected me not to be surrounded by people of my own culture. Lunches were the most apparent. My mom would pack me sushi or leftovers from home, and people would comment. I just wanted fruit snacks and white bread sandwiches. I spent a long time putting my culture to the side, but I’m trying to embrace it more.
FULL: You talked about being inspired by your studies in Classics in your early collections, do you feel inspired by your Asian culture as well?
MC: Not yet, but it’s something I want to explore.
I’m mostly trying to trust my instincts and my taste. I want to keep my sense of style and artistic integrity. There’s definitely days when I’m designing and I feel confused about where to go. I didn’t do a spring collection this year, because I wasn’t sure what direction to go in, and I wanted to learn more skills. That’s the beauty of running your own business. If you have the ideas, do it, if you don’t have them right now, you can’t force it.
I’m always trying to learn more skills. Right now I’m working on wax carving. I’m lucky that I know people who know a lot about jewelry. I learn from them, and the internet is a really cool resource. I don’t like to start a new aspect until I’ve done everything I can with one skill, but I’m excited to be expanding my skills.