When Elana Ginsberg isn’t taking care of her beautiful redheaded toddler or clicking serious mileage with the Parkdale Roadrunners, she’s sitting quietly in her sun-soaked Queen West studio space, meticulously working on the glistening final touches of custom-ordered engagement rings.
When K&Co Bespoke launched, it quickly became the jewellery worn by Toronto’s cool kids. Maturing with her clientele, Elana maintains her edge but now caters almost exclusively to couples. (Cool kids got hitched and wanted a ring that didn’t come in a little blue box.)
We admire her perseverance, aesthetic, dedication to her craft. Her work symbolizes the shining climax of a romantic story arc in so many Toronto love stories.
SDTC: Tell us the story of how K&Co Bespoke began.
EG: It feels like there was never a time when K&Co wasn’t in my life but our first incarnation was about twelve years ago. I had just graduated from college and was thinking what every student thinks at that moment, “Now what?” I decided the only logical thing to do was start my own design company. (Ah, to be twenty-two with no fear again…)
At the time, I was apprenticing with a professional goldsmith, designing full bodies of work for small batch production, teaching beginner level jewellery making and bartending every damn day, all to fuel the idea that I could actually make this “dream” work. About five years later, after returning to school to specialize and refine my skills, opportunities started to arise where I was able to take on higher profile custom work. It was through those generously trusting clients that I finally found my niche in the alternative wedding industry.
What do you love most about designing jewellery?
Honestly, everything. There’s nothing better than meeting and getting to know the amazing folks that walk into my studio. Being able to encapsulate their commitment in a piece of wearable art is pretty incredible. I thrive on the technical design challenges that come with engineering a custom project and love the feel of raw materials when I’m hand fabricating. Being able to manipulate that material into something beautiful and technically perfect is so satisfying. It’s the reason I hand-make every single piece I design and also end up having very personal relationships with my clients.
When it comes to running your own business, what are three major lessons have you learned?
1) Have contracts for EVERYTHING. It’s important. No matter if they’re family, friends, dogs or cats, make them read and sign them or don’t get into bed with them. It’s that simple. I can’t stress how important they are.
2) Not everyone is going to like your work, and that’s okay. If you’re running a business, especially as an artist, you need to be prepared to accept criticism along with the fact that not everyone is going to understand and value what you do. They just aren’t the right client for you. Handle it graciously and move on to the next.
3) Other people’s material expectations are not more valuable than your well-being. This one may sound a bit harsh, but it took me a long time to realize that I make LUXURY goods. I make jewellery with diamonds and gold and platinum and all sorts of materials that cost a lot of money and honestly, they don’t mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of the universe. Someone’s engagement, wedding or deadline (and let me tell you, when it comes to high-end jewellery, everyone’s deadline is a big deal!) is NOT more important than my health and my ability to be a good mother to my son.
Know your limits and learn to say no. Your clients will respect you for it and your work will be better when it isn’t rushed and completed under duress. ALWAYS make and honour your deadlines, but be very sure they are accessible and reasonable BEFORE committing to them.
What philosophies are currently guiding your life?
– Just don’t fuck up TOO badly.
– Only put out what you are proud of.
– Live every moment as if an impressionable two year old is watching your every move. (In my case, they are.)
What’s a recent accomplishment that you’re proud of?
Getting through the first two years of being a mother and entrepreneur and all the while loving the woman that I’m becoming is a pretty awesome feeling.
How has motherhood helped your professional life?
Time management! If I knew that I could be this efficient ten years ago, I would be in a very different place right now!
Motherhood has changed absolutely everything about the way I run my business. It’s taught me to value quality over quantity, authenticity over indulgence and sheer gratitude. I have so much more compassion and understanding since having my son, but I now understand the importance of creating boundaries and don’t have the inhibitions I used to about implementing them.
When do you feel your most creative?
I don’t consider myself to be as creative as I am technical, but that may be my own insecurity. Honestly, my best designs come from a place of rest. I need to sit on concepts and let my subconscious have its way with them for a week or two before I get down to conceptualizing a piece. It’s a process that has taken me hundreds of wasted hours to come to understand! I used to feel like if I wasn’t physically “working” in my studio then I wasn’t being productive. That just isn’t the case. You need to breathe and move and let your mind wander and that’s when your thoughts can realign and come up with the good shit.
What are you finding most challenging these days?
Now that I have a family, the financial insecurities of being a freelance artist are becoming more challenging. Not having a steady paycheque can be nerve wracking during the off-season. Thankfully the off-season is becoming less of a burden as this company grows.
What’s your advice to young creatives looking to switch gears and turn their passions into a career?
DO IT! But be realistic in the fact that it isn’t going to be easy – nothing worthwhile ever is. Advice on this subject is tough because you really have to dive in and learn for yourself how to swim to the top. There is a massive learning curve and you have to experience it to figure out your place in it. (If this advice scares you, then it may not be the best route for you.)
Many of your customers are couples getting married. What have you learned about love since beginning K&Co?
It’s given me a real insider’s look into relationships and what makes them tick! I’ve had hundreds of couples in my studio and honestly, it’s really is the most beautiful thing. The people that walk through my door are (typically) madly in love, and as one client said to me, “This is probably the most important and thoughtful gift I could ever give someone.” How beautiful is that?! I don’t think I can tell you how honoured I am to be part of it. It’s taught me that whether it’s just for a moment or for eternity, love really is the most magical thing.
It has also taught me that love has many faces and what one couple may value, others may not. Big diamonds and gigantic budgets don’t make a relationship, commitment and compassion do, so it’s always interesting to witness how couples navigate this reality in terms of a physical representation of their union. Love can make for very tricky business and being open, present and really honest (sometimes too honest) is how I’ve learned to navigate this beautiful, scary, wonderful side of the industry.
Follow Elana on Instagram: @kcobespoke