Today we meet Dana Henning, owner, jewellery designer and creator of beautiful handcrafted jewellery at Toronto based Dana Henning Jewellery, Premium Jewellery Designs. In addition, Dana is also one of the jewellery designers at Stones and Findings.
At Dana Henning Jewellery, Dana creates and handcrafts remarkable pieces, inspired by poetry, myths and legends and of course through her travels and introduction to new places and cultures. Her bold use of colours, brilliant gemstones with different cuts and finishes and especially gorgeous, lustrous pearls, helps create earrings, necklaces and bracelets that are unique and very stylish.
Dana’s jewellery designs are organic and very modern and range from everyday favourites to more formal pieces. For her Refurbished Line, which finds its inspiration in nature as well as symbolism, Dana uses recycled silver to create jewellery pieces that are one of a kind and truly unforgettable. Dana often posts very informative short videos on jewellery making on the Stones and Findings Instagram, sharing her expertise in jewellery making and breaking down the process into small, easy to follow steps. Dana sells her jewelry online, on her website, as well as at Trunk Shows in and around Toronto. Her recent trunk show at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), was a great success!
Dana very kindly took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions, about what drew her to jewellery design and creation, her thoughts on pearls and pearl jewellery and why using recycled silver is so important for her as a jewellery maker.
Dana, tell us a little about how you came to be a jewelry designer and a silversmith?
Accidentally! I was making and selling a hair gadget to raise money for the UofT (University of Toronto) student union during my undergrad year and I did so well that I thought there is a business in it. I sold at a craft market but quickly realized that once people had bought one, or even two, they would not want more. I had to create some quick things to help pay for rent. I painted t-shirts and made simple jewellery. The jewellery did the best and I paid for my university tuition through craft market sales. Silversmithing was a natural progression and my husband bought me an 8-week course as a Christmas gift because I was interested but didn’t want to take formal goldsmithing courses.
You often post videos on the Stones and Findings Instagram on how to make some pieces of jewelry. What is the most exciting part of making such videos and what are the challenges, if any?
I love sharing knowledge, just as I enjoy learning how to do things – from how to caulk bathrooms taps to which oil paint thinners for portrait painting – from YouTube. I believe knowledge should be shared if we are to advance as a community and it should be made free. The biggest challenge for making my videos is quality – I’m using a simple iPhone and I don’t have a team to edit or do voice over. Being pithy and able to share info in under 1 minute is a huge challenge.
In one of your Instagram posts, you said “I feel everyone should own a nice pair of pearl earrings-diamonds and other gemstones, although I love them, just aren’t the same” I totally agree with you 😊 Why do you feel pearl earrings are so special and are a must have for every jewelry lovers?
Aesthetically, pearls have a sheen that is unlike any crystal or stone pattern. This natural lustre speaks to me like nothing else. Throughout history, every famous queen or empress has a story about pearls – Mark Anthony became besotted with Cleopatra when, upon their first meeting, she smashed a pearl (back then it was worth enough money to raise an army) dumped it into a glass of red wine and drank it. Marie Antoinette was the decadent fashionista It Girl of her day and her most famous piece of jewellery is a pearl necklace; it just sold for over $3mil at auction recently. Empress Dowager of China, as beautiful as she was cunning, used ground pearl emulsion as her face cream. She was buried with a giant black pearl in her mouth, rumour to be at least 25mm in size. Her tomb had been raided and the pearl was never found.
You have described yourself as a jewelry designer who loves to travel. What is the one place that you want to visit it again and again? Also, do you think your travelling experiences have translated into your jewelry designs and if so, how?
This is an easy one to answer – Tahiti is the true paradise for me – the climate and surroundings, the superior scuba diving, the splendid and peaceful culture, excellent food with French influence, the happiness and healthiness of the locals is unparalleled. I also have a deep love for Tahitian pearls, which is no surprise. I feel everyone should travel and expose themselves to other cultures because it offers learning that one cannot receive from books and travel videos. The eye-opening experiences offer growth and wisdom, influencing your ideas and tastes, understanding and tolerance – allows us to break out of our confines, if you will. It has directly impacted my love of symbolism, which I have folded into my jewellery and the stones I am drawn to.
I really love your ‘Refurbished’ line of silver jewelry, especially all the symbolism in the pieces. Why do you like working with recycled silver? Also, what inspires you to create the beautiful and thought-provoking symbolism of each unique piece?
I like recycled silver because being environmentally responsible resonates with me. Silver is heavily used in industry, from machinery to x-ray imaging, but often it doesn’t get recycled. My interest in cultures, lore and poetry have heavily influenced my designs for this line. As I acquire more self-awareness and understanding of what is going on in the world, I have more to say and jewellery has become the medium through which I speak.
Your personal style: Minimalist
Freshwater Pearls or Saltwater Pearls? Saltwater
Pendant Necklace or Bracelet? Pendant Necklace
Drop earrings or stud earrings? Drop Earrings
Pearls on their own or Pearls and gemstones? Pearls alone
Is there a song that you can think of that best describes you when you are designing and crafting your beautiful jewelry pieces?
Annie Lennox – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)
On a sunny spring morning in Toronto, what would we typically find you doing?
Looking out of my window, onto the lake – my form of meditation
Lastly, where would you like to see Dana Henning Jewellery in five years or so?
DHJ will remain my personal artistic outlet and I will use the brand as a platform to experiment and share what I learn – new jewellery making techniques, marketing and branding experiences…
Thank you so much Dana, for taking the time to answer these questions! I really appreciate it and wish you all the best for the future😊
All photographs courtesy Dana Henning Jewellery