A Conversation with Shilir at Inji Jewelry

by Reema Farooqui

On the blog today, we meet the talented and very creative Shilir Habib, owner, designer and hand made jewelry artist at Toronto based Inji Jewelry. Shilir’s passion for creating jewelry began as a hobby to keep her happy and inspired when she decided to make a bracelet with a few coral beads her mother had given her. However, over the years, Inji Jewelry has grown into a very successful business, keeping Shilir busy with many jewelry shows in Canada and worldwide online sales on her website.

To say that Shilir’s jewelry designs are stunning would be an understatement. Her jewelry pieces are a brilliant fusion of modern and classic styles. However, what really speaks to me about her jewelry designs is how Shilir brings the flavour of traditional Kurdish jewelry to each of her handcrafted designs but interprets it in a contemporary style. As a result, each piece of jewelry coming out of Shilir’s design studio becomes a unique style statement.

Shilir uses gorgeous fresh water pearls as well rich and deep coloured gemstones to design and handcraft absolutely beautiful necklaces, bracelets, eyeglass chains, prayer beads, as well as belts. Her bold use of colours, textures and shapes makes her jewelry pieces stand out as one of a kind.

Shilir very kindly agreed to answer my questions about her design inspiration and artistic vision, the challenges she faces as a jewelry designer, and where she would like to see Inji Jewelry in the next five years or so.

Shilir, you said on your website that the more jewelry you made, the more inspired you became. Tell us a little about where you get your design inspiration from?

Well when I first started making jewelry, I started off with just a couple gemstones and some freshwater pearls on me. After each design, I tend to reflect on what I have made and strive to add new features and different colour combinations to my work. As I started to create more pieces of jewelry, I explored this vast and exquisite world of gemstones that each have their own sense of character that I could incorporate into my work. With all these endless possibilities, I always end up creating new things and enjoying them every step of the way.

I love pearls, and I see that you use so many different and beautiful pearls in your jewelry pieces. What are the qualities of pearls that you are looking for when you source them?

Well let me just say, it’s always lovely to meet someone who appreciates the beauty of pearls as I consider their exquisite look to be very versatile when it comes to combining them with other gemstones. I generally prefer freshwater pearls that come in variety of sizes, shapes and colours, when it comes to the image I have for my next design. Some designs require perfectly spherical pearls to show unity and elegance while others require uniquely shaped ones to show a quirkier side to the overall look. All in all, I do my best to really bring out the diverse beauty that these gifts from the sea hold.

Bracelets designed and handcrafted by Inji Jewelry

These days, there is a growing awareness and appreciation for handmade products. What does handmade jewelry mean to you?

For me, each handmade product represents the maker’s personal creative vision. While there are many that enjoy products from big-name-mainstream businesses, there are just as many that wish to own a piece of jewelry that has a sense of uniqueness. Handmade products allow independent designers to fully express themselves in order to achieve that sense of uniqueness and individuality within their work.

On your website you say that “designing jewelry is an art form… (you) take your artistic vision and put it into something tangible. You have so many beautiful pieces on your website.  When designing any of these beautiful pieces what is your starting point?

Thank you very much! I tend to start off by reflecting on what I have previously made and seeing what new elements I could add to my next piece; whether it be a gemstone that I haven’t used in quite sometime or even rearranging/modifying previous designs to a completely new product. Living in Toronto, the seasons tend to change drastically from the winter nights that inspire me to design simple yet sophisticated pieces with light cool colours to summery days that inspire a more vibrant Bohemian colour palette to my work.

Necklace designed and handcrafted by Inji Jewelry

It is clear that you love jewelry designing but what is the most challenging thing about being a jewelry designer and how do you work to overcome those challenges?

Designing jewelry is an art form. Initially, it may be difficult to take your artistic vision and put it into something tangible. However, after taking the first few steps and perhaps some trial-and-error, you can be surprised at the plethora of ideas that come to mind when coming up with different designs. The key thing is to have self-confidence in taking that first step; even if your first peace of work may not be what you had in mind, you simply try again until you achieve your true artistic vision.

You have stunning pieces in your store including necklaces, earrings, belts, bracelets, tasbihs(prayer beads) and eye glass chains. Which among these do you enjoy making the most and why?

Gosh, that is a tough one. I tend to make certain types of jewelry simply based on the mood and what I envision for my next piece. However, if I had to pick, I would say it’s designing necklaces; as you can see I have many in my store. I find necklaces offer the most versatility and creative freedom when it comes to both colour combination as well as overall design. Necklaces can really add the finishing touches to the wearer’s overall attire and the occasion for working it whether it be a casual day at work or an outing with a special someone.

Prayer beads designed and handcrafted by Inji Jewelry

What do you think will be the jewelry trends for the future and especially here in Toronto?

Well I find that most people in cities like Toronto, that have such rich history, seem to be looking back to the classics of the past and find new ways to add a more modernized twist to it. We always seem to reflect on our culture and history when it comes to making the newest kinds of designs and innovations, be it the latest technology or fashion trend.

Initially you started jewelry making as a hobby that gave you joy and now it has grown into business. Where would you like to see Inji Jewelry in 5 years or so?

While Inji Jewelry has become a business and I am always grateful to my clientele, I do still sort of treat it as a hobby for myself. I find if I treat it too much like a business then there would be less creativity put  in the overall quality of my work could possibly stagnate. While I’d certainly love to see this business grow and possibly be featured in other stores in the future, the one thing I always want there to be is my passion for the work I do everyday.

Who would be that one famous person whom you would love to see wearing your jewelry pieces as your brand ambassador and why?

If I were to pick one famous person to represent my brand, it would have to be someone that has a naturally classy presence but is not afraid to show her fun side to the world. With that, the first that comes to mind would have to be Julianne Moore. She always seems so vibrant and cheerful wherever she is while having a very sophisticated look to her.

Lastly, to a customer who may be thinking of buying jewelry for themselves or for a loved one, what would you recommend to them to look for in the pieces that they might want to buy?

When it comes to one’s personal preference in jewelry, there are different factors to consider. It may seem rather cliché but a person’s favourite colours are very important to consider as colours can invoke different emotions in each individual as well as give them as sense of their off identity. I also like to ask the customer to sort of imagine the kind of jewelry that they’d typically wear. Some may prefer bold and elegantly design necklaces for outings while others prefer simpler yet sophisticated pieces; all of which can be found in my store. In the end, the perfect gift is really all about one that reminds you of why you appreciate that special someone.

Thank you so much for Shilir taking the time to answer these questions! I really appreciate it and wish you all the best for the future😊

To find out more about Inji Jewelry, check out their Instagram profile at @injijewelry

You can also visit their website at www.injijewelry.com or their Etsy store at INJIJEWELRY 

All photographs courtesy Inji Jewelry

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