In her element
Photo: Barrett Jackson Photography
Tanya Milne had long been creative and loved art, including painting and drawing.
“All my life I’ve been an artist,” she says. “I never went anywhere without a sketch book. My dad always wanted me to do art. He said you can drawn anything, you can do anything.”
While very artistic, her career in jewelry design started with one request: a friend asked her to make a chain for her eyeglasses. Milne crafted it out of beads and wire. From there, she started creating other pieces, and eventually took a class in jewelry making at NSCAD.
At first, making jewelry was just a hobby. Then she took some night classes at NSCAD. “I discovered how much I loved it,” she says. Her stepdad built a studio for her home in Sackville and bought her the necessary tools. Her husband insisted she pursued her passion.
She started selling a few pieces when she met Sandra Kay, wife of Peter Bauer, a Cape Breton-based master artisan whose work is in shops and collections around the world. She took classes and private lessons with Bauer. He taught her how to work with metal, how to use a torch, and sketch out designs. But she says he also taught her confidence.
“Peter made me believe in my abilities to experiment,” she says. “He encourages me not to be scared to sell it and put my work out there.”
“Tanya has inherent talent for attractive shapes and textures. She’s an avid student with an insatiable appetite for acquiring new skills,” Bauer says over email. “As she continues to hone her skills and learn new techniques in pursuit of her passion, I hope she’ll become an award-winning designer and creator of wearable jewelery.”
Milne created a company named ELLAments, named after her daughter, Ella. She works primarily with metals, including silver and gold, taking several hours to craft each piece with intricate designs. “The metal, you can really make it into something fantastic,” she says.
She says most of her designs are inspired by her love of nature. As a kid, she spent time outside with her father, who was a wood scaler. She and her sibling would spend time with him at the camp. She says he taught her to appreciate nature.
As an mother now, she says spends most of her time outside, including camping trips with her kids during the summer break. She says she loves the smells of nature, the fresh air, and the trees.
“I bring elements of nature into everything I do,” she says. “It brings you back to a place where it’s not synthetic. It’s real. You will never feel stressed around a tree. You almost can’t replicate it at times. It’s so perfect. It’s natural.”
And like nature, her work is unique. The pieces take on the unique designs found in tree bark, for example.
“Each piece is unique and wearable art,” she says. “You may recognize my technique but you can go to a party with five women wearing my work and they won’t be identical.”
People approach her with an idea or she will create something for them based on a photograph. She often meditates on that object to find her inspiration for the piece.
“Everything I’ve created for someone so far, they’ve loved it,” she says.
Her work is grabbing attention. Bedford-based designer Xander Rory used her work at his showcase at Atlantic Fashion Week in 2015.
And her work is making its way into local shops, including Bedazzled in Sunnyside Mall and Touch of Gold on Spring Garden Road.
Janice Foran at Touch of Gold first learned of Milne’s work through Phil Otto, who designed Mile’s logo. Foran says the company likes to feature the work of local designers such as Milne. Her work will be showcased in the store, and on its website and social media. She says Milne has an “amazing talent and passion for what she does.”
“The fact that her pieces are all handmade and one of a kind make them particularly special,” Foran says. “And each piece strikes the right balance of being bold yet very feminine and organic. Her jewelry is very versatile. They are they kind of pieces a woman can wear everyday with jeans and a t-shirt or she can easily put on with a little black dress.”
Milne says designing and creating jewelry is her passion.
“When I am in my studio, I come alive,” she says. “I can’t give it up. It’s what I will do for the rest of my life. It’s my dream and my goal.”
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.