Tiffany MacIntyre

She started out making elegant beaded bracelets for the medic alert she used to have to wear, but one thing led to another and then the magic started to happen

The white rabbit that set Tiffany off down the rabbit hole of jewellery making was the medical alert bracelet she used to have to wear. They had boring chains and she knew she could solve boring by making her own beaded ones. 

“I started doing just rudimentary beaded bracelets with multiple strands. From there I started looking for more unusual focal beads. And then from there I wanted to start making my own beads which got me into the polymer clay thing.” 

Other people liked the bracelets and started asking for them. Fast forward to today and several doors down from where she landed into the jewellery making wonderland and she now has two well-established lines of her own: her Covehouse Creations and the more upscale Brooke Design Studio.

Covehouse Creations

Covehouse is about those beaded bracelets and polymer jewellery and that includes her statement pieces. Tiffany says statement pieces “can be quite large. They’re easy to spot from a distance.” They’re often unique. 

She showed us how she layers coloured polymer and then works it to get intriguing marbling effects that even she can’t predict how they will come out.

A Covehouse Creation Working layers of coloured polymer clay results in unpredicatable, one-of-a-kind pieces.

a polymer clay pendant

Brooke Design Studio

Her finer jewellery is made from precious metal clay and sometimes gemstones. While precious metal clay was developed by Mitsubishi almost 30 years ago, not many people outside the jewellery making community have heard of it. It turns out it was a byproduct of computer chip manufacturing. 

She said, “It’s small, small particles of silver that are mixed with binders (a kind of matrix). You can mold it and cut it just like you can with regular pottery-type clay. Then, of course, you can do your bindings for your stones. And then, once it dries, you just simply refine it. It sands very easily and you can add pieces to it by just wetting it then adding them.”

The magic — at least to me it was magic — is that once you’ve made your piece you burn away the clay matrix with a small butane torch and you have a 99.9 percent silver piece of jewellery. While there is some shrinkage, it is negligible.

A Brooke Design Studio Piece The set is called Ruby Rain. It is embossed, textured silver teardrops with miniature ruby stones.

(Photo and description by Tiffany MacIntyre)
(Photo and description by Tiffany MacIntyre)

But small is beautiful anyway

Where this new medium has taken her is into making smaller and smaller jewellery which has been a challenge. “I’ve had to learn to take my big, meaty hands and be very fine with them,” she said. For the record, she doesn’t really have big meaty hands, but it must seem so when scaling down to those delicate pieces. What is the key? “Honestly, I think just practice and taking my time, just going slow,” she explained. She also uses tweezers and smaller tools. Making small components at a time, going back, refining it. You know, checking to make sure I’m happy with the result before adding the next component or before adding the stones to it.”

She said, “It’s very meditative when you are sitting in the studio and quietly working and (being) very focused on doing something so tiny or small.”

A package of the precious metal clay. She uses silver, but it comes in gold, too.
A package of the precious metal clay. She uses silver, but it comes in gold, too.
Here Tiffany is firing the precious metal clay. My camera didn't pick up the butane torch's flame, but it was there.
Here Tiffany is firing the precious metal clay. My camera didn’t pick up the butane torch’s flame, but it was there.
Tiffany at her Dremel tool station to polish the piece.
Tiffany at her Dremel tool station to polish the piece.

Future media

These are the media that dominate her work right now. Although she feels she is still developing her precious metal clay techniques — she’s been at it for less than a year— she does like to explore, to try other rabbit holes, as she calls them. 

She would like to try techniques to add gold to her work. Some, like the ancient Korean gilding technique called keum-boo, are intriguing to her and don’t require a kiln, but she is also interested in those that do. And she doesn’t rule out taking courses or finding a mentor to learn the more traditional forms of jewellery making like casting, soldering or wire wrapping.

Her style

If you’re looking for a thread that runs through her work it’s that everything she does feeds into the next stage. “One idea leads to the next piece and then from that piece, the next piece and so on and so forth.” So, every piece is unique because her imagination is constantly on the move, trying different materials, patterns, shapes, themes. 

Who is she making jewellery for?

Herself for one. “I’ve made a couple of polymer pieces that I wear. And then I have one that I made that’s silver with an amethyst hanging in a silver sort of box. And all kinds of beaded bracelets.”

But her work appeals to a wide age range. “Oh gosh, you know what? I have customers from kids all the way up to people in their sixties, seventies. I do some fun things that are kid’s type jewelry. It’s a broad market. Mostly women and girls.”

Where can you find her work?

She sells online but also does a lot of craft shows and farmers markets. Some of the places you might see her include The Grand River Farmers Market, The L’Ardoise Acadian Festival, and Pirate Days and the Saturday Artisans Market (S.A.M.), both in St. Peters, to name a few. 

“I enjoy the social aspect of the market but I enjoy having something online, you know, through social media, through a website.” She says selling online lets her connect with people she could never have in the markets, sometimes as far away as Australia.

Tiffany at her table at one of the Saturday Artisans Market in St Peters.
Tiffany at her table at one of the Saturday Artisans Market in St Peters.

A West-coast girl out East

“I’m a West Coast girl,” Tiffany says, but now lives on the East Coast in L’Ardoise on Cape Breton Island, by way of Sydney, her husband’s hometown. By a curious coincidence, she, too, is from Sidney (with an i), but on Vancouver Island. They met out west, and when they came to Cape Breton for his mother’s funeral they decided Cape Breton was the place for them. “We bought this house sight unseen,” she said. This was back in 2016.  “We had our realtor do a walk-through and take pictures and send them to us.” They did a Google maps live view and it was done. 

The place is a former priest’s house that needed lots of work. So, when she’s not working her full-time day job for the March of Dimes she is either renovating or doing something with jewellery, either making it or selling it. 

Where is all this going?

“Right now it’s still in that transition period of moving from hobby to side hack,” she says. “I have a lot of work to do to get there but it’s certainly growing and I’m pleased at the response people have had to my work so far.” 

Her modest, long-term vision is for jewellery making to be a part-time retirement job but retirement is still a way off which makes for less pressure. “I can take the business part of it slow. It doesn’t have to provide for my family right now. And when I do come across frustrations, I just sort of slowly work my way through them.”

But what if some magic happened? What if on one of the trips down the rabbit hole she discovers a full blown living? “You know what? I would love for that to be the case. I would absolutely love for that to be the case.”

And when you’re willing to take those leaps, you just never know where you’ll end up.

Tiffany MacIntyre

Author details

Archie Nadon is a writer and photographer. He left Ontario in 1976 with a dream of living by the ocean. In 2021 the dream finally came true.