Day 88 - Kiki (1st person I approached)
March 29, 2014 - Kiki comes from Calgary, Alberta. Born and raised there, Kiki went to one elementary, one junior and one senior high school.
“My parents where rather bohemian and had a different view on things. They met and married later in life, and had me late as well. My mother was 42 when she had me and back then, that was definitely considered later. They liked to travel, and they thought nothing of going traveling and bundling me up, and taking me along,” Kiki tells me.
When it came to schooling, her parent's approach was a little less unorthodox.
“I had a really bad experience in Grade 4, and that changed school for me for the rest of my grades. I had a teacher that was a bag. She was mean and would single me out. She had her favourites, and her non-favourites and for some reason, I was an non-favourite. I remember her saying things like ‘How did you ever manage to make it to Grade four?’ and of course, at that age it was devastating to experience that in front of the entire class. My parents didn’t take any action, because they saw a person of authority as being right.”
Kiki said she was an A student until that point, and then after these experiences, school was not so successful. “I was not what you’d call academically inclined. I didn’t enjoy school after that year, and wasn’t very interested in it. My morale and self esteem had suffered,” she said.
At 16, Kiki got pregnant.
“As soon as I told the father, he left town. My parents where really good. Actually they were amazing. I lived with them right through my pregnancy. When I had the baby, I gave him up for adoption. It was a very tough decision. But I didn’t have the resources to look after him,” she said.
“I didn’t have the money, I was so young and I really felt it was the best thing to do for him. To have him be raised by a family that could hopefully offer him more than I could.”
After that Kiki moved out to be on her own.
“I needed to move out for myself. While my parents had been incredible, it was also a very difficult and tense time. I got a part-time job cleaning offices and continued with high school and supporting myself,” she said.
Kiki had an interest in art, and in Grade 11, she recalls,
“My art teacher never seemed to like anything I did. He found fault with it and I got lower marks than I felt I should have. Once again, I felt that I wasn’t good enough, and I stopped drawing.”
Upon completing school a guidance councillor told her that her ideas of going to University would likely not be good decisions. She was told that it would be expensive, and considering that she was already supporting herself, she’d incur a large debt load, and that the best thing she could do was to learn a trade.
“My parents had owned a little jewellery store when I was in my early teens and I’d work there part-time to help out. My father often tinkered with gold smithing and though he wasn’t very good, I got to know a bit about it. They couldn’t afford to pay me when I needed to earn a living, so that’s why I got a job and didn’t stay working with them. I spent some time thinking about what trade I’d like to learn and decided to be a goldsmith,” said Kiki.
At that time, there were no schools in Canada that trained people to be goldsmiths. Through her parents shop, Kiki knew a connection or two, and someone introduced her to one person, who knew someone else, and she met a goldsmith that agreed to take her on as an apprentice. Kiki tells me
“He trained in Germany, where it was a ten year training apprenticeship. When he first arrived in Canada, it was to work for Birks Jewellers in Montreal. At that time, Birks had some 300 goldsmiths and watchmakers working for the company. Eventually they wound down operations and outsourced everything, so he started his own shop. I trained with him for four years. I told him I wasn’t artistic and that I was only interested in technique.”
For the next 30 years, Kiki was a goldsmith. She worked for various companies and shops, and eventually she had to start drawing, telling me
“People would want a piece of jewellery and they would only be able to describe so much of what they wanted, and I would have to put down on paper what I felt they were describing. I got pretty good at it. And then I worked for a company that not only wanted drawings, but they wanted water-colour paintings produced of the pieces we created. I was fortunate that there was one of other employee who could paint, and so I learned through him and with his feedback.”
Kiki’s journey took her from Calgary to Penticton and then eventually to Vancouver.
“I was married and that was ending and I realized that one town wasn’t big enough for both of us, so I moved to Vancouver, some 20 years ago,” she says with the slightest hint of a smile on her face.
She later met another man and got married again. Some time back, the marriage wasn’t working, but rather than separate, they worked through their issues and still live in the same house.
“We’re good friends, just not husband and wife anymore. It works for us, and neither of us wanted to sell our little house. So we’ve made it work. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us.”
A while back, Kiki felt it was time to step back from the goldsmith work.
“After 30 years, it was time to take a break. Doing anything for that long, you can get burned out. So I decided to stay home for a while,” she told me.
It seems to have worked because Kiki is about to start her own business and will soon be creating a jewellery line of her own.
We talked about what it’s like to be a creative person, and feeling comfortable to allow ones self to be seen as creative, or to be referred to as an ‘artist’, and that with age, it gets easier to accept who we are as people.
“It’s come to the point where I feel good about who I am as a person, that I’m ok being me,” she said.
Kiki mentioned that she has recently taken up pottery.
“Most of the instructors went to Emily Carr (College of Art and Design) and I had always wanted to go there, but of course, never felt I was good enough to be an art school student. And you know what? I’m actually realizing that they’re not any better than I am, and that I’m actually pretty good at this. I didn’t need to go to Emily Carr. They respect me, and they do things that I don’t and I do things that they don’t. And that’s perfectly okay with me.” #notastranger