By Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Tara West
When Gisèle Theriault decided to name her company, she took a very non-traditional route.
“My father was a village barber in Cape Breton, where who you are – and whose child you are – is more important than your name,” she says. “So I called my company The Barber’s Daughters. I was the eighth and last child in our family, so the name is basically a tribute to a good man. Everything in life is in the quality of your stories – this name implies that everyone is someone’s daughter or son.”
Theriault is a creative and skilled individual, who has been designing jewelry for over 20 years. At the start of her career, she focused predominantly on what she calls “fashion pieces”, which dealt primarily with the aesthetic side of design. Just after 9/11, however, she started to think that in a time of crisis she was sad that she never went into the healing arts.
After spending a couple of years in interior design, Theriault discovered the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, who is based in Japan.
“Dr. Emoto wanted to prove that thought and emotion have a profound effect on water. He took vials of water and put words on them – ‘love’, ‘gratitude’, ‘you fool’. He then let them sit overnight, froze them in the morning and took microscopic photographs. Any of the words that had a positive vibration crystallized like beautiful snowflakes. Anything that had a negative vibration wasn’t capable of creating form; it either looked like a diseased cell or a mucky mud puddle.”
Theriault was inspired by Emoto’s work after she read his books. She also says that she kept having the same dream for five nights in a row that was telling her she had to get back into jewelry design. A spiritual person, she decided to resume her work, but things were going to be different this time.
“I started engraving poetry, prose and prayer on my jewelry pieces, that would resonate with people and help them ground to their deeper self,” she says. “The distinguishing trait of our work is that it goes beyond aesthetics; the engraving is all about the words and the message. Pretty much all pieces have a message, except for those that were made to accompany other pieces that have it. I design a lot and also have a team of jewelers who are a dream to work with.”
Theriault often travels for inspiration. Some of her recent trips took her to India, Spain (where she did a part of the Camino pilgrimage) and a meditation retreat in France. “I celebrated New Year’s in silence, on a mat, in France. How delicious is that?!” she laughs.
Sometimes her pieces are in a separate collection, other times they become a part of a signature line to which she adds new designs on an ongoing basis. About 50 per cent of the poetry she engraves is her own. The pieces range from delicate heart-shaped pendants, to timepieces with intricate strap detailing and feather-light feminine earrings.
A lot of her work is also done for a good cause. For example, Theriault has been deeply involved with Alicia Keys’ charity, called Keep A Child Alive. This organization is dedicated to providing treatment and support to families affected by HIV/AIDS. The designer has worked with Keys on many pieces that were then auctioned off at the celebrity-studded Black Ball in New York. She has done other pieces for Keys too, which the renowned singer gifted to other high-profile personalities, including Oprah Winfrey and the late Whitney Houston.
Theriault loves designing but what invigorates her is the way people react to her work. One day, she received an e-mail that made her weep. “It was from a woman who said that she visits my website for inspiration, almost on a daily basis. She said that three months ago she lost her best friend – a 30-year-old mother of two – to a brutal murder. Every day she looked for something that would tell her that life is beautiful no matter what. And she found it on my site…”
So what is one thing that Theriault hopes people get from her jewelry?
“I want them to get a deeper breath and a bigger smile, the one that becomes contagious. And a sense of community. I really do believe that we are in a new era when it’s time to draw from each other. All of the most incredible things right now are happening through connecting with other people.”
The Barber’s Daughters