In a sea of handcrafted jewelry, it’s rare to find something that really stands out. But if you are blessed to come across a tweak accessory, that’s just what you will find. Tweak is a funky-elegant boutique jewelry line by Ontario designer Caroline Bruce. Every piece of tweak is a study in colour, texture and a touch of the unexpected. And every piece is a guaranteed compliment. Just ask any of the tweak boutique’s already faithful followers. From teenagers on up, the versatile pieces are show stoppers that can fit effortlessly into any wardrobe.
“At the risk of sounding trite, I have to confess that I really fall in love with every piece I make,” says Caroline. And if public reaction is any indication, everyone is sure to find a piece of tweak that they can’t live without. From natural stones to orchid specimens preserved in resin, every component of each piece is carefully and skillfully chosen for maximum impact. “I want a woman to see a piece of my jewelry, fall in love with it and not be able to stop herself from wearing it three days in a row! That’s the greatest compliment for me.”
Growing up in small town Ontario (Parkhill to be exact), not exactly the heartbeat of style, Caroline has always been fascinated by fashion. “I think I was consistently overdressed for every event, church picnic and piano recital I attended in Parkhill. In fact, I’m pretty sure I still am,” says Caroline. She never studied art in high school, although she did try to take a fashion course only to find the class enrollment too low for it to run in the small high school she attended. Nevertheless, creating was a consistent part of Caroline’s life and her parents always encouraged her sewing, painting, stamping, and flower arranging projects.
Upon her graduation from highschool, in true spreading-her-wings form, Caroline left home to attend University in Toronto and get her dose of big city life. The city was good to her, the biology degree she chose to pursue, not so much. It was during this time that a fabulous friend introduced her to a wonderful place called a bead store and the love affair began. Refusing to let Organic Chemistry and Immunology get the best of her, Caroline did finish her degree, but not before plotting her next move- a Bachelor of Interior Design at Ryerson University. “I didn’t know much about interior design per se, but I did know that I had strong design opinions and a bit of a fascination with business, so I thought interior design would be a good fit for me. And I knew that as a designer I would be expected to look great on the job. This I knew I could live with.” Four years later, degree in hand, Caroline packed up and moved to her father’s homeland of Jamaica to design with Sandals resorts for two years. The love of beads grew through all of these life experiences and Caroline may or may not have loaded her carry-on luggage with upwards of 20 kg of beads to take back to Montego Bay.
Upon her return to Canada (and Parkhill), a little worn out from her Caribbean experience (go figure), Caroline couldn’t think of anything she’d rather do than try to make a business out of a hobby she loved so much. She had sold her jewelry to family and friends and even a few people she didn’t know over the years, but it had always been a means to buy more beautiful beads. Could this hobby become her career? Maybe. With encouragement from everyone – family, friends and even strangers – tweak was born.
“I try not to make anything I could go out and buy. If I have an idea and then see something similar in a magazine or online, I throw it out or alter it to make it into something totally me.” If she doesn’t feel it says “tweak”, it doesn’t make it out of the design studio. “I know there are very few new ideas left in the world of jewelry, but I like to think that my colour combinations, compositions and use of materials are at least somewhat unique.”
Currently, Caroline has chosen to sell her creations in an internet boutique, aptly named tweakboutiqueonline.com. She also occasionally exhibits at various shows, both public and by invitation only. “I want everyone to be able to get their fix of tweak, but I don’t want it to be everywhere.” It may not be the typical capitalist attitude, but so far so good. Be sure to visit tweak boutique and make your own judgment. You’ll probably want to be “tweaked” too.