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Designer Files: Tara Campbell

"Jenn, what is that around your neck", I ask. I'm standing at the bar with my friend Jenn. She's a connoisseur of cool, so I'm always paying attention to the things she is wearing.
"Is that some kind of mer-woman painted on that pendant? No way, is that made out of a domino?"
Jenn laughs, "Ya, isn't it cute."

That's how Tara Campbell entered my life. She is the designer of the domino pendant my friend was sporting. She takes dominoes and paints unconventional images on them. What a fresh concept, dominoes as canvas. I had to possess one. I contacted Tara and she was gracious enough to answer my questions.

How did you become interested in jewelry making?
Every year for birthdays and Christmas I would decide on some kind of hand-made crafty endeavor for gifting. I had made everything from soaps to wine jelly but somehow my jewellery was the most popular. Soon family and friends alike were telling me "you gotta try selling your stuff" and so as of June 2005, Odd Bird designs was born!

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When did you make your first piece of jewelry?
Too far back for me to remember....but I know that it was a necklace for my mom.

Do you have any formal training for jewelry making?
No, I'm completely self-taught. I'm actually a Sheridan College School of Classical Animation drop-out! But I do credit craftster.org for lots of "how to's" ideas.

What are you inspired/influenced?
Everything from retro kitsch to the animal kingdom gives me inspiration for jewellery designs. I also dream often of vivid coloured animals and they always end up in my work.

Do you have a design philosophy?
I like to make things that become conversation pieces or make people smile when they see them. Its all about fun with my jewellery.

What type of person do you design for?
Someone fun&outgoing who likes something different to wear, you know, the type who would never go for a gold heart charm on a neck chain day after day.

Most people know Oddbird for the domino pendants. What other items do you make?
I make the dominoes as earrings, brooches, bracelets and I just made a special order of cuff links. I also make jewellery from game letter tiles and glass combined with vintage paper images. But the domino pendants are by far the most popular items.

The images on the dominoes are bizarre. I personally love the esoteric touch. How do you come up with the images to paint?
The majority of the images are vintage prints taken from illustrations, books, manuals, etc. While its easy to obtain cute & normal designs, I personally like the more unusual ones. They're more interesting to work with.

Why dominoes?
My parents are avid domino players, you can't escape a visit to their house without playing! One day while playing a game I held a piece in my hand and thought, maybe I could try printing on these darn things and after lots of experimenting with the process, the rest is history.

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How long does the average piece take to construct?
The domino pieces take a few days to complete (since I do work a day job).

What piece of jewelry you couldn't live without?
Rings and earrings, I feel totally naked if I forget to wear them! I also still have the very first domino pendant I made for myself of a bright green parrot. It reminds me of my pet bird Loki.

I've noticed that it is becoming easier for people to find locally produced items. Many shops that have opened that specialized to this market. What are your feelings to this increase in availability?
In a world dominated by big box retail, any place that supports local talent is a positive step for both designer and customer alike.

What are you plans for the future?
So far I'm in a select few galleries and shops across Canada and the US, so I would like to expand into other countries. I would like to eventually get accepted into the One Of A Kind Craft Show. But first I'll need to expand my studio space, which right now is my kitchen table, haha!

How did you choose the name of your company?
I drew blanks for weeks on end trying to come up with a name I really liked. Then by accident, I found an odd medieval woodcut of a bird flying with a man in its beak...as soon as I saw it I knew that it would be my logo and name!

What is your favourite design style?
I love Victorian industrial and Art Deco architecture designs.

Who is your favourite local designer(s)?
Toronto has SO many talented designers that I could rave about! Some of my favourites include BBJ (best belt buckles in the world) Susan Harris (I love her animal prints) Nude Clothing (clean but pleasing lines) and most recently Little Cat Designs (I want one of her Critter shirts).

What are your favourite shops in Toronto?
To name a few:
Distill and Fresh Collective (clothing&jewellery)
Hardware (unique&well constructed furniture)
Say Tea (I'm a tea harlot)
Kidding Awound (wind-up toys)
Morba (I want one of thier vintage institutional wall clocks)
Tin Taj (bird statues)
Fresh Baked Goods (cozy sweaters)
Outer Layer (nice little"spoil me"gifts)

Oddbird can be found at Distill Gallery and Fresh Collective (this place has the motherload of pendants).

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images: Tara Campbell, Tanja-Tiziana Burdi, Paul Baik


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