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Toronto’s jewellery arts take centre stage

If all goes as planned, Paul McClure is hoping the Toronto International Jewellery Festival (TIJF) will grow to be as well-known as another familiar acronym—TIFF.

When it launched 37 years ago, the Toronto International Film Festival had an inaugural attendance of 35,000. Today, more than 260,000 people attend the screenings.

Having TIJF follow a similar path is something McClure, the festival’s co-founder and professor of jewellery studies at George Brown College, is working to ensure happens. Organized by the not-for-profit organization, Jewellery Arts Collective Canada (JACI), the month-long festival coincides with the Society of North American Goldsmiths’ (SNAG’s) annual conference in Toronto.

It’s the first time in 30 years the U.S. event— named Meta-Mosaic—will be held north of the border. About 1000 local and international jewellers are expected to attend. McClure anticipates up to 45,000 people will take in the sights at 22 TIJF venues across downtown Toronto. So far, about 30 exhibitions are planned when the biennial festival kicks off in May. Jewellery Business is TIJF’s official publication.

The enthusiasm and support among Toronto’s arts and culture community has been tremendous, McClure says.

“Both the national and Ontario Arts Council have seen the value in the festival and provided seed money to get it going,” he says. “Many of the local designers have seen the value in it and have come on board. It grew as fast as I’d hoped it would in terms of the number of venues.”

The local jewellery sector, however, has required more persuasion, he adds.

“The industry side and the retailers are still very conservative and don’t want to move outside the traditional jewellery box.”

McClure is quick to say part of the problem in getting more larger-scale manufacturers and retailers involved is the fact this is the first time an event of this kind has been held in Toronto. In places like Barcelona, Madrid, Munich, and London, jewellery festivals are the norm.

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“That’s what this first festival is all about—making sure everything is as professional as it can be so that the next time around, we have a track record. We would like to have the bigger players supporting our event.”

McClure says he would ultimately like to develop sponsorship opportunities with the diamond mining companies operating in Canada.

“That’s the side to the business that has the potential and capital to invest in this kind of event,” McClure says, adding a focus on Canadian diamonds is one idea he has in mind to generate interest.

“We have the potential in Canada for mining all the way to market, and I’m hoping this festival promotes that concept. We just need to get everyone on board with it and make it happen.”

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