Tristen Perras

Jewelry designer inspired by the Elk Valley

What started as an arts and crafts hobby back in her hometown of Winnipeg has grown into a successful part time business for Tristen Perras.

During her teen years, Tristen Perras knew she was into making jewelry. What started as an arts and crafts hobby back in her hometown of Winnipeg has grown into a successful part time business, as Perras now sells her handmade jewelry in stores from B.C. to Ontario.

“It seems so cliché, but I have literally been making jewelry since I was a little a girl. It started with friendship bracelets, gimp and pony beads and evolved to hemp in my teenage years and then I moved to beading and leatherwork,” Perras told The Free Press. “The jewelry started when I was a teen and it has just kind of evolved.  The last five years is when I really started to focus on it.”

Perras, who moved to Fernie in 2004, worked as a teacher at the Fernie Academy for a few years and sold jewelry on the side for extra income.

While Perras always had an interest in making and collecting jewelry, she started making a business out of it by selling crocheted toques. Perras learned how to crochet while on a bus from Winnipeg to Regina with the Canadian Mennonite University, where she was working as an athletic therapist for their basketball teams.

“We were going to Regina, and I showed up late and barely caught the bus. I didn’t have anything; I didn’t have a book and didn’t have headphones,” she said. “With six hours of commuting from Winnipeg, all of these students pulled out some wool and started going to town, and I was like, ‘well I have six hours, teach me how to do this’.”

Perras started crocheting toques, headbands and bags for her friends, and realized that she could make extra money for her crafts, something she loved to create.

“I did my very first craft fair, here in Fernie six or seven years ago. I was so thrilled to make a little extra income. And then I was instantly hooked. I started doing all the craft fairs and then I slowly started making earrings and added some leather feathers to it, some beads.”

Now Perras considers necklaces to be her mainstay in her collection of jewelry. For the past three years, Perras attended the Tuscon Gem Show in Arizona, bringing back roughly 20 pounds of gems and stones with her each time. Perras now tries to participate in a new craft fair or market every year.

“I started taking it more and more seriously, because I find so much enjoyment out of it. Every year I was trying to do a different market. I would do one in the Crowsnest Pass, in Cranbrook, and last year I was doing one in Invermere.”

Perras, also makes a habit of attending the Mountain Markets in Fernie, attending roughly two a month, and will be participating in the Canada Day Market set up at the Fernie Aquatic Centre. She is also a member at the Fernie Arts Co-op, which is something she loves being a part of.

“I love the Arts Co-op. I love being a part of the art community and there are so many lovely people there. I’m going to stay there,” she said, adding she also sells a lot on her Instagram account.

Having lived in the Elk Valley for over a decade, Perras believes she has a feel for the valley and is constantly inspired by it. Many of her products feature locally inspired items, such as antler pendants and bullet casings.

“I feel like I know the Elk Valley,” she said, adding that she combines many natural elements, such as leather, gemstones, bones and teeth. Perras also favours unique items, like old coins, skeleton key and wooden spools, among others.

“I am still treasure hunting. I also used to do a lot of antique hunting where I would find vintage pieces and break them down to reuse them. I love to hunt for old things, like pocket watches and pocket knives, the old coins and incorporate that into them as well as they are really hard to find,” she said. “That’s part of the fun, is the constant hunt.”

Perras’ work can be seen at the Arts Co-op, local markets or on her Instagram account, with the handle, @MaidenPerras.