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Finding True Middle

Published on
Apr 2, 2021
Written by
Aisling Gogan
Published by
Edited by

Think mushrooms, freshwater pearls, citrus fruits, dreamy fairy houses, crystals, iridescent beads, and motifs of impressionist paintings. If you've seen this dreamy imagery pop up on your Instagram feed lately, you're most likely noticing the creations of True Middle Jewellery. I was curious to learn about the story behind this brand and the creative process taken to design such unique, expressive pieces.

Hailing from the East Coast, Emma and Hallah, are Toronto-based creatives and the couple behind True Middle, an art-focused, hand-made jewelry business founded during the first wave of the pandemic. Infused with ethereal, whimsical, and nature-inspired symbols, their unique pieces are made in small batches and can be custom ordered. Instagram has become a marketplace for unique creations, providing True Middle with an arena to reach an audience of individuals who share their vision.

I chatted with Emma & Hallah to learn about their brand story, direction, and the inspirations that fuel their organic visuals.  

I'm curious to know more about the meaning behind the name True Middle? When did you get started?

H; We started creating jewelry in the summer of 2020, working out of our apartment to produce everything. Once we gained momentum and orders increased, we decided to push ourselves towards a more consistent production schedule and take the brand more seriously.

In the beginning, we were mostly making silver chain pieces. The name True Middle comes from us finding the True Middle of the chain to add the charm, because there is a "true middle" of anything, whether it be a beaded piece or chain.

E; & our name was just something that stuck. It has come to represent more for us as a brand in the sense that we want our jewelry to be self-expressive and wearable art made for everybody and that everyone sees their tastes reflected in.

I love how individual each piece feels. Where do you source your beads & materials from; do you have any specific suppliers with whom you've built a good relationship?

E; I've really fallen in love with sourcing supplies. In the summer, it was so haphazard, and we were finding everything in the fashion district in Toronto; so much of our time has gone to trying to find places to get high-quality supplies from other small businesses, etc. Since we've been doing higher and higher numbers of pieces each month, switching to buying wholesale directly from suppliers has been a learning curve. Many Canadian suppliers, even within Toronto, ship to us out here where we're staying or to us in Toronto. Those relationships are significant because we get unique supplies and keep our pricing affordable, which is also essential.

If someone wanted a custom True Middle piece, how would they go about ordering it?

H; We have a custom order form on our website, but people typically reach out to us on Instagram, send us a color palette, beads, supplies they like, or just a general aesthetic. They can also send us a general feeling, and we build around it. So, either through our website or contacting us on Instagram.

Is there a recent commission you are enjoying the process of making?

E; I'm making these pieces for Ariana, an owner of Batch Vintage, a really cool vintage store in Toronto; it's a set of two necklaces that we sourced supplies for together (virtually). It's something that really pushes our style and has inspired our first curated collection coming out soon!

H; Phone straps, pulling inspiration from people's Instagram or personality in general, and creating something.

Do you have a favourite customer interaction?

H; Madison, she messages us with ideas she's thinking of, has gotten a lot of cool custom pieces from us, and just is really invested in our work which is so sweet. It’s really amazing to have people who seem themselves reflected in the work we make. It’s so central to what we’re doing, even though it’s abstract and such an unspoken language of sorts, knowing that our intentions have translated is so rewarding.

I find myself drawn to jewelry as a form of self-expression. What emotion or idea do you hope customers embody while wearing a True Middle piece?

E; I could talk about this forever. I feel like True Middle has evolved into something that so many people see themselves represented, which is amazing. In the designing process, it's definitely based a lot around the feeling you get when watching a film or listening to a song. The self-expression and customizable nature of True Middle are key. I feel because our pieces are a product of our surroundings, we've learned while creating, developing our skills to keep up with what we want to make. It's like we're growing up with True Middle. It has really become a bit of a diary, or an extension of self for both of us.

It's like we're growing up with True Middle. It has really become a bit of a diary, or an extension of self for both of us.

E; I feel  especially because they're so unconventional and draw your eye in right away no matter what you're wearing, it's kind of like an adult mood necklace or mood ring in a sense because you can entirely reflect colours, shapes, and textures that tie into what you're feeling or what you wish to feel like. Especially in the beginning, our pieces felt so nostalgic, we both grew up wearing the bright colours and beads.

I read that you are both from Nova Scotia. My family lives on the East Coast, which has definitely shaped my identity and continues to inspire me. How much has your environment impacted your style & the inspiration behind your pieces?
Both Emma & Hallah have backgrounds in the fine arts, Emma with a degree in Film Studies, and Hallah finishing her studies in Printmaking and Publications. In combining both these visual mediums, they are able to express a unique colour palette which continually evolves with the changing seasons.

E; We did a two week quarantine when we first arrived in Nova Scotia from Toronto in the fall and that breathing room to just be alone and create was critical to what True Middle has become. While we were staying in this beautiful, middle-of-nowhere cottage, I designed the Lucky 8 Ball Necklace. We had been collecting the supplies for months but something about being by the ocean just propelled us forward in such an unexpected way. That necklace instantly became our best selling piece and really defined our style.

8ball in the making.jpg
Could you speak to your colour palette?

H; Our colour palette revolves around the changing seasons. We tend to centre a palette around a different mood and relate that to a season. It’s funny - we loved soft pastels for the winter but darker moody tones for the summer.

Is there any art in your home that you added over quarantine that feels unique to you?

H; We’ve actually been Airbnb hopping on the East Coast to avoid the serious level of pandemic in Toronto. We plan to go back in May, so in total we’ll have been operating True Middle from a suitcase for 7 months. In the process, we've accumulated handmade ceramics from thrift stores here that we use in a lot of our photos and those have become critical to the theme of our work. Art books and magazines, we have them laying around either from Value Village, borrowing Hallah’s mom's collection, or finding them in the Airbnb we are staying in at that moment. Right now, the Airbnb we're in has this massive collection of art and printmaking books so chances are any photos you see upcoming are taken in those. We’ve recently gotten some silk backdrops, some really unique vintage platters and little things like a clamshell ring dish that we use as props in our product photos. Using these found objects to convey the theme of our pieces, though we were forced into it due to our circumstances, has made our work what it is today.

The pandemic has placed countless constraints on us, both personally and within our business. This pushed us to become so fundamentally resourceful and our style has just had to shift to reflect this. We daydream of having a home studio where we can just live in a True Middle universe of sorts, surrounded by all our supplies and props, but currently all of that is held in a suitcase as we move around. We bring a few staple items and a ceramic lemon bowl from a thrift store, old art books, and vintage garden magazines. Funny enough, these items have become our canvas for capturing product photos.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

H; We started selling during the pandemic so the business as a whole has really been operating around the constraints of that. Our style has emerged and been shaped from not having access to a lot and I feel like people connect with that. As much as the obvious drawbacks bring us down and often hinder what we want to make, we’re so invested in what we’re creating that finding a way to push past that has truly defined our style.

E; The pandemic allowed us to have that time to sit with ourselves and our ideas. Without that time we’ve spent at home, whether that be our actual apartment in Toronto or all these short term rentals out East, True Middle would look so different. The pandemic has been hard on both of us mentally and in a business sense, but we’ve pushed through it in every way and made something so beautiful. I feel really thankful for that. The safety of working from home is just such a blessing in every sense. Being able to make things I love with my girlfriend everyday is a really beautiful thing.

Walk us through your creative process of creating a piece?

H; Like we mentioned, the availability of things and what we have access to really defines everything for us. Often it is finding a specific bead or type of pearl through a supplier, and then looking at a painting or even seasonal colours, colours in fruit, etc., and something just falls into place.

There's a song close to both of our hearts called Garden Song by Phoebe Bridgers, which one of our pieces was named after. Music like that allows us to harness a strong sense of creativity when working and makes us nostalgic for a time we have yet to meet while keeping us grounded to our surroundings at a time when we don’t have a ton of routine due to our ever-changing living situations.

E; Designing has come really naturally to me. I feel really connected to the shapes and colours of the pieces, the names they're given and the ways we photograph them as well. Each piece feels equally like artistic expression as well as a diary of sorts. I think it’s easy to tell when we might be in a bit of a low place, or an Airbnb with less light, for example. Our pieces become darker and more gothic, compared to the light-infused, pearl pieces we made while staying on the ocean.

When was the last time you felt inspired? How do you harness your creative energy?

E; We always work in bursts, so it will be like an accumulation of little ideas we jot down over weeks or even months and then one afternoon we'll just sit down and – for example -design our whole website in a day, or just sit down and design that one piece that just works. Sending our pieces to more artists and people we look up to has inspired me a lot, seeing people connect with the work is really rewarding. We've been relying on small routines like finding a favourite coffee shop in whatever neighbourhood we're staying in. We're really inspired by music, movies, graphics, and prints. It is kind of hard to put your finger on, but I feel like our pieces are really a collage of so many things, including circumstance, and for some reason, it just works.

Where do you see TM in 6 months?

E; We're in the process of reaching out to vintage and boutique shops in New York. We plan to spend some time there in 2022. We haven't really stopped to think of much as far as goal setting because we've just been so slammed since we started, but now we've had time to sit down and think of the long term.

H; New York is definitely a goal and to collaborate with artists and musicians that we love.

I think it's a special thing being an artist; there's a lot of imagination and creativity that comes from that. I'm curious how you would describe yourselves: artists, business owners, creatives?

E; True Middle has always been art first business second. As much as we are considered a small business and we love that, really, we are just two people making art and we are so grateful it has done well. Both of us have studied or are studying other mediums and True Middle has been an accessible way to harness creativity during the pandemic. We both plan to explore our own paths- in filmmaking, photography & design, particularly once the world is a bit safer again. True Middle luckily incorporates so much of those skills too since we do all of our own branding, graphics and photos.

Hallah & Emma
Hallah & Emma

Check out True Middle jewellery here