wasted effort
Photography courtesy of Wasted Effort.

Montreal’s Wasted Effort is Launching a New Collection Today

The hand-made pieces feature the brand's signature quirky aesthetic and a variety of gems and stones.

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, so when Wasted Effort’s Marie Foxall found that her usual resources weren’t available for her new collection, she decided to go with the flow and experiment with materials and techniques for her new designs. The result? Playful pieces that would make your next Zoom call or living room date night extra special. Read on to find out how Foxall started her brand, and what else she’s making (and learning) during quarantine.

So, tell me how someone with a background in mathematics becomes a designer.

I wish there was a perfect soundbite answer to this question, but I’m not really sure how one led to the other! For a long time, I followed a pretty clear-cut path set out by my family, who place a great deal of value and emphasis on math, science and education. I enjoyed math and it made sense to pursue it, but throughout my education and early career, I always had a passion for art which manifested itself in drawing, sculpture, clothing design, drama, music—you name it. Finally, when my jewellery design hobby became an all-consuming obsession, I knew I had to give this other side of my personality room to go wild for a while. I’ve never really been sure how these two sides fit together or if one informs the other, but I really enjoy being able to draw on both.

Photography courtesy of Wasted Effort.

What’s behind the ethos of the brand and the name?

Wasted Effort is part brand, part personal art project. Everything is hand-crafted by me, and is either made-to-order or made in small, limited batches. I realized pretty early on that the traditional fashion blueprint—showing a season ahead, predicting demand and holding inventory, then starting it all over six months later—wasn’t really for me, mostly because I constantly want to play and experiment and I like to be able to move from concept to sample to product as quickly as possible. The name was originally a cheeky nod to my math background, my (unartistic) education, the fact that I come from a family of scientists and academics, and that the pursuit of art as a career was not viewed as time well spent. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then what’s the point?

You’re primarily self-taught—how did you develop your skills and the know-how about the different materials that you use?

I took an introductory metalsmithing class many years ago, which was a great foundation in jewellery construction. I worked in more traditional materials, like silver and brass, for a few years and learned through trial and error and a network of amazing jeweller friends in Vancouver who were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge. Eventually, I switched to lucite when I was in a bit of a design rut; I had some lucite sheets and rods that I had bought for a tradeshow display, and realized that I could cut and shape them in the same way I used sheet metal. The rest is all play and experimentation—just a lot of ‘I wonder what happens when I do…. this?’

Photography courtesy of Wasted Effort.

I love your tagline, “Doing everything the hard way”. Tell us about what that means…

Since I prefer to make everything in small batches, I like to have control over every aspect of the process. This means that although it would be so much easier to outsource aspects of production or get my pieces laser-cut, I still cut everything by hand with a jeweller’s saw, then I file, sand and polish it myself. It’s extremely time-consuming and definitely not the most business-savvy approach, but it keeps me connected to the work and personally invested in every piece I send out.

Fill us in on your new pieces!

Since things shut down, I haven’t been able to access many of the supplies that I need to produce my usual pieces, so I’m trying to get creative and make one-off variations on some of my favourite designs. I have been playing around with dye and custom colours, which is a fun experiment and a surprise every time! I have also been updating some designs by incorporating various gems and stones I had been waiting to put to good use, like opal, aura quartz and moonstone.

Photography courtesy of Wasted Effort.

Your work is quite happy-making, which leads me to assume you’re a pretty happy, optimistic person. How are you staying calm and finding joy right now?

This question threw me a little bit because although I love to joke around and find humour in most situations, I am definitely also an anxious person! I think the humour and cheerfulness in my jewellery work is a celebration of my playful side, but also an attempt to offset my anxious side. It brings me joy to create bright, colourful things and to see other people looking joyful wearing them! At the moment, I’m staying calm by making lots of non-work things like vases, planters, pillows and clothes, and finding joy in learning new skills. I’m taking online coding courses and guitar lessons. I’m also trying to be kind and forgiving to myself on the days when I don’t do much at all.

What are you hopeful about coming out of this crisis? 

I hope that there is a shift in the way we consume everything. It’s clear that many people are changing their habits by necessity and to keep busy—planting their own vegetables, making their own bread, brewing the perfect cup of coffee at home. I hope that this helps people find joy and satisfaction in doing things themselves and makes them even more thoughtful and grateful for farmer’s markets and restaurants and coffee shops when we’re able to enjoy those things again. I am also hopeful that the outpouring of community support continues. Especially in the arts and small business communities, I have seen so much love and generosity and genuine connection happen over the past few weeks and I hope that this will have a resounding positive effect.

Shop the new collection here.