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Shirley Alexander/ Layali Jewelry: Featured Jewelspan Jeweler

Jewelry artist living in beautiful Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada has found her passion


                                                    "Find Your Passion" Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet


How did you get your start in jewelry designing, and please give our readers a little bit of information about yourself (upbringing, education, where you live etc...)?


I have lived on Vancouver Island in Nanaimo, BC Canada for a few years now, after my husband took an early retirement. I never really took any formal art or design courses (much to my regret!), and only a few basic silversmithing classes before I moved out here, from Edmonton, Alberta. I had really loved my silversmithing classes, and about the only way to continue my education after I moved to Nanaimo, was to accumulate the necessary tools and equipment myself, and seek out online and digital learning opportunities. It can make it frustrating sometimes, but it also has taught me patience and perseverance!!

Something that is actually quite funny, is that when I was around 12 years old, a jewelry store in the small city I grew up in on the prairies had a ‘design a pendant’ competition. There were no age restrictions, so I decided to enter, drew up a design, submitted it, and then forgot all about it. About a month later, I was notified that I won, and that as a prize, my pendant would be made. The thing I remember most is being disappointed when I received it that it wasn’t how “I would have executed it” HAHA… perhaps it is fate that after all these years jewelry making became my passion!

                                                Starry Starry Night - Cuff Bracelet 

What was the inspiration for your 'chain drape' cuffs, we love them here at Jewelspan?

Thank you so much! When I started on those, I wanted to make a cuff bracelet that wasn’t too delicate….kind of had a real ‘rock n’ roll’ vibe to it. My original thought was to some kind of corset lacing closure on the back, but when I tested it out, I really didn’t care for the look of it as much as I thought I would…there just wasn’t any movement or excitement about it. In experimenting, I reached back into a past passion of mine, which is middle eastern dance….often in the costumes, there will be beaded drapes or dangles that help to emphasize movement. A dancer will use her hands and arms to ‘frame’ a movement, and putting a little sparkle or beaded drapes that move when the body moves helps to draw the eye. I realized that just by draping the chain down each side of the cuff gave me the movement I was looking for, while still making the bracelet quick and easy to slip on and off (above all, I feel jewelry should be comfortable and easy to wear!). I think the chain helped with the “tough chick rock n’ roll” look I wanted, plus I felt the drape gave it a bit more femininity.

          Sterling SIlver Moon Goddess Amulet with Woven Chain:  Luna Agate on Viking Knit woven chain. 


What gives you the most pleasure in your career as a jewelry designer?

Truly, my biggest pleasure has to come from when you are creating something and get so deeply in ‘the zone’, that time falls away and hours and even days can pass without notice. You don’t always get those days…some days can be fraught with challenges and disappointments. You really know you love what you do when you keep coming back to the bench, even after days like that!

I like making different things…..I’m afraid that I’m not one to want to make the same thing over and over, so there is always a lot of learning and experimentation….I can sometimes make things difficult for myself, but when I look at a finished piece and know that, as a long time collector of jewelry, I would want to wear that, then its all worth it!

                                                  "Victorian Romance" Sterling Silver bracelet

Tell us how you promote and market your jewelry? Do you do shows, sell to stores etc...


I am still really in the early stages of promoting and marketing my jewelry….it was something that kind of has grown just out of a love of making jewelry….I never really intended it to be anything else, but sooner or later, you have to sell it…you can’t wear it all!! Now that I have a website in place, I am looking forward to participating in a couple of shows over the upcoming year, and perhaps participating as a member in a local gallery here which showcases the work of local craftspeople. I am fortunate to live in a place where the arts are quite well promoted. I am thinking of looking into taking part in some of the monthly ‘studio tours’ that take place here.


                                                              'Sterling Silver Ball and BC Jade Earrings'

Have you been able to use your website to promote your work and career?


Well….I think I’ve done things a bit backwards than many people….I am still pretty new at this, and haven’t, as of yet, participated in any shows…which I am intending on hopefully doing this year. I wanted to have a website in place, so I could start working on learning how to take pictures of my work, upload them to a site etc. By doing that, I felt that when it came time to put in applications for juried shows etc, or wanted to promote my work for inclusion in a gallery etc., I would be able to have a nice website to direct people to, and I would have a site to include on my business cards. Having an easily integrated shopping cart application was definitely a bonus….I started out trying to make a website with the provider that I purchased my domain name from. Although they insisted it was very easy, I found the process frustrating…and they charged extra for a lot of things (i.e. shopping cart)…which you really don’t know going in. I think I was done making my Jewelspan site within a couple of hours, which worked for me….I want to make jewelry, I don’t necessarily want to be a web developer!!

As a promotional tool, I really feel that these days, you have to have a website, and it needs to be one that functions well and isn’t difficult for people to navigate, I definitely feel that the website I created on Jewelspan has given me that

What is a day in the studio like for you?


For starters, I don’t get there nearly as often as I would like….and my studio is in my home! When I am there, I am a pretty linear person…perhaps still due to the fact that I am still constantly learning new techniques etc. I tend to have a particular project in mind, or perhaps one that is already started, and I will only work on that. I would like to become more of a multi-tasker, and I imagine that will come with time.


Other times, I will really want to take on a new technique, or perhaps concentrate on a skill. Its always hard to stop making jewelry to practice or learn a skill or technique, but usually leads to using the same technique or perhaps incorporating a sample in a piece of jewelry.


Regardless of whether I am there to create, or to practice a skill, I usually have a great playlist going on my Ipad…..I love a wide variety of music, and its all great, but when I get into a zone where I really have to concentrate, I find that the only thing I can listen to is classical….anything else, even music I love, can tend to aggravate me at that point!


By end of day, especially if I have had a lot of challenges with a project, my studio can look like a cyclone hit it, but at the end of the day, I always try to make sure that things are all back in their place…..there is nothing worse than coming into the studio and looking for a particular pair of pliers or hammer, and it not being in its usual resting spot!


I would like to add a special 'thank you' to some people who actually don't know me..... Lexi Erickson (for her excellent soldering dvds as well as dvds with other techniques), Helen Driggs (Machine Finishing etc dvds), Jim Lawson, without whose digital instruction I pretty much wouldn't HAVE pictures on my website (I'm a horrible photographer)....the list goes on and on, including Lapidary Journal Artist Magazine, which is an excellent place to start!  I have learned so many techniques 'long distance' and am thankful every day for the digital world that has allowed me to pursue my passion despite my location!  



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