John Derek Gardner has been working on jewelry since he was 15 and he says he will do it as long as his hands and eyes work.
“I’ve never worked a day in my life, I just love it so much,” he said recently in his Parksville shop. “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and go down to work on something.”
But he has no idea how he got there.
“I was graduating and in those days companies would come to the school and pick people out. I was just 15 and had no idea what I wanted to do. I got called to the headmaster’s office and told ‘sign those documents and go back to your class,’ and I never knew what it was all about,” he said with a laugh.
It’s a story he’s clearly told a lot, but his still amazed by the impact of that one moment on the rest of his life.
Once school ended he got a letter to go to the “jewelry quarter” where he was given a five-year apprenticeship as a goldsmith. He’s never looked back.
If there was any doubt, he was really hooked a couple years later when he was directed to work on a fancy ruby, diamond and sapphire necklace.
Once complete he was given two tickets to that evening’s Paul McCartney concert, but he wasn’t told until he returned to work that the necklace had been for McCartney’s wife Linda.
Since then he’s done work for numerous celebrities, including Elton John and the royal family.
And he’s won more than his share of high- profile awards over the years including taking seventh place in the international awards in Las Vegas and he’s still the only person ever to have won best designer in Canada three years in a row.
Gardner moved to Ontario in the early 1980s and to Kelowna in 1995 where he eventually established contracts with giant chains like Peoples Jewellers.
But while he was becoming hugely successful he wasn’t enjoying the work as much and a few years ago he decided to move to Parksville, where he used to vacation, to simplify things and focus on crafting fine pieces.
“I loved it here — it reminded me of an English seaside town,” he said.
Over the years Gardner has branched out, owning four high end jewelry stores at one point and doing a lot of teaching, which he loves, but these days he’s thrilled to be able to just focus on his lifelong love of the craft itself.
“I thought it would be relaxing here but business is booming,” he said, stressing again, eyes lighting up, “I don’t do it for the money, I just love it.”
His shop — at #3 – 155 Morison Ave. in downtown Parksville — has lots of his original work for sale and he’s always happy to work with customers on custom pieces, but he says the store is mostly about service, focusing on things like one-day repairs.
For more on John Derek Designer Jewellers call 250-586-4653, look them up on Facebook or stop by the store.