Artistic pilgrimages: Sonia Beauchesne in residence


(1) Sonia at her exhibition at Un gato en bicicleta, in Sevilla, Spain.

A well-established artist in the field of fine jewellery and now contemporary jewellery, Sonia Beauchesne has found all kinds of opportunities to travel with her art ever since she graduated from the École de joaillerie de Québec, in 1999. First through internships in Belgium and Brazil, then as a teacher in Niger, she let her practice become imbued with the landscapes and cultures with which she has been confronted. Having abandoned production work and craft fairs around 2011, Sonia now focuses on expressing herself through one-of-a-kind works. Her work expresses, in a tangible or metaphorical way, the impermanence of nature and things, using materials such as salt or wood. Fascinated by their friability and ability to regenerate, she subjects these materials to all sorts of experimentations and pushes their limits.

In recent years, Sonia’s practice has been structured around various artistic residencies, allowing her to focus on process, which is often more important to her than the final result. She agreed to tell us about her experiences as an artist in residence, but also about the way she shapes her career around these various projects.

After spending several years focusing on production work and trade shows, how did the reorientation of your practice towards art jewelry unfold?

(2) Untitled ring, 2018. Basalt, copper, salt.

I was no longer fulfilling myself with production, and the monetary inflow was no longer worth the effort either. I was creating some one-of-a-kind pieces during my years doing craft fairs, but I limited myself to one piece per year, which was often created for a competition, with mostly traditional materials.  I had not succeeded in developing a personal artistic approach and language.  I also wanted to have fewer constraints (weight, dimensions, materials, accessibility, etc.). I slowly shifted to more daring research pieces using alternative materials, and I also developed an interest for ephemeral materials such as salt.  I pushed aside the rational aspect that was holding me back.

Over the past few years, you have completed a few artist residencies – at the École de joaillerie de Québec with the Filière 11 collective, at Casa Tagumerche (Canary Islands, Spain), Airgentum (Seville, Spain) and AdMare (Magdalen Islands). Do you believe that carrying out residency projects like these has had an impact on the type of work you are making today? 

Of course. Thanks to the residencies, I was able to focus on exploration, because in everyday life, it is very difficult to make time in the studio for sporadic experimentation. In a residency, we have time to focus on our research. Paradoxically, we often have an objective to accomplish, such as an exhibition of the results of our research (this was the case for Fillière 11, Airgentum and AdMare).  Therefore, we still have to create with a certain sense of urgency. This residency model works very well for me. The residencies previously mentioned were of short duration, ranging from 3 weeks to 1 month.

(3) Exposition Ma nature prend le dessus dans le cadre de Colis suspect hors les murs (Bureau de poste de Cap aux Meules)
(4) Exhibition at Un gato en bicicleta, Sevilla. Yi Joon (other exhibiting artist), Martina Perez (Airgentum) and Sonia at the opening reception.


In residencies outside of Quebec City, I had the opportunity to meet artists from various disciplines (the residencies I chose were open to both visual arts and craft), and from all over the world. It was inspiring, and I was able to use techniques or materials they were using, and vice versa.  I realized that even though contemporary jewellery is not mentioned as one of the eligible disciplines in most residency programs, all of them were open to welcoming me.  The artistic approach speaks for itself sometimes more than the discipline or the material used.

On the other hand, I also wanted to get out of my comfort zone and see what I was capable of with very few specialized tools.

Is your practice in the context of an artist residency different from your regular practice in your studio?  

Yes, as mentioned above, I worked there with little equipment.  In the Canary Islands and Seville, I used copper which I soldered with tin and a soldering iron. Whew, that was a great challenge! I still managed to make pieces, or at least to create within these constraints. It taught me to trust myself, and to find ways to do things in a different way. I realized that I had more technical potential than I thought! At Magdalen Islands, I brought a blowtorch and a Foredom. It was a real luxury!

(5) Studio at the Casa Tagumerche residency (Allojeros,La Gomera Island, Canary Islands, Spain)
(6) Espace de travail dans l’atelier de Claude Bourque, sculpteur. Résidence AdMare arts visuels


What leads you to look for residency opportunities, apart from your passion for travel?

First of all, the aim is to combine these two passions: travel and creation. I wanted to create in contexts different from that of my Limoilou studio. I also wanted to observe new territories, and use materials found on the spot. But as mentioned, I also wanted to open myself to new horizons and meet other artists.

Do you consider each residency as a project in itself or is there continuity in your various explorations?

There is continuity in my projects, and I am able to connect them to each other. I am most excited by my explorations with salt, but since there is not always a guaranteed successful outcome, I always conduct research with other materials at the same time. I try to create pieces that come from a specific environment and have a minimal ecological footprint. It gives me a lot of freedom.

(7)Succulento 1, brooch, 2018. Basalt, cement, pine cone, copper, found object (plastic lid), paint, stainless steel.
(8) Préhistorique, ring, 2018. Cork, copper.


How do you select the residencies to which you apply? Do they always have a direct link to your own practice or do you adapt your practice to each new context?

The international residencies were chosen for my love for Spain, where I knew there was a wealth of fascinating jewellers, in Barcelona, amongst other places.  I applied to the Canary Islands residency for the unique environment it offers. Those volcanic islands are endowed with an exceptional flora, and they have salinas (salt marshes). I was interested in those, but I could not access them because of a lack of time and accessibility.  In brief, I am looking for connections with my practice, but I also adapt very well.



  1. Final exhibition of the Airgentum residency, in Sevilla, Spain. Photo credit: Martina Perez
  2. Piece made during the Casa Tagumerche residency, Canary Islands, 2018. Photo credit: Lucy Ridges
  3. Final exhibition of the AdMare residency, Magdalen Islands. Photo credits: Alphiya Joncas
  4. Final exhibition of the Airgentum residency, in Sevilla, Spain. Photo credit: Kara Tuatara
  5. Photo credit: Sonia Beauchesne
  6. Photo credit: Sonia Beauchesne
  7. Piece made during the Casa Tagumerche residency, at Canary Islands, in 2018. Photo credit: Sonia Beauchesne
  8. Piece made during the Casa Tagumerche residency, at Canary Islands, in 2018. Photo credit: Sonia Beauchesne


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