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Eileen McClelland

Jewelry Designer Eve Alfille Finds Inspiration After Midnight

Being `in the zone’ leads to bursts of creativity.

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Jewelry Designer Eve Alfille Finds Inspiration After Midnight
Eve Alfille
Eve Alfille Gallery, Evanston, IL

EVE ALFILLE, 87, has pursued so many interests in her life, listing them all seems to push the bounds of credulity.

She has degrees in business, historical linguistics and medieval poetry, and has worked as a CPA, stockbroker, teacher, field archaeologist, medical translator and sculptor in large metal forms. That was all before she launched her career as a jewelry designer and store owner.

She’s also been married to her husband, Maurice, for 65 years. “Well, I have lived a long time,” she says.

Alfille was born in France and moved with her family to Canada after World War II. It was her work as an archaeologist on a dig that brought her to jewelry 50 years ago. The inspiration came when she held in her hand a completely intact, small Phoenicean glass god that had been unearthed after 3,000 years. It made her think about the lasting power of precious objects.

“It’s a striking thing to find yourself face to face with something that presents the past in a graphic way,” she says. “I felt this compulsion to create something myself that could be discovered in 600 years and have some meaning. So, I started creating spontaneously.”

Alfille’s new pursuit led to her winning an AGTA Spectrum Award and launching new jewelry collections every spring and fall. She opened a gallery in downtown Evanston, IL, 35 years ago.

The inspiration for the gallery’s maximalist interior design is the fanciful caves she remembered seeing as a child in a Russian animated film called The Stone Flower. Minimalism in the form of bare white walls is not for her. “Minimalism stifles me. I can’t create like that.”

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A night owl, Alfille finds that ideas for new collections come to her most often in the witching hour, after midnight. “When I am working on a new collection, a new series, I have some idea of what I want to do. But inspiration is a difficult process because you can’t really control it. Then all of a sudden at 3 or 4 a.m., I see it. You’re in the zone and you know just what you want to create, and that’s always nice. A happy moment.”

About half of her work involves custom design. “You end up translating your ideas according to what they need. Every day there is a strong psychological component. I like seeing people, I like the communication.

“I love it, which is why I have no intention of retiring.”

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