Eve J. Alfillé Gallery & Studio celebrates 30 years in Evanston


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Eve Alfillé, owner of Eve J. Alfillé Gallery & Studio, at her shop at 623 Grove St. The studio gallery, which specializes in handmade jewelry, celebrated 30 years in Evanston last month.

Jake Holland, Assistant City Editor

Eve Alfillé’s path to owning Eve J. Alfillé Gallery & Studio — which marked its 30th anniversary last month — was neither simple nor direct.

The 82-year-old jewelry maker from Paris, France, came of age during the height of World War II, and said the experience was “harrowing” but helped her become more flexible and resourceful.

After the war ended, Alfillé moved to Canada and then the U.S., working as an archaeologist, high school teacher and certified public accountant, among other jobs. Humanity’s “fascination” with jewelry over the years pushed her to open shop, she said.

“One of the things that I am interested in and thrive in is history,” Alfillé said. “Especially the history of human culture, of human civilization.”

Alfillé said she has been at the same space since Oct. 20, 1987, after neighbors complained to zoning officials that she was working from her home and was forced to establish an official studio.

To this day, the studio gallery, located at 623 Grove St., continues to attract customers from the North Shore and beyond, Alfillé said.

Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, said Alfillé’s gallery endures partly because of its experiential nature. Customers aren’t faced with bland shelves and anonymous products, but rather with a “unique, in-store experience” and “museum-quality” jewelry, Coakley said.

“With Eve’s gallery, it is important that she makes everything on site because her pieces are so unique,” Coakley said. “Going into her store is an experience.”

Julie DiNanno, an Evanston resident who works at the gallery, echoed Coakley, saying it’s “unique” to be able to talk to the artist herself when shopping for jewelry.

She added that Alfillé’s designs are “magical” and often whimsical, something that’s a “lost art” in today’s technology-driven world.

“They have a movement to them without moving,” DiNanno said. “They have a story that’s attached to each piece and each series, and there’s a certain type of magic to that, too.”

Each spring and fall, Alfillé selects a series theme — often accompanied by a poem or artist statement — that she draws inspiration from for many of her pieces.

This fall’s theme, “In Great Spirits,” is anchored by the idea that humans need celebration, not isolation, to thrive, Alfillé said.

“I started thinking about how people rejoiced across the ages and across civilizations,” Alfillé said. “Celebration always involves company –– people who break bread together. The idea of communal celebration was one I wanted to highlight.”

She said throughout history, people have turned to some kind of fermented beverage to celebrate important events like deaths or births. This celebratory theme is reflected in many of this season’s pieces, incorporating “lots of colors” through the use of gems like tourmaline and sapphire, Alfillé said.

The series themes often come from an idea or paradox that Alfillé said she toys around with for a while. And though she said she hasn’t consciously changed her style, she has noticed shifts in her work.

“Until about five years ago, my series dealt a lot with the passage of time and with history and the past,” Alfillé said. “In the last five years, I find I deal a lot more with the present and the future.”

Alfillé said she “intends to live for a very long time” and continue making and selling jewelry in Evanston.

“I kept thinking that I would like to be one of the people in that long and broken chain,” Alfillé said. “I’d like people to find what I make 400 years from now and be mesmerized.”

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