Program: Jewellery Arts - F114
Growing up in family of artists, Leif Benner was set on a career in creativity from the time he was a school kid in London, Ontario.
Asked whether he was always into jewellery, the George Brown College Jewellery Arts grad replies, "No, not back then, but I was interested in every artistic outlet around - music, cooking, all the creative arts."
Leif first became involved with the jeweller's art around the time he was getting married. "I met a goldsmith who let me hang around his studio for a couple weeks while he made our wedding bands," he remembers. "I was fascinated by the process and to learn that each piece of jewellery is essentially a little sculpture."
Although he was intrigued by the "bit of romance" and the highly technical skills required to work with gold and precious stones, Leif was still planning to attend George Brown College's Chef School. Then by chance, he came across the Jewellery Arts program while flipping through the George Brown College course calendar.
"In London, there are quite a few goldsmiths, so I asked if anyone from George Brown had done apprenticeships, and heard only good things," says Leif. "I decided to apply to both programs, with Jewellery Arts as my first choice. I figured I could always fall back on being a chef."
The Jewellery Arts faculty recognized the gleaming potential beneath Leif's inexperience, and although he had never touched a piece of metal, he liked that he was immediately immersed in the medium.
"At that point in my life I was looking for something really fresh. You just jumped right in and they gave you everything you needed," Leif explains. When asked how he developed his unique style of distinctive yet classic pieces, Leif credits the mix of courses at George Brown College.
"The Profs encourage creativity but always give you grounding in the traditional way to get results," he says. "The way the courses are set up, you study the skills most relevant to your interests whether they are more on the artistic or the business side."
After graduating from the program with honours, Leif was accepted as an Artist in Residence at Harbourfront where he concentrated on perfecting his craft and began to sell his pieces. Inspired by his mother, a restaurateur, Leif leased one of the first studio spaces in the now wildly popular Distillery District, and is now in the enviable position of deciding whether or not to expand a successful business.
"It's tempting to expand, but I don't want to lose the personal touch of dealing with my customers directly and the creative satisfaction I get from that."
On November 17, 2010, ten outstanding graduates from Business, Arts & Design were inducted into the inaugural Alumni Wall of Fame. The inductees represent alumni who have excelled in their professional careers, have been actively involved in the community, and have been advisors and mentors to the students.