Inchoo Bijoux Montreal marché Maleficarum market

We spoke with Inchoo Bijoux about the perennial appeal of dark arts

The Montreal jewellery company, and their Marché Maleficarum events, leans toward a “different, edgy and extravagant” aesthetic.

If you’re wondering where to go in Montreal for a coffin-shaped ring, a skull pendant, a few scented candles and a new tarot deck, Inchoo Bijoux may be the one-stop shop for you. 

The gothic, glam and alternative jewellery retailer in Saint-Henri’s imposing Chateau St. Ambroise offers a large selection of pieces made in-house, or by other artists and designers from Montreal and beyond. And for five years now, Inchoo has also been hosting periodic artisan markets selling everything from jewellery to art to crystals to clothing. The central theme of this event series, called Marché Maleficarum, is anything that ventures into the realm of the alternative, esoteric or extravagant.

“We want to give a space to everything that’s not normative,” says Astrid Apissoghomian, owner and founder of Inchoo Bijoux and Marché Maleficarum, who saw untapped potential in Montreal’s jewellery scene where boho and minimalist designs reign supreme.

 “All of us who do very different, edgy and extravagant things, there are not really a lot of markets for that.”

Maleficarum showcases work by artisans from across Canada and even the United States, but most artisans hail from Quebec and often Montreal specifically. And with five events every year, there’s an intentional effort to strive for as much variety as possible, both in the artisans included and the theme of the events. The last market in February highlighted erotic art, while July’s will be everything pastel goth. This month’s edition, on April 15 and 16, is an open market with no set theme. 

Montreal-based shop Femporium was at February’s market selling prints and pins, and has been at previous markets as well. The duo, made up of Maly Siri and Laure Mo, has some products on sale in Inchoo Bijoux’s permanent collection at the boutique.

“The Maleficarum Market was our first market as a small business, it actually inspired us to launch our brand” they wrote to Cult MTL.

“We loved how all the vendors supported each other in a good collaboration spirit! And of course, we appreciated the support the Inchoo team provided. Overall it feels like family for us.”

Apissoghomian, a woman of many hats, is also co-owner of the selfie studio le Saint Motel, along with Marisa Parisella and Olivier Dufort, which operates right next to Inchoo Bijoux’s shop. Since opening last year, le Saint Motel has become a prime place to create content for social media, with plenty of local musicians and performers stopping by to pose in the iconic heart-shaped ball pit with the Farine Five Roses sign visible in the background.

Instead of the one-hour slots usually available for visitors to the selfie studio, 20-minute slots are open during the weekend of the Marché Maleficarum, giving the market’s attendees a chance to take some pictures with the ever-changing sets available. 

The whole experience at the Marché Maleficarum is overseen by “sequeerity,” staff on hand to ensure the space remains inclusive by responding to any queerphobic, transphobic or sexist behaviour.

For Apissoghomian, the road to running three interconnected, successful businesses began 15 years ago with the launch of Inchoo Bijoux. The name comes from the Armenian word for “Why,” a sort of joke about how unexpectedly she found herself in the jewellery field after making a necklace for a friend that turned out to be very popular in her friend circle.

“It was more of a joke when it started because I didn’t choose jewellery in my life — I feel like jewellery chose me. And so it was like, ‘Why jewellery?’” she says with a laugh. (Many jewellery suppliers in Montreal are also Armenian, Apissoghomian explains, so they get the joke.)

The evolution of her shop’s style has been strongly influenced by her own evolving style. Drawn to the punk rock style in her high school years, her first foray into jewellery-making was reflective of a post-secondary shift into a more feminine look.

“At the beginning, what I was doing was very cutesy kawaii, very rose bonbon. Very kitsch,” she recalls. “And then I just went back to everything that was punk, grunge, and I think that’s more who I am.

“I started in jewellery and I wasn’t going full goth as I wanted to, because I was scared that it wouldn’t sell. I was doing more minimalistic things like little skulls, very delicate, and now I want everything to be extra and big. This is Inchoo now, this is who we are.”

The cutesy style comes through in some of her designs, with elements like hearts, rabbits and cats, “but what comes naturally to me is more dark and poetic.”

She started the shop when she was living in Quebec, and it was starting to take off as she moved. “Then from Montreal, it just exploded.”

“It’s like nothing that I had expected it would be, and I’m just learning as it goes.”

The learning opportunities will continue, as Inchoo Bijoux secured a workshop space right next to the boutique for events, and le Saint Motel will soon be opening a second location in Laval. ■

The next Marché Maleficarum is happening at Inchoo Bijoux (4000 St-Ambroise, suite #278) on April 15 and 16, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. For more on Inchoo Bijoux, please visit their website.

This article was originally published in the April issue of Cult MTL.

For more Montreal arts coverage, please visit the Arts & Life section.