Monday, 28 January 2013

"That's the spirit of the Wunderkammer"

Store owner Nathan Dubo says that the literal translation of a Wunderkammer is "a room of wonder". The German term ("Of course it's German, it's a mouth-full," says Dubo) was coined during the Renaissance. It started off as a room of curiosities that people would collect before there were universities or museums. It caught on once it was seen that the nobleman in the village had an oddity room, everybody wanted one.

"People would go out and find interesting things that they would bring back from their travels and would try and figure out ways to display it that would make sense."

The entryway to Wunderkammer, jewellery cases share the space with antiques, vintage curiosities and taxidermy.

When entering the Dalhousie Street jewellery and gift shop, that is exactly how you feel. It's almost overwhelming, all the details. Despite the size of the place, ("Before we opened, we knew it was too small.") you could literally get lost for hours just looking at all the oddities and beautiful pieces.

Some of the longer necklaces are displayed on antlers hanging from the wall.

"We seem to be so close to nature here in Ottawa," says Dubo. Drawing inspiration from Grimms fairy tales, steampunk, Alice in Wonderland and nature makes Wunderkammer one of the most unique spaces in the city.

Wunderkammer opened a over a year ago and has received an overwhelming amount of support in  a city that seems to be starving for the creative and unusual charm that Wunderkammer offers.

Dubo and his wife Tamara Steinborn have been creating jewellery for 13 years. Originally from Winnipeg, they have lived in Toronto and Montreal in the past before deciding to set up shop in Ottawa.

Originally starting out as a wholesale jewellery company, Dubo and Steinborn wanted to settle in a place that was different than a studio, a place that could serve as a conversation starter. And thus, Wunderkammer was born. They still wholesale some of their pieces and just last weekend went to a trade-show in Toronto to promote their designs.

Each corner in the small space has its own theme and fits together perfectly. 

Featuring jewellery from a vast array of designers from England to Turkey and closer to home, Wunderkammer highlights four brands that Dubo and Steinborn built themselves.

Long necklaces displayed on a brach right near the front of the store.

The original brand they created, Früg, is now exclusively sold at Wunderkammer. Dubo would hand-carve pieces out of wax and then cast them in sterling silver. Steinborn also has her own namesake line carried at the store that features beautiful stones cast in silver.

My personal favourite of the four collections would have to be La Pistole, this collection is more vintage inspired. Claws, skulls and talons are featured in brassy metals, this collection is not for the person who likes to play it safe says Dubo.

La Russe is another collection the Wunderkammer carries and that Dubo and Steinborn also wholesale, Dubo describes it as a little pared down, sleek and simple with a lot of geometric accents. "It's for someone who doesn't want to get into wearing a giant bird talon necklace," says Dubo.

I remember going to Wunderkammer early last year, a few months after they had opened, my boyfriend had parked the car on Dalhousie, as we were headed over to one of my other favourite local boutiques Charles looked in the window and said, "Hey Jen, it looks like they have weird stuff on long necklaces in there! Isn't that kind of your thing?"

Boy, does he know me or what? After visiting Wunderkammer last week, I couldn't help but come home with my very own La Pistole talon bracelet.

Of course I couldn't resist!!


  1. What unique wears--can't wait to check it out!

    Kate xo

  2. Love it. What an informative post. It was a pleasurable read - and now I have to myself to his shop asap. Your blog's overall concept is a great showcase for your interests and reporting/writing/photography skills. Can't wait for more.

  3. Hi Jen,

    Hope you had a great weekend! Just wanted to let you know I've nominated you for a Leibster Award:

    xo Kate


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