Walking into Wunderkammer is like entering an apartment whose owner had recently splurged at an antique store owned by Rilo Kiley. Situated on the trendy intersection of Dalhousie and St Patrick, Wunderkammer’s bright and eclectic décor of antlers, vintage furniture, and nature-inspired artwork is a definite indication of the quirky contents of the store. Co-owners and partners Nathan Dubo and Tamara Steinborn opened the jewelry and gift store in late October 2011 and it has quickly become an Ottawa favorite.
While Wunderkammer’s popularity in Ottawa has grown rapidly, its creation began quietly. “We started making jewelry outside of university as a side project, and after we finished our master’s degrees, we decided to take a break and focus on the project full-time” explains Dubo. “12 years later, here we are”. Dubo and Steinborn traveled from Toronto to Montreal in hopes of establishing their business and opening their first store. “(…) in the end, when we really wanted to open a store, we decided Montreal wasn’t going to be the place” explains Dubo, “we picked Ottawa because the market seemed right and the city was waiting for something like [what] we had offer.”
What Wunderkammer has to offer is a multitude of materials, shapes, styles and one of-a-kind-designs. The store primarily features creations by Dubo and Steinborn, but is also home to various designers from around the world. “We’ve had our eye on some other lines over the years, lines that do things totally unlike what we do” explains Dubo, “for example, we have a Turkish line coming in soon.”
Although the store sells jewelry from other designers, Dubo and Steinborn know how to keep busy. A new line of their jewelry is released twice a year, an impressive feat largely due to Steinborn’s passionate and intense creative process. “Tamara is a very fast designer, entirely self-taught” says Dubo, “she easily does 300 pieces for each line that we release”. While an overwhelming production process could lead some designers to exhaust their inspiration, Dubo claims that Steinborn is always reinventing her designs and coming up with fresh ideas for each line. “This season, Tamara is a little more aggressive with her materials by using raw brass, spikes, and geometric shapes. However last year, we had a lot of Eiffel Towers, hot air balloons, and bicycles”, explains Dubo, “the pieces really depend on what she’s feeling at the time”.
While there are no doubts that Wunderkammer’s designs are quickly becoming known around the region, many questions arise when discussing the unusual name for the store. “Tamara’s back round is German, so she wanted something, if not German, European”, explains Dubo. “I stumbled on a wikipedia article for wunderkammer, which basically means a room of curiosities. It’s a term from the renaissance”. Although it may be a mouthful for some, Wunderkammer’s success ensures that it is a name that won’t be soon forgotten.