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Máret Ánne Sara, Pile o’ Sápmi, cast porcelain necklace made from the ash of reindeer bones, approx. 200 pieces

Every five years, the largest and supposedly most important festival of contemporary art, called Documenta, transforms the small, buttoned-down town of Kassel in the middle of Germany into the epicenter of the global art world. The 100-days long event was established in 1955 in an attempt to revive Germany’s and Europe’s art and cultural scene, both countering and washing off the taste of two decades of Nazi repression. Back then people called it the “museum of 100 days”. Over the years, the Documenta has grown into an event of mindblowing proportions. Even art professionals and frequent biennial visitors are blown away by its ever-growing size and amount of artworks and events, reaching far beyond the museum walls.

This year’s 14th edition continues to push the boundaries. For the first time in its history, Documenta is taking place in not only one but two cities, Athens and Kassel, under the controversial title “Learning from Athens”. About his decision to split up the festival between two locations Adam Szymczyk, d14 Artistic Director, said: “This one is trying to stay out of focus. It is not so much about making a point, but about showing different posibilities from so many different points of view. The logical consequence was to have it divided between two cities.”

Documenta is known for being a political exhibition, addressing contemporary issues in society head-on, and thus acting as a signpost for formal and thematic trends in the years to come. So it seems only natural that, in a year like 2017, themes related to the current global refugee crisis feature in multiple variations. Many artists deal either directly or indirectly with migration, transit and transitions, trade routes and nomadic cultures. One of the pretexts for Documenta 14 is to leave the northern European comfort zone and look at these issues from the global South, if necessary to change perspective and assume a position akin to the South as a State of Mind (which is also the title of Documenta 14’s ongoing publication series). So rather than representing other people’s struggles, we are called upon to learn from those who are struggling themselves. Naturally, that also includes minorities like the nomadic Sámi people. Even though they don’t live in the south by any means but inhabit the most northern regions of Europe, their culture and livelihood are also threatened by neoliberal politics and globalist expansion. One major threat for the Sámi comes with new legislation that prevents them from herding reindeer according to their thousand-year old tradition.

Máret Ánne Sara, born 1983 in Hammerfest, Norway, is one of many Sámi artists present in this Documenta. In a series of works, she aims to raise awareness for their struggle with state interventions that prohibit them from living the way they are used to. Her brother, Jovsset Ánte Sara, recently won an important trial against the Norwegian state and managed to defend the property rights of the Sámi against the 2007 Reindeer Herding Act, which constrains herd sizes to an unacceptable minimum.

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Máret Ánne Sara, Pile o’ Sápmi, installation

Pile o’ Sápmi draws upon spiritual, ecological, and political concerns. It references “Pile of Bones,” the Indigenous name for the place where the Cree nation stacked buffalo bones to anchor the animals’ spirits to the land, thereby ensuring their continued presence in what is today known as Western Canada. The artist also refers to the brutal colonial history of North America, when millions of bisons were killed in the 1800s and their bones ground into fertilizer or shipped overseas, where it was made into fine buffalo bone china and sold to wealthy European families. As a nod to the way that this destructive history now mimics what is taking place in regard to the reindeer culls in Norway, Sara commissioned a porcelain necklace made from ground reindeer bones. Its exaggerated size, almost absurdly proportioned relative to the human body, is deliberate. Sara notes that many city mayors and governmental leaders wear elaborate neckpieces adorned with crests as a demonstration of prestige and power. She intends her necklace to serve a similar function.

 

More: http://www.documenta14.de/en/artists/13491/maret-anne-sara

A report by Lilian Mattuschka

With photos by Piero Arico

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Otto Kunzli, Quidam, from 7.03 to 14.03 2017 at Galerie Wittembrik

As every year during the jewellery week, Munich is invaded by strange characters, recognizable thanks to their unique tendency to wear ornament and decoration.

During these intense days, you will see colourful broaches, big necklaces and eye-catching rings all around the city, and if these signs are not evident enough you can identify them because of the one common object everyone holds tight in their hands: the Current Obsession map/book.

Makers, collectors, gallerists, students and just curious people (way less than the others, indeed) from different cultural backgrounds come together with a common goal: contemporary jewellery.

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Pearl Necklace, 2016, Carved freshwater pearls

As a professional myself, I want to share my favourites of this Munich jewellery week 2017:

BEATRICE BROVIA AND NICOLAS CHENG, “GOLD RUSH”

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Gold Rush, 2017, Exhibition view, Beatrice Brovia and Nicolas Cheng

One of the most interesting and complete exhibitions in this year´s schmuck thanks to a perfectly working dialog between the display and the pieces.

Visitors were encouraged to look beyond the regular ways in which highly precious materials are used in the jewellery field, and to reflect on their controversial nature.

With a series of very clean and aesthetically pleasing pieces made out of e-waste Brovia and Cheng where putting their focus on the normally invisible uses of gold.

AKIKO KURIHARA “THE CAT DID IT”

Smart and funny as every year. Always a pleasure to visit and see what new game is on the table of Akiko Kurihara.

JORGE MANILLA “ABRUPTIONS”

A mysterious and dark experience in strong contrast with the enthusiastic crowd of visitors that were literally fighting to touch the enchanting skin of these guts-like pieces.

COCO SUNG “KARMA”

Freedom was the first thing that came to my mind when I entered in CoCo Sung’s show. Refreshing and inspiring, a beautiful combination between painting and jewellery.

Sung opened up to visitors her imaginary world with courage and great ability in combining colour, shapes and material.

To know more about Alchimia jewellery school in Florence check our main website.

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  1. ALWAYS LOOK FOR A NEW CHALLENGE IN ORDER TO KEEP IMPROVING

I think that challenging yourself continuously is very important. You can only move forward, if you force yourself to learn new things. If you keep acting only in your comfort zone, you will stay at the same point constantly.

Wether it is on a general professional or personal level, or just a single object I am working on – I always try to find new techniques or materials to explore. Some people want to focus on one same material or technique, which is also fine. The most important thing for me however is not to stop at the same point each time. Try to continue to surprise yourself, to go further than what you have imagined and find new, and different ways to do and to think.

In my latest series Diplopia I have used various techniques including 3D printing for the first time. It offered a complete new way of working to me. I think it is important to be open to a broad spectrum of techniques and materials, from traditional ones to new technologies. Be open to adapt to new opportunities in order to seize all the possibilities you are offered.

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2. HAVE A DREAM/A GOAL/A PLAN

 

 I believe that if you have a goal and you really want to achieve something, it is important that you frame it for yourself. If you keep seeing it clear in front of you, your whole body and mind will move towards it. Every decision and every move, leads you closer to your goal.

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3. BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN DO EVERYTHING!

Don´t hesitate to participate or apply because you think you are not experienced enough, or are too anxious about the possibility of failing. It is very tough to be self-confident in the art field. Especially as art jewelers, when we sometimes seem to float in an area between design, arts and crafts. Thus, it is such a satisfaction to achieve something that you did not think you could do. Those moments keep you going and help you to move on, so strive for them.

This year I won the “Eligius-Schmuckpreis 2016”. When I decided to apply I really did not have high hopes to get chosen, since I had just finished my studies and moved to Vienna a few months earlier. I decided to give it a shot anyway since it can´t hurt. Eventually I won the prize, which was an amazing opportunity and honor. I realized that I was wrong in not believing in my chances. We can always find reasons not to do things, but those will keep us from engaging in great possibilities and if we just try, we might be proven wrong. And also: failing is a learning experience too!

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4. HAVE HIGH AIMS

 

Don´t limit yourself and your ideas. At first, for every idea and every plan you should aim as high as you can. Let your ideas and thoughts develop free from limitations. Step by step you can try to find solutions for realizing them or for solving the problems or for finding other, easier ways to get where you want to.

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5. BE OPEN AND COURAGEOUS FOR NEW POSSIBILITIES

 

Have a plan, a dream, but don´t stick to it irrevocably. Often you need to change, adjust or adapt your plans a little. Maybe this will lead to steps that you did not plan in advance, but they might just lead you to another route on the way to your goal. If there are chances, you have to catch them.

At the beginning of my educational path as a jeweler I could not have imagined where my way would lead. I had not planned on doing my bachelors in Florence and I never thought I would complete my masters degree in the US. I am incredibly happy that I took the chances as they came, as those where the most valuable experiences of my whole life.

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6. DISAPPOINTMENTS ARE PART OF THE GAME

In my second year of grad school one of my art professors told me about his “folder of rejections”. It was a huge, stuffed folder that he kept. Over the years he collected every letter of refusal he received and put it in this folder. He is a successful artist today, but he assured me that for each time he got accepted for an exhibition or a job, he probably got rejected 10 times or more. Sometimes it can be very hard to take a rejection or a failure. You start questioning everything, asking yourself why you didn’t choose another career and worry that all your hard work ends in despair. Don´t be afraid to fail, don´t let it bring you down, there will be a next time and it will be worth it!

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7. HAVE FUN!

The best way to produce good work is to enjoy doing it. It will be easy for you to work hard and a lot if it doesn´t just feel like work. This works best if you can create a surrounding that comforts you. Make yourself a home in your studio and work close to people you like! I have always shared my studio with other artists. It was the best way to stay motivated when I got lost in my process, or when I was tired. I can ask my mates for suggestions and I even learn while trying to help them. If you talk, discuss, dream and phantasize together, your ideas will float and flourish in a way you can never achieve if you just sit by yourself. It is fun to work until late if you can have little breaks together and encourage each other to go on for one more hour.

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8. JOIN FORCES

Since April 2016 I am a Member of Atelier Stoss im Himmel. We are 8 artists that share a workspace and have a common exhibition space, where we have a showroom and organize shows. It is a beautiful space, equipped with all the tools we need to work and the possibility to split duties and responsibilities. None of us could afford anything close to this by themselves and of course, it is much more fun together.

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Lena Grabher is a Vienna-based contemporary jeweler. She started her education in Vienna where she accomplished her apprenticeship examination as a goldsmith. She completed her BFA degree in Florence at ALCHIMIA contemporary jewelry school in 2013, to continue her studies in Metals at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where she received her MFA in May 2015. Since 2016 she is a Member of Atelier STOSSimHIMMEL and teaches gold and silversmithing techniques at the Wiener Goldschmiedelehrgang. Lena has developed an experimental way of working that is driven by an urge to discover and explore the subject of jewelry on many levels. Her latest work is entitled DIPLOPIA and was currently awarded with the prestigious Eligius – Schmuckpreis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can you do with the notions of repetition, pattern and rhythm?

Alchimia’s first year BFA students are happy to present to the blog the outcome of a five-days workshop with Alchimia’s former director, artist and jewelry maker Doris Maninger.

How about starting with a potato?

By using only a potato students created hundreds of black and white patterns and collectively realized a wonderful window installation.

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How do you work with a group?

The building of a sense of (temporary) community with fellow students and faculty is a central aspect of  Alchimia’s pedagogical method, as it strengthens self-security and encourages experimentation. Hence a second exercise during the workshop was the realization of a 1 minute music video revolving around the three magic words.

 

What is the size of a necklace?

The last exercise was about collectively realizing a necklace for the Gods, creating a piece of overly exaggerated size, moving from the micro dimension of jewelry to the space of a window.

 

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The first year BFA is: Silvia Bonardi, Thomas Catry, Yara Diaz Salles, Yu Fang Hu, Daniel Jirkovsky, Ashleigh Mc Culloch, Sarah Ordóñez, Sarah Poupart, Alessia Prati, Yanqi Wuang, Shuang Yue

 

 

We are glad to say that Patrick Davison has won the Goldsmiths’ Fair 2016 Best New Design Award (Week Two) for Box: a container, an object and a sculpture, only 50mm tall and with a fascinating and intricate surface’s pattern made of silver, brass, copper, bronze, and nickel silver (alpaca).

Patrick Davison Goldsmith Fair Box

Box, fine silver,sterling silver, copper, bronze, nickle silver, brass,  2015

 

Patrick Davison Goldsmith Fair Box

Who is Patrick Davison

A student of Alchimia in the past, and a contributing faculty today, Patrick is a jewellery designer whose practice is defined by a process-led work which incorporates silver and mixed metals.

He studied at the Glasgow School of Art and at Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School in Florence with Ruudt Peters. After graduation he returned to Kent in England and set up his workshop where he continues to work. He began to develop his own work exploring a variety of gold and silversmithing techniques and complementing this personal practice with work in jewellery workshops.

 

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Necklace, silver, shibuichi, 2015

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Porphyry, box, silver, shibuichi, bronze, brass copper, 2014

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Box (oval), silver, nickel silver, 2014

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walls of the church/of the temple, vessel, silver, nickel silver, bronze, brass, copper, 2014

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Brooches, all from 2016

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Box, silver, Fine silver, Bronze, Brass, Copper, 2016

Goldsmiths’ Fair

Goldsmiths’ Fair is one of the most important events for contemporary jewellery of the UK, organized every year by the Goldsmith Company.

For over two weeks 150 independent makers, from young talents to more established professionals, from all over Britain are selected by a panel of experts to present their work in this context.

For more information please visit: https://www.goldsmithsfair.co.uk

by Chumeng Weng

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View from the vitrine of EContemporary Gallery

In early September, when stores were sluggish from the August heat and new students started to invade the city again, I got a chance to escape to the north of Italy. Trieste, a city bordered by Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea, has impressed me with its multicultural background and a scenic view. To skip the lonely planet kind of introduction, I’ll jump to saying that Trieste is also the hometown of Carla Movia who is a promising graduate student and teaching assistant of Alchimia. She is a jeweler, an artist, a generous host during my trip, and above all a dear friend.

Carla Movia participated in a project titled Artefatto, the result of a yearly open call for participation addressed to young emerging artists from all over the world under 31 years old and based on a different theme each year. The project was initiated by the Youth Aggregation Centres of the Municipality of Trieste as a result of a networking between educational institutions, cultural organizations, local communities and their younger generations. The Municipality of Trieste supported and enhanced this event through an art exhibition and several collateral activities such as ARTEFATTO zoom!

The 11th edition of Artefatto included the work of 40 artists, 8 of which were selected to be part of a show also in ARTEFATTO zoom, in different spaces of the city related to a number of curatorial choices.

The opening took place on September 9th with an ice installation by Fabio Ranzolin placed in the middle of the entrance of ITIS (Azienda pubblica di Servizi alla Persona). A nursing home is not normally associated to art activities. However this environment the artist chose spoke very directly to the topics he wanted to address: the personal experience with his mother suffering from the Alzheimer Disease. Two rows of wine glasses were placed on a block of ice with pure friction. Intensified dripping sound corresponding to the action was being constantly looped in the background. Each second the tension was stretched a bit more since the sound kept reminding the audiences that there would be a moment when the friction will no longer hold the glasses on the ice block as slowing melting away, and all would snap into a million of pieces. It was not a site specific piece but was extremely fitting with the artist’s intention. It was beautiful to perceive the strong collaboration, the support and solidarity existing between very different sectors of the city.

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Fabio Ranzolin setting up the wine glasses on ice block in ITIS

After this opening event, four exhibitions inaugurated too, all only for one hour, and in four locations. Artworks used a variety of media, and locations seemed to have always been carefully chosen in relation to the content of the exhibitions. It really felt as an exhibition organized by and for young people, jumping around locations on high heels and never complaining, even though I wonder what it meant for the artists to have a one hour only show.

Carla Movia was one of the 8 finalists, and exhibited some of her brooches (part of her graduate work) at the art gallery EContemporary in a show curated by Elena Cantori. Amongst all paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos and installations, jewellery sounded like an odd field to be included. However, and fortunately, to discuss whether or not contemporary jewellery belonged to the visual arts world seemed rather unnecessary at this point. For it is not the medium that determines whether or not something should be considered as art. In fact the most important aspect here seemed to be whether the artworks were capable of communicating the artists’ thoughts and research to the public in a creative way. Artists didn’t need a million dollar idea to start with, but an originality in their proposed answer to the general thematic framework. Carla Movia’s jewellery pieces were perfectly responding to this context. Her collection of brooches is made out of cans composed of containers and lids. They are a vivid illustration of marginalized individuals evaluated due to pre-established prejudices and processes of stereotyping. Stripped off of their original functions as cans, they become brooches, portraits, sculptures and recordings of a statement. Most importantly, they become a symbol of our societal norms. Movia does not only represent an issue, but also encourages a moment of reflection to a public that is essentially implicated in the problem.

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Carla Movia and her collection in EContemporary Gallery

I find that the world of contemporary jewellery takes itself too seriously. Why are we often so persistent in our need to define what we do and where we belong to? Is it self reassurance we need, to justify the fact that we produce a type of jewellery that has nothing to do with the traditional jewellery making doctrine? Movia in this case did not trouble herself with defining the boundaries of contemporary jewellery or contemporary art. She did not even have the intention to blur disciplinary borders or to be a “jewellery activist” of sort. To be fair not everyone has an instinctual understanding of her works and it’s not easy to reach the conceptual and formal qualities she achieved. Her work is the result of years of practice, research and discussion. Movia studied at Alchimia for five years and to some extent Alchimia can really be considered more than a jewellery school, as the questions you face during your studies there become existential, philosophical, they put into questions a lot of who you are and what you do, leading to continuously reconsidering yourself.

All the artists participating in the show at Econtemporary gallery had to personally introduce their work before an audience. Movia’s talent in talking about her work proved once again how Alchimia’s students are armed from head to toe to defend their work. Movia was able to talk about her project in just a few sentences like a veteran that talked about her war badges all the time.

I felt lucky to be a fellow classmate of Movia and see how her thoughts and works have developed over the past two years. Of course not all of us have her strength and mentality, and not all of us are interested in creating relations between jewellery techniques, worldwide conflicts and self recognition. But Alchimia over the past years has achieved so much in the contemporary jewellery scene. With her students being awarded all around the world and the school being nominated at different fairs and competitions…prospective students flock into the school like mad worshippers. The quality of teaching is not a guarantee for success, we as students also need to put in a huge amount of effort and energy. It always is a mutual interaction that leads to collaboration as well as conflict.

Best of luck to all the young artists out there, stay young, stay hungry.

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Chumeng Weng lived and studied in Shenyang, China for 18 years before studying fine art in Canada. Still looking for a better self, she spent one year in technical jewellery making until attending Alchimia where not only her perception of jewellery has been altered greatly but also her philosophy towards ways of living has been reinterpreted.

an interview by Daria Borovkova

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STUDIO|Nedda, Eternum Coffee & Tea set, 2013, (c) Johan Blommaert

In 2015 Alchimia launched its new MFA program, finalized with solo-shows of its participants happening in Barcelona, Prague, Torino, Antwerp and Florence. Three out of six students, Daria Borovkova, Lavinia Rossetti and Giulia Savino were tutored by Nedda El-Asmar, an acclaimed Belgian designer and professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

In order to introduce Nedda without being dogmatic about jewellery talk, this interview is more of a conversation between a tutor and one of her students, where both reflect, together, on jewellery and beyond.

Daria: I want to start from the very beginning of your professional career. You have studied jewellery design and silver-smithing at the Royal Academy of Arts in Anwerp and completed your education at the Royal College of Art in London. As a student did you notice any major differences between the pedagogical approaches of these two institutions?

Nedda: Well, these are two institutions that you cannot compare, particularly at that time, because the Royal College of Art has only a Master degree. And at the time of my studies at the Academy the system of Bachelor and Master didn’t even exist, it was introduced almost 10 years ago, so it was different. However, what I have learned at the Academy is to manage and to be creative with what I had, so that was stimulating. On the other hand, at The Royal College I got a lot of input through, for instance, many and different lectures, and it gave me lots of possibilities for networking afterwards. Many new technologies were available there. So I find it impossible to compare, they were two completely different types of educations in fact.

Daria: Which one do you think influenced you the most as a professional?

Nedda: The Royal College came four years after the Academy, so at that point I understood better what I was doing and going to do. We approached production and making multiples, which made me realize that I didn’t have to make all my pieces one by one by hand, or think of them as unique. There were great facilities for producing work, and that was very influential as I started to design for companies. But managing everything myself and doing handwork has been very important as well for the way I approach my projects.

Daria: As a young designer you were picked up very quickly by different companies, Hermès, Puiforcat, Villeroy & Boch, just to name a few. Was it difficult to find a balance between their guidelines and policies and establishing your personal style? Did their identity influence your practice? And how much space is there for individual creative freedom?

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Nedda El-Asmar, Selle Bartabas for Hermès, 2001, ©Rousseau

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Nedda El-Asmar, Criollo for Carl Mertens, 2006, (c) Wolf&Wolf

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Nedda El-Asmar, Demianka for Hermès, 2006, (c) Patrick Burban

Nedda: I didn’t have any strict guidelines and ever since I started designing for those companies, I try to find the balance between their style and my own. It is important and challenging to keep this in mind, so that the company is happy with the outcome and that I can recognise myself in it. Up until now, to be honest, we still have a lot of freedom (since 2008 Nedda is working together with Eric Indekeu, ed). We are given projects because the companies know what kind of work we do, we have an identity. We hardly have guidelines, we are just asked to design cutlery, for example, as simple as that.

Daria: You won the ‘Belgian Designer of the Year 2007’ award amongst many more. What is essential in a well designed object for you?

Nedda: Well, it all depends on what it has to be. Something functional should be functional of course. If it’s a spoon for daily use, so not a conceptual spoon, then you have to be able to eat your soup comfortably with it. Also the proportions, weight and other aspects are important. And then the aesthetics. And for me the aesthetic part is something that makes you want to cherish your object. You should be enjoying to use it daily, to have it around you and to keep it for quite a while. It shouldn’t be just another spoon that next year you would like to replace. So in one way or another, the aesthetics should be ‘timeless’.

Daria: Do you apply then the same criteria to a jewellery piece?

Nedda: Yes. For example in the only commercial line we’ve done so far (DIAMANTI PER TUTTI, 2014) the setting is designed so as to make the diamond visible only to the owner. Thus, it can intimately speak to the memory of the person the owner received it from or maybe the moment he got it for himself. They are very simple aesthetic pieces with a story behind them. Not all my products have a story to tell, but a lot of them do.

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STUDIO|Nedda, Diamanti Per Tutti, 2014

Daria: You teach at the Jewellery Department of the Royal Academy in Antwerp since nine years. And you don’t design jewellery, or barely. Is your approach to jewellery making, as a teacher, similar to the process of cutlery design, for example? In some way they share something, they are both body related.

Nedda: I see both, jewellery and cutlery, as some sort of decoration, be it for the body or the table. Both are also body related, but a spoon is still more functional, because it has to fit well in the hand and when you put it in your mouth, it has to be comfortable. When it comes to teaching, I don’t think it makes any difference to me, because I’ve always been surrounded and educated by jewellery designers. If I were educated as a product designer then I think my approach would have been different.

Daria: I find it very interesting that you can bring your knowledge of designing objects into jewellery thinking and tutoring.

Nedda: What I find interesting is doing multiples and working with others, here I mean designing and making everything together as a team in class. And I think it’s something you have to offer to your students so at least they understand, vividly, that there are other ways, other than making unique pieces. It’s an exercise that I consider quite important.

Daria: Since you teach in a Jewellery Department, do you have your own definition of what jewellery is nowadays?

Nedda: There are so many different ways of approaching jewelry today. You have artists, like Ai Weiwei or Erwin Wurm, who are commissioned to design jewellery. Then there are, of course, the jewellery designers and makers: some of them are very conceptual, others are making more body related pieces. What jewellery is and if it belongs to fine arts or crafts is a discussion that I don’t find necessary anymore.

Daria: But do you see any limitations? Honestly, anything can be a jewellery piece?

Nedda: For example, almost anything can be a brooch. In theory, you just need to put a pin on the back. And that’s where the limitations can start. You can feel if the pin is really part of the piece or not. And if it’s not, then why should it be a brooch? At that point, let it be what it’s good for.

Daria: And what if the jewellery piece is absolutely not wearable and not even meant for the body?

Nedda: If it’s too heavy or too difficult to wear, it’s fine, it has its place as well. I wouldn’t see any problem even if it was made just for a photo-shoot or if it was meant to exist as an ephemeral statement on the body.

Daria: You tutor only MFA students. Can you talk about this role?

Nedda: For me it’s about finding out with the students what they really want to do, what they want to express, to coach them along this path and to support them. Whether it’s something conceptual or very commercial, I motivate students to go deeper and do something that is different from what is already out there, because there are always possibilities to develop projects in a much more thorough way. What I find important is that by the time they graduate, even if they achieved only half of what they hoped for, they know what they want to do and how to continue.

Daria: You teach, give workshops and develop design projects in many different countries, in Europe and the Middle East. Do you think that design and jewellery, as disciplines, reflect the process of globalisation and that they are increasingly losing their cultural specificities?

Nedda: Now everything is globalized. And this is happening to jewellery design as well. The community of contemporary makers is very small. Many of them come to Europe to study and they start to reflect on their cultural identity, there is a lot of mutual influence.

Daria: Your roots are from a totally different cultural context than Belgium – from Palestine. Did you ever directly address your cultural heritage in any of your projects?

Nedda: I do it when necessary and when it makes sense. Like in the case of a water pipe that was commissioned to me by a French company called Airdiem. The same goes for Zeri Crafts, whom we’ve designed incense burners for. In both projects there is a cultural aspect that I know very well, also because these products are sold in the Gulf States, and so that link and that feeling to it is coherent with the object and its aims.

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Nedda El-Asmar,  Narghile for Airdiem, 2006, (C) L. Pironneau

Daria: How did it feel to be working on these cross-cultural projects?

Nedda: It’s part of me, so it’s natural. I think if somebody asked me to do something for a Japanese market, I would have to do much more research, it would be different.

Daria: What inspires you?

Nedda: It all depends. It can be a word or just the object itself, it can be the shape, it can be nature. For me it can be anything!

Daria: Are you inspired by food and cooking since you design cutlery and many other objects which are somehow related to this?

Nedda: Well, maybe indirectly. The projects I’m doing are often food related. I think it’s just the way I work – I like noticing, trying out and mixing things. For example, when I designed Appetize (a set of forks and spoons for appetizers) it was because at receptions I always wondered why there was just one type of spoon with a bent handle for serving appetizers. And that is how I came to the idea of making something different.

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Nedda El-Asmar, HTS for Hermès, 2005, (c) Patrick Burban

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Nedda El-Asmar, Virgule for Puiforcat, 2005

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Nedda El-Asmar, Appetize for Gense, 2006

Daria: Then what about one of your iconic pieces – a condom holder. How did you come up with the idea? What is the story behind it?

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Nedda El-Asmar, Condomholder, 1992, (c) Wolf&Wolf

Nedda: I’ve designed that in 1991-1992. It was the project for a multiple that we had to do at the Royal College of Art. We had to look for a product that was a gap in the market. And at that moment AIDS had just been revealed. Using condoms had to become a part of your daily hygiene, like brushing your teeth, so everybody had to carry them. And I thought that you had elegant powder boxes, cigarette cases, etc., so I decided to make something precious for condoms, because love is a beautiful thing, why should you have to hide it?

Daria: You have recognizable aesthetics – simple, elegant and very sophisticated. Some define it as feminine. How do you feel about it?

Nedda: Well, maybe it’s just because people like to put labels, I also have pieces that are not that feminine. Sometimes I wonder, if there was no name next to my objects would you still refer to them as oriental and feminine?

Daria: And when it comes to jewellery, do you think that contemporary jewellery is gender specific?

Nedda: It’s the same situation as with globalization. There is an androgynous nature that is very prominent today, whereas before it was more gender-specific. I think this all has to do with the development of modern society and a certain degree of cosmopolitanism.

Daria: I have also noticed that many young jewellers today don’t limit themselves to jewellery making, but they also create objects and use other mediums of artistic expression. Why do you think this happens? Is it historically rooted or is it a recent phenomenon?

Nedda: I think it has to do with the fact that everyone wants to try a bit of everything. And in terms of education as well, some schools became some sort of a mixture of all departments. Back in the days it was different, you finished the Academy and you knew what you would be doing for the years to come. Nowadays everything has changed. And it’s not making things easier, on the contrary, it’s making life more difficult. A lot of people are very confused and I think that might be one of the reasons why people try a bit of everything, because some are not confident enough.

Daria: The contemporary jewellery world is very small and especially there are very few public and private institutions devoted to it, while the number of students and practitioners is growing. What strategies do you suggest your students to adopt in order to be noticed and find their own place?

Nedda: Well, it all depends on what your work is like. Each time there’s a different strategy. I think what is important is to understand that your direction could change or shift afterwards, but to stay focused and not try to do too much at the same time.

Daria: And finally, can you share the best advice you were given during your studies which you still find relevant today in your work?

Nedda: Well, my tutor at the Academy Jean Lemmens once said that the most important thing is to look around. Look and look and look. And continue looking. I think that’s what is important, to look around. Look at what is happening, be eager to learn. I love seeing what others are doing, how they are doing it, be it in Fine Arts or other fields. It’s about knowing what is going on and not setting boundaries. It’s about absorbing, about keeping your eyes open and being open to everything that passes by and try to do something with it.

Daria Borovkova is a russian Florence-based jewelry designer. She has an international background and working experience as a visual merchandiser and interior designer and in 2015 graduated from the MFA program of Alchimia. Her jewellery has been exhibited in Europe and in the United States.