The Jewellery Swap - Märta Mattsson and Carina Shoshtary in Conversation

Interview  /  Debates   BehindTheScenes
Published: 14.12.2015
Carina Shoshtary
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Art jeweller Märta Mattson and Carina Shoshtary made a jewellery exchange: Carina received a pair of earrings, from Märta’s Wings - series, made of cicada wings, resin, crushed stone, glitter and silver. Märta received a pair of Carina’s Karma Chroma - earrings, made of graffiti, glass, almond peel and silver.
The exchange lead to a written dialogue about their work, first published in KARMA CHROMA, Carina Shoshtary’s blog about art and colour.
Märta Mattsson. Earrings: Wings, 2015
Cicada wings, resin, pigment, glitter, silver

Carina: Looking at your Wings-series, Damien Hirst’s kaleidoscope butterfly pieces come to my mind. I saw some of his butterfly mandalas in the museum and was emotionally torn between the incredible beauty of them and a feeling of repulsion to see death put on display like this. I know that you, too, are a great lover of all living creatures. How do you feel about working with dead animals? And is there a line you wouldn’t cross?
Märta: Well, my main motivation for making my work is that fine line that exists between attraction and repulsion. I am very interested in the human mind and psychology. The animal instincts that drive us versus our common sense and the rules we have been taught to follow by society and by other humans. We are I would say, both scared and intrigued by the idea of dying and death. There is something terrifying about the idea of decaying and fading away, even though it is the most natural thing in the world. I feel that we are drawn to looking at death because we are somehow trying to understand our own mortality. I am a huge animal lover and a vegetarian of fifteen years. The line of how to use animal materials in an acceptable and also respectful way is very important to me. For me personally I don’t feel bad about using materials from animals that were once alive (as long as they are sourced in an ethical way). I see it as a rebirth. I give the ‘shell’ the animals leave behind when they die a new meaning and a new life. I am an atheist and I don’t believe in a life after this so I guess that makes it easier for me in a way to see the dead bodies as materials. However I do feel quite repulsed when I work with, for example, dead insects. I used to have a phobia of them and working with them making them into intriguing objects and jewellery was a way for me to conquer my fear. I am quite squeamish so I am not sure where my line goes… I would like to dare to try to work with taxidermy by myself but I am not sure I could handle it. When I have been making pieces with taxidermy I have been working with trained taxidermists who have created the pieces for me. I would not kill an animal; I only use ones that are already dead. The insects I use are all non-protected insects and I only use one dealer who I trust. My main goal with my pieces is not at all to push people’s buttons or cause reactions. It is simply an investigation of my own ambiguous feelings towards life and death and beauty and decay.

Carina, you use pieces of graffiti and you mix it with natural branches. When you are creating these hybrids of nature and artificial materials is your goal to make the pieces feel natural and alive? Your thought process behind this contrast and transformation intrigues me. Could you explain how the idea of mixing the two worlds developed?
Carina: Until now almost all of the materials I have worked with were literally found materials from my immediate surroundings- found in my parents’ cellar, found in the plastic waste, on the street or at the beach… I almost never go and buy my materials. I pick up something that intrigues me, and start playing and experimenting with it. Then the goal is to conquer the material, to make it truly mine. For me this means that the material is being soundly transformed. Some major characteristics remain of course, but the origin often becomes unclear. I want the material to speak my language, not the other way round.

Carina Shoshtary. Earrings: Karma Chroma, 2015
Graffiti, glass, almond peel, silver. Photo:
Carina Shoshtary

My main source of inspiration surely comes from nature, but also from books I read, music I listen to, dreams and thoughts I had, etc. The materials I use- no matter if natural or artificial- become part of a kind of parallel phantasmagorical nature.
Just yesterday I was writing a blog post, where I explain how the graffiti paint came together with the natural materials, so I will answer this question in more detail on the blog soon. However, two years ago we moved from the city to the countryside and after that my work changed almost instantly. I didn’t want to let go of the graffiti yet, and so the newly discovered materials quite naturally found their way into my work. Of course, the graffiti paint is artificial and the wood is natural, but both materials grew in a kind of natural way, or unnatural way, depending on the angle from which you look at it. Graffiti paintings and tags are an integral part of our city landscape. The material I work with is composed of hundreds of layers of graffiti, which grew thicker and thicker on this wall over a long period of time. The wood parts come from a forest, which has been purposefully planted. Often I hear woodworkers cutting trees or see them mark trees, which are either allowed to stay or will also be taken down later. So from this point of view: What is truly natural and what is truly unnatural?

Märta, I think what we also have in common is a strong love for colours. I like the colour combinations of your Wings- series, for example. Can you tell me a bit about your relationship with colours and how you choose them for your work?
Märta: I am very specific when it comes to colour combinations. I try to make my pieces have a ‘natural’ feel to them. I want the pieces to look like something that could have been found in nature. I use colours and hues that I think blend well together, colours that create more of a symbiosis rather than compete with each other. For instance with my electroformed beetles I have chosen only to use cubic zirconia’s in 7 colours even though you can get them in 200 different colours. It is hard to put words on how I chose my colours but they have to ‘taste’ right/have similar flavors. I actually love most colours. I am not a fan of black and brown but with the right combination of sparkly and popping colours I use them too.

Märta Mattsson. Necklace: Wings, 2014
Cicada wings, resin, crushed stone, glitter, silver. Photo: Märta Mattsson

I know instantly after creating a piece, if the colours are right. I have quite a few pieces at home in my studio that I will never show because I feel like the colours are not completely right. Other people who see them might not feel the same but they need to taste right to me otherwise they will remain hidden in a drawer.

How do you choose your colours? And are there any colours you would not use? Do you feel more connected to some colours and if so why is that?

Carina: My choice of colours is dependent on the series I am working on, but also on the stage I am in at the time. For the pieces of the Karma Chroma– series I used a much more subtle and muted range of colours until now than for the very poppy bright colours of the What’s left of Krypton– series. Having finished my studies and left the city, in the last few years I was in a phase of my life, which allowed a lot of self-reflection and reorientation. The Karma Chroma- series are strongly connected to this, which naturally is also visible in the selection of colours. Now I feel that something is changing again, but I cannot quite put a name to it yet.

When it comes to the choosing of colours for a new piece, sometimes I act on impulse, sometimes I have a quite clear image of what I would like to achieve. At times this whole selecting colour business gets overcomplicated for me, because I have an intense connection to colours. With the graffiti paint, I sometimes do something I find very helpful, a kind of loosening-up exercise: I don’t choose the colours anymore, but use whatever comes out of the graffiti plate… It does not always work, but often this leads to very exciting effects and to combinations of colours I would have never picked normally. I like that.

Carina Shoshtary. Necklace: Confused Branches 3, 2015
Wood, graffiti, silver, paint. Photo: Mirei Takeuchi

There are no particular colours I’d say I would never use. There are also no particular colours I am more connected to, not for my work at least. Ultimately, I can say that I still wish to be bolder with my choice and the use of colours in my work. I am a person who is quite focused on colour, both in my perception of art and in my own creative process, but I have also I created my own experience of how the reduction or the absence of colour can help you to focus on other equally important aspects of a piece. There are plenty of colour-blind artists (it is quite probable that even Vincent van Gogh was one of them). I find it very interesting to learn how these artists live and work with this deficiency. Is this different vision an obstacle for them to create what they wish to create or do they maybe develop other abilities or discover advantages, which artists with a normal vision could not have?

Check out Karma Chroma for more thoughts on art and colour


About the author

Carina Shoshtary, born in 1979 In Augsburg, Germany, is of German and Iranian origin. She was trained as a goldsmith in Neugablonz, Germany and then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich, Germany in the jewellery department under Professor Otto Künzli. She graduated in 2012 and was awarded the Bavarian State Prize for Emerging Designers and the State Prize for Applied Arts the same year. She has exhibited her work internationally at galleries and museums including Galerie Ra, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Sienna Gallery, Lenox, USA; Museum of Applied Arts, Frankfurt Germany; International Design Museum, Munich, Germany. Her work is part of the jewellery collection of The Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, Sweden; the Rotasa Foundation, Mill Valley, USA and the International Design Museum, Munich, Germany.

My work starts with an intuitive experimental play with a found material that attracted my curiosity. In the process the material is being thoroughly transformed. Everyday images, thoughts and dreams are woven in as well as my own vision of a parallel nature.
/ Carina Shoshtary