- Marietta Kontogianni
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An architect crosses into the jewellery field in order to express the feeling freer, she continues her dream in a different way. Discovering the stories behind her and her works, and seeing more of her works at upcoming events JOYA Barcelona and SIERAAD.
You are the winner of the 1st Athens Jewelry Week award by Atniclastics. Is this your first award in the jewelry field? And what does that mean to you?
Well, actually, I’m quite new in this area. It has only been one and a half year since I broke off architecture and started to learn how to make & create jewelry (metalsmithing). I was granted a couple of national and international awards in architecture; however, this is for the first time in the jewelry field I have been awarded except for a few competitive exhibitions in contemporary jewelry. I had worried about moving to a new field although it was a brave step for me. This award made me feel comfortable and all my anxieties have been disappeared with the excitement of new works.
In the Same Way, brooch, 2017, powder-coated brass, re-cycled plastic bottles (nylon wire), steel, photo by Snem Yildirim.
You are an Architecture graduate. I know a lot of architects that make jewelry. What do Architecture and Jewelry have in common?
The common starting point of both is the human body. Both architecture and jewelry are scaled over the human body. In both disciplines, human and human sizes are used as base and material is then made three dimensions and structures are formed on the body.
Although they are in different scales, design and production processes of the architecture and jewelry are quite similar. In these multi-layered disciplines, there is an idea in the center that manages the whole process.
In both disciplines, apart from the traditional methods and assumptions, there has been a search for new structures and materials at all times. Ratio and proportion, color, texture, material, form, volume, balance, and contrast are important variables.
What led you to the contemporary jewelry field?
At some point where I needed to express myself, the jewelry came into play as a means of expression. I have realized that I can express myself better with jewelry and I became freer.
Why does the creation of jewelry make you better express yourself, than the production of an architectural project?
It was my dream to be an architect and I studied eagerly. Following graduation, you realize that the architecture you have studied and dreamed of is very different from the architecture in real life and you become disappointed as someone with dreams. There come personal gains, employers, unearned incomes and wrongdoings that must be overlooked. In a field where you cannot express yourself completely, due to these reasons it is much more difficult to express yourself with an architectural project.
As for contemporary jewelry, is a field in which you can express yourself freely. As it develops in parallel with contemporary art, the body comes into the scene as a mobile exhibition space. You will be able to contact with others through the person wearing the jewelry you create and express yourself even if you are not physically there. That the users mostly steps in after the jewelry is produced makes you free in the process.
The jewelry you showed during Athens Jewelry Week at the Benaki Museum was from “Kanavice 2” series. I believe this is what we call in Greece “cross-stitch embroidery”. Do you practice Kanavice yourself or someone in your family and you got inspired from?
As a child, I saw women, not in my family but around, stitching Kanavice embroidery. It was just a handcraft in my memory and I have never tried it until the university. Years later, when I began to interest in and started to search handicrafts, I found that Kanavice points out a very significant gender inequality (problem) in Anatolia. Varying from region to region, even village to village, Kanavice motifs included problems that women could not even talk about. Being subjected to social pressure and having no right to talk, the women used Kanavice as a tool for expression for centuries. They expressed themselves onto motifs and therefore each motif corresponded to a different problem or feeling. As a woman, I also thought that I could express myself better with Kanavice and I told my story with my contemporary interpretation of Kanavice.
Kanavice brooches, 2016, powder-coated brass, re-cycled plastic bottles (nylon wire), steel, photo by Snem Yildirim.
You chose bright colors for your Kanavice 2 series jewelry, yellow, orange, blue, fuchsia, red but also grey. What role does the color play in your creative process?
Colors are an important expression tools for me as I spend a lot of time in the production process. They have symbolic, formal and functional meanings depending on the work. While emphasizing and associating a concept, creating an identity, I make use of colors. In the production process, I break down the whole to establish the proportion, support the form and create conceptual symbols.
There are two others jewelry series inspired by the tradition, the ‘Four Seasons” inspired from the Anatolia patterns and the ‘Kolan” inspired from the heavy working conditions of the Black Sea carrying women. Is your goal to preserve your country’s traditional culture through your work?
I live in a geographical area of various cultures, which has been the home for many civilizations for many years, and where different beliefs, languages, races, and cultures still live together. I am like this geography on a micro scale. And the formal, cultural and historical elements that inspire me during production process also come out of this mosaic. Although it is not the main goal to reflect the culture of this geography, I cannot avoid it.
Your first piece of jewelry was an interactive brooch called “Charm” with interchangeable parts. Do you believe there is an interaction between the jewelry and the wearer even if the jewelry is not technically interactive? And what kind of interaction?
Jewelry starts to interact with the user (wearer) the moment it meets the viewer/user. The same jewelry will be seen differently from different people, even though they are the same; different users will reflect the same jewelry differently. This is not only physical; there will be also the emotional interaction that the jewelry artist cannot foresee.
You designed two new series. One that is called ‘Surrounded’ and one that is called ‘Mein Lieber Diktator!’ (My Lovely Dictator!). What are these series about?
Surrounded Series is about the visible & invisible borders and focusing on the opportunities of the material in the border of a frame.
Mein Lieber Dictator Series is about terms such as auto-censorship, authority, obedience, hierarchy etc.
Surrounded Series, brooches, 2017, powder coated brass, powder coated copper, re-cycled plastic bottles (nylon wire), steel, photo by Snem Yildirim.
The Series “Mein Lieber Diktator!” (My Lovely Dictator!) is totally different than the previous ones. Why? What did it change your way of thinking? What thoughts and feelings do you want to express through this new work of yours?
There is an increasing pressure in the country where I live (Turkey). Any contradictory voices are being suppressed and the rights are violated. This is the biggest problem in my agenda right now. While the repressive regime is self-evident in Turkey, I see that the situation in the world is not very different and that there is an authoritarian tendency globally. Such problems became the starting point of the Mein Lieber Dictator series.
Ssst! , brooch, 2017, lenticular print, Wood, paint, steel, photo by Snem Yildirim.
You work together with your sister Didem and you are the owners of the “Studio Zig-Zag” in Istanbul. What is the role each one of you plays in the creative field?
At Studio Zigzag, I represent feelings, while Didem represents reasoning.
We have noticed that what we want to do in jewelry field differentiates when it comes to production process at our studio. Didem realized that she wanted to create a jewelry and accessories brand in which design handcraft are in the center; on the other hand, I wanted to progress in art & art jewelry.
Diverse interests brought incredible richness to our workshop. We concentrate on different areas, discuss ideas, produce together and work collectively.
What are your future plans? Which fairs or exhibitions are you going to show your work?
There are a few exhibitions and fairs. I am currently showing my works in Brussels in the group exhibition “Contrepoints” at ICKX Contemporary Jewelry Gallery (7/9-2/12/2017). I will be in Joya Barcelona in October (5, 6 & 7/10/2017). Immediately after, in November I will be in SIERAAD in Amsterdam (9, 10,11 & 12,/11/2017). And at the last month of 2017, there is an exhibition with Gulnur Ozdaglar in Istanbul.
About the Interviewee
Snem Yildirim, Ankara / Turkey (1984).
She graduated from Gazi University, Department of Architecture, and in 2011 she started to study Architectural Design Master Program at Istanbul Bilgi University. By Input Project she produced several art projects within the scope of the city and public space. She continued her studies at Istanbul Moda Academy in the Leather Footwear and Accessories Design Program which was in partnership with the University of the Arts London. In 2016 she set up her contemporary jewelry studio “Studio Zigzag” with her sister. Currently, she works at her studio and is a member of Yaygara Contemporary Art Initiative.
About the author
Marietta Kontogianni is a Greek journalist based in Athens.
In April 2016 she founded JEWELRYbox Magazine on Facebook that aims to network with the people involved in the jewelry world. She has been working as a journalist for more than 20 years in newspapers, magazines and TV channels. Meanwhile, she had been creating fashion beaded jewelry herself. When the newspaper she was working for since 1995 bankrupted, she decided to found the bilingual (Greek-English) FB magazineJEWELRYbox to keep on working as a journalist and to express her passion for jewelry.
Up to now, she interviewed almost all of the prominent artists that showed their works in Athens and attended all the lectures given by the renowned artists/ gallerists, curators in Athens since 2016.
Moreover, herJEWELRYbox Magazine was a media sponsor of both Greek jewelry platforms: A Jewel Made in Greece 2017 and Athens Jewelry Week 2017. Her future plan is to have a website built dedicated mainly to the Greek jewelry world.
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