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Interview with Ginta GRUBE LJAA Board Member

What is the mission of the Latvian Jewellery Art Association?

Latvian Jewellery Art Association (LJAA) brings together professionals active in the field. The aim is to organize exhibitions and other events and promote Latvian jewellery art locally and internationally. Also focus on fundraising for jewellery related projects. The association gathers information and facilitates the exchange of experience among young and experienced jewellers. We wish to collaborate with educational institutions as well as other related organizations.

How many members does this association have?

Today there are 22 members in LJAA. To illustrate the diversity of members the youngest are in their 20’s and among the senior members are prominent Latvian jewellers of whom one recently celebrated his 70th anniversary.

How was it established? What is the story behind?

LJAA was established in February 2018 by jewellery artists Janis and Zane Vilki (husband and wife) and Valdis Broze (the first LJAA Board Members). ”Crucial moment to establish an association was after the very successful exhibition SYNERGY. Contemporary Trends in Metal Art and Design at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in the end of 2017. The exhibition broke a 20-year hiatus since the previous exhibition of a similar scale. One of the goals of the association became to continue regular exhibiting,” remembers Zane Vilka. From August 4, 2020 the board is represented by Zane Vilka, Maris Sustins and me (Ginta Grube).

What projects did Latvian Jewellery Art Association do?

The first jointly organized art project was the exhibition A PRIORI in Latvia, Cesis Exhibition Hall (June 21 – July 27, 2019) with the support of the State Culture Capital Foundation (SCCF). The concepts a priori and a posteriori are philosophical terms used to distinguish two types of knowledge. A priori stands for the starting point of the LJAA thus the first exhibition gathered members regardless of previous experience. Some had a wealth of experience while others were fresh from school. Both experienced and well-known artists as well as young graduates joined together to show their latest works. LJAA second joint art project was the exhibition MARK in Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre (07 February – 12 April 2020). MARK was a keyword to each author’s individual interpretation of the well known painter Mark Rothko or his city of birth or the art centre itself as it is located in the historical artillery arsenal building of Daugavpils Fortress. Brooch was selected as a connecting type of jewellery that would bring it all together through its fundamental features. As Zane Vilka explains: “In jewellery arts, the brooch is traditionally compared to a miniature artwork or painting. (...) This jewellery item has an amazing capacity to highlight the individual traits of its wearer. Oftentimes, artists choose to make a brooch when they want to carry across a certain message that goes beyond functionality. To a jewellery artist, a brooch is what a blank canvas is to a painter. This complex set of ideas finds a brief and concise expression in the exhibition title: MARK. A mark, or a sign, is a loaded word with a substantial range of meaning in many languages. The exhibition title is a tribute to Mark Rothko, a vivid marker of his time, whose art is among our sources of inspiration.” The exhibition was closed ahead of time due to Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020. Notwithstanding this, the exhibition was highly attended and is considered a success. The latest project funded by the SCCF is the LJAA website – latvianjewellery. org which is about to start off in the beginning of 2021.

Why jewellery artists need an association?

Coming together in an association brings a stronger force to each of the member and helps to withstand stronger competition among other art fields in the context of fundraising. “The broad spectrum of generations and styles among the association is a definite strength that enables us to be at the forefront of the new developments and, at the same time, to ensure unbroken continuity in our field,” says Zane Vilka, the Chairman of the LJAA Board.

In your personal opinion how does jewellery communities in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia differ? Which one is the most active?

This is not an easy question. It seems as Estonians are more united with the Scandinavians. As an example they were a part of the project From the Coolest Corner. Nordic Jewellery in 2013. The massive project (symposium, a travelling exhibition and a book) presented jewellery from Northern Europe naming Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Baltic States (information from press release). The Baltic States however were presented by only one of the three Baltic countries – Estonia. Latvian jewellery history has a close connection with Estonia regarding the education in the 80’s when several jewellery artists graduated the Art Institute of Estonia. Some of them are also members of LJAA. Lithuanians are forming their own community separate from Estonians. Probably due to geographical location and historical means Lithuanians form a common interest with Poland. There have been joined art projects between the Art Academy of Latvia, Metal design department and metal artists from The Lithuanian Art Academy. I have personally participated in the exhibition “Latvijos ir Lietuvos metalo menas” that took place at the gallery TITANIKAS in Vilnius in March 2011. The exhibition was a response to an event of the same kind held in 2009 at the Arts Academy of Latvia. The friendship was based on the previous generation and I hope that the new generation will reconstruct the bound between the two countries once again. Latvia is somewhere in the middle both geographically and figuratively, concerning the organization of jewellery art community. Which country is the most active seems to me as a provocative question aiming to highlight one of the countries. Although healthy competition between neighbouring countries seems inevitable I see the Baltic States and their relations differently. I prefer to encourage cooperation highlighting reasonable strengths of each community. Although in the nearest past a common event of all three countries has been but a dream, I see a possibility of such a measure thanks to the communication capabilities of the new generation. From my point of view educational institutions have been the central meeting point for each country’s jeweller communities. From now on I believe that new nongovernmental organizations (as LJAA) should play a more important role in transnational communication. This also seems to be a good time and place to announce LJAA desire to engage in closer communication with the two neighbouring countries, which could hopefully result in joint exhibitions and other events in the future. This would help to mark the Baltic States as a jewellery community evolving point in a worldly context.

Did your government have any measurements to help artists that felt covid impact to their economic wellbeing?

The upper mentioned SCCF announced Creative person employment program that was established on the initiative of the Ministry of Culture in order to reduce the impact of the negative consequences of Covid19 on the cultural sector and the creative persons working in it. In the first competition 347 creative persons received funding and later a second round was announced and 663 creative persons received funding and several jewellery artists were among them. In the second round a total of 1,003,908 EUR was granted. Eligible for support were artists (creative persons) with the average monthly income under 538 EUR per month (for a certain few month period) and the beneficiaries received a lump sum of 1614 EUR. The funding aimed to support those whose incomes had fallen sharply due to the restrictions to avoid Covid-19. SCCF also announced a Creative Person Support Scholarship to artists that have been granted a state old-age pension.

In general did Covid-19 have much impact to jewellery community? How did Latvian jewellers dealt with it?

Somehow it seems that the impact is only about to come. Too little time has passed to see the true changes in the community. Jewellery artist in general is a loner. With rare exceptions work with contemporary jewellery is basically one person in his/her workshop. The regulations of gathering don’t change the everyday work in the workshop. People still have money so they are able to commission new work. But how will the situation develop in the following months is hard to predict.

What do you think are the prospects for 2021? Will jewellery industry recover fast?

As I already wrote previously, I think the worst is yet to come. So the question about recovery is also asked too early. The small businesses might have more problems in comparison to large companies but this is due to a new tax policy rather than Covid-19. Constant changes in the tax system in my opinion are a major problem in Latvia and in such unstable times it is even worse to cope with jet new changes.


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