WHAT MAKES A PIECE OF JEWELRY A MASTERPIECE?

By Olga NIKONOV


Precious metal, diamonds and gems, sophisticated and sophisticated materials processing techniques – this is the first thing that you imagine when it comes to jewelry. Nevertheless, the famous St. Petersburg artists, sisters Natalya and Tatyana Tarasova convincingly prove that the material is not decisive, and the times when the cost of jewelry was determined mainly by the weight of the metal and the quality of the stone are gone forever. Repeated winners of international jewelry design competitions, including such famous ones as the International Jewelry Design Excellence Award-2017 competition in Hong Kong, masters whose works are in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum and the Museum of Modern Jewelry in Pforzheim, (Germany), they create jewelry masterpieces from the most unexpected materials. We talked with Natalya Tarasova about the search for new forms and features of the development of Russian jewelry art.


Natalya, your most famous works were created from a substance that one cannot dare to call jewelry – paper. How did the idea to use such a non-trivial material come about, and why did you find it more worthy of attention than the usual gold or silver?

In fact, jewelers have always tried to go beyond the usual shapes and materials. When Tatiana and I started participating in jewelry design contests in 1996, we wanted to come up with something completely unusual. It is interesting for us to do large, shocking, podium things, to combine the incongruous. We tried many things – feathers, wood, fibers ... But it was paper, which revealed itself to us as a very plastic and textured material. Paper gives an invaluable opportunity for a jeweler to control color and shape – you yourself create a material in which you can materialize your idea. After all, jewelers usually work from the opposite – they take a stone or metal and figure out how to beat it, what design will favorably emphasize its beauty.


Probably, it is much easier to work with paper?

Not as easy as it seems. Initially, we create blocks by gluing together multi-colored layers of paper. One block takes about a month. In addition, the end of this initial stage is unpredictable: not everything is successful the first time. However, at the end we get a pliable material, light, although not the most pleasant in processing, which allows you to fantasize endlessly with color, shapes, rhythm and texture.



And yet, why not metal? Is there a Makume Gane technique that creates metal with a variety of streaks and layers? Is there a titanium that gives a magical play of color?

Of course, we considered all these options, but we did not find one that would give such limitless color options as paper. Moreover, the products are becoming too expensive and heavy. In addition, the appropriate equipment must be selected. This does not mean that we do not experiment further – we still work with metals and stones, with wood and other materials. Yes, and with paper, not everything is clear yet – every time we try new ways of processing it, we get very unexpected and inspiring results.


But the very concept of jewelry kills away from precious materials, isn’t it? In general, is it possible to equate jewelry and jewelry? On the other hand, does it not become a piece of jewelry because of what it is made of?

At all times, a person adorned himself, using for this everything that was at hand: wood, stone, leaves, flowers, bones. Nevertheless, these fragile objects have not reached us; archaeologists find only those decorations that were made of metal and stone, that is, what could physically survive. In general, this has formed the concept of jewelry as a piece of jewelry. However, if you can see beauty, are able to extract and present it, is it so important what material is used? There is a huge industry in the gold and diamond niche. There are tons of classic, but alas, quite the same type of things, in which there is no special artistic value, their value is determined by the material costs of production. In addition, there are designers who work with unconventional materials and come up with something.


Each appearance of your products at competitions creates a sensation – numerous prizes are proof of this. Nevertheless, the works are insultingly few, and for 10 years, you did not take part in competitions at all and did not show your products. Why?

Time for everything is sorely lacking, because we also have serial production, where administrative tasks require constant attention. We have to distinguish very clearly between work and hobbies, which the creative process has become for us. On the one hand, the availability of production helps us to realize our ideas – we have machines, equipment. Sometimes creative ideas flow into mass-produced products. However, the combination of these two realities always comes at the expense of creativity. There are many ideas and it is really a shame that not all of them come to fruition.


Wasn’t there a temptation to engage exclusively in creativity?

Unfortunately, in our country, the jewelry art has found itself in a very difficult situation, the art market has remained outside the attention of society, and, more recently, practically outlawed. New amendments to the Federal Law of June 23, 2020 N 188-FZ “On Amendments to the Federal Law” On Precious Metals and Precious Stones “ has regulated very clearly the process of turnover of precious metals, which was useful and correct from the point of view of taxation and increasing the transparency of the industry. Nevertheless, jewelers-artists were left behind – only few of them will master all this reporting in order to continue working with precious metals. Few will be able to present their works at international exhibitions. The government simply did not consider us, our interests in the new law. In addition, we have very few exhibitions, museums almost never buy the works of jewelers – and this is one of the conditions not only for the development of the creative potential of artisans, but also for the formation of consumer taste. The existing secrecy inherent in our workshop leads to the fact that technologies are lost – we cannot repeat much of what Faberge did, which it is customary to look up to when speaking of Russian jewelry art. We have no co-working system, no grants and no gallery owners. You see, for example, in Europe, workshops have been created, equipped with the necessary equipment, tools and equipment – the master does not need to buy all this on his own, it is enough to rent a workbench, and you can use all the equipment. Grants allow Western artists to develop conceptual art rather than survival.



Since you are talking about the taste of the consumer, how ready, in your opinion, is he for such experiments, isn’t it? In general, is there a tendency to reject jewelry, because in the modern world there are so many substitute products, that can also show status, taste, and emphasize individuality?

A person will never give up jewelry. Moreover, in times of crises, paradoxically, the industries involved in “decorating” a person – fashion, cosmetology and jewelry – flourish. People are trying to create the best version of themselves, and thereby increase their competitiveness in the market – to become younger, more beautiful, look richer. Nevertheless, during the crisis, the tastes of society become more conservative – everyone wants stability and confidence that investments in expensive purchases are made correctly. However, the consumer in Russia is already overly conservative – the majority need the classics, so that, like everyone else, there is a brand, which is tested and approved by society. We often came across the fact that the mere fact of jewelry made of paper disgusts the nonprofessional. He does not understand this and does not admit it. However, in Europe, our products are accepted with much greater interest. It is also funny that the few “wearable” things we create often end up in the collections of art historians – professionals correctly assess the artistic and conceptual value of what we do.


Is it possible to change the taste of society, to influence its formation?

Exhibitions, screenings, inclusion in museum expositions gradually form an interest in new forms and concepts. However, work is not fast. Moreover, the tastes of society change radically in an era of change. When Tatiana was writing her diploma on the theme of the avant-garde of the 1920s, I was very interested in this topic. This was an era of total breakdown of foundations, when absolutely everything changed; a society was built with a new consciousness, way of life, education and new aesthetics. In addition, this gave such a powerful impetus to the development of creative thought that the Russian avantgarde became the source from which artists have been drawing inspiration for a whole century. Something similar happened in the 90s, during perestroika. Everything in the country collapsed, no one had money, but a huge number of creative people appeared who created amazing jewelry from scrap materials – wood, plastic, medical droppers, from all kinds of trash. They managed to find new forms, new plastic solutions. I am sure that the more restrictions, the better the artist works, because he needs to come up with something original with a minimum of resources, and this greatly excites the creative thought.