5.10.5 Shira, jewellery designer
We met through a mutual friend during my time as a student at the Jerusalem Botanic Garden in Israel. Bonding instantly, we often spoke excitedly about many topics, creativity, art, plants and of course, Israel. Shortly after meeting, Shira and I discovered we shared the same birthday and she has been a talented friend and inspiration ever since.
How was it that you came to the realization you had a passion for jewelry design?
My passion for jewellery and adornment has been present since childhood. I was making pieces from whatever materials were available, from beads to threads and used colorful electric wires. But there was an ideal I grew up with; my maternal grandfather was a jeweler, never professionally, but that was his dream. His life was too hard to follow on it, though. You see, he was born in Poland and as an adolescent he went through the Holocaust. He moved to Israel as a young man, the country itself was very young and poor too, and he needed to get a proper job. So he became a blacksmith and as a hobby he also made some beautiful metal work, as well as some jewellery for my grandmother and mother. I, myself, never knew him, he died before I turned a year old, but I was always surrounded by things that I knew that he made. The idea then fascinated me, so I went on to study it, both to feel closer to that man I didn't know and to understand how I can create such magical, shiny things myself.
What was the progression from studying at school to arriving at Vanilla Ink Studios?
I graduated with a BFA from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, in 2008 but five years passed and I was not doing anything jewellery-wise. My degree show was called "A pearl necklace" and it confronts modern ideas of femininity by contradicting materials and ideas of beauty. This project was very successful and was showcased in different locations worldwide. I then moved to London for three years, and had a job at an enamel goods gallery in Mayfair. After London I was living in Israel again, a bit discouraged with life and art, so I studied another profession and got an MA in Gerontology, the study of old age.
Moving to St Andrews was another new start and while checking opportunities available in the area, I found out about Vanilla Ink (click for link) a Dundee based jewellery collective, where we get a bench at a workshop, and receive business development sessions. I was very surprised to get accepted to it as I'm one of eight girls, all the others are Scottish, but I'm sure they liked me being exotic and I saw this as my opportunity to get back into creating.
What current project you are working on?
Being part of Vanilla Ink made me realize I love the craft of jewellery making, but the commercial side of it freaks me out completely...
So this is me trying to get back into art jewellery. It is something I'm still working on, a project called "31", made of 31 brass beads (I'm now up to 14), each one is hand made individually to the same sort of pod shape, but each one is different in design.
This is a very personal project (I am 31), through which I am trying to grow up and embrace my age and my journeys, drawing inspiration from what I have done in my life, and sort of try and pull myself together. (Video of the bead making process at Vanilla Ink)
At the beginning of the creative process, how does it take shape for you, is it an idea, a series of ideas for a collection, or does it come from organically like seeing an object or image that sets it off?
When I start the creative process usually there is one idea that's always in the background: to show beauty in imperfections, because nothing is perfect, each of us and each piece should be unique. I collect visual inspiration from different places, Jerusalem, my city of birth, is completely diverse and very inspiring and I’m influenced by the shapes and colors I find in nature, flowers, leafs, seedpods are all part of it; no two are completely alike.
With having moved a number of times in your life and experiencing different countries and cultures, has this affected your design process? Israel is a small but very beautiful country, and I was amazed with how quickly the landscape changes there. With the Mediterranean Sea, the Jerusalem Mountains, the Negev desert and Dead Sea in your presence growing up,have any of these landscapes influenced choice of color and materials? Some designs, like those in the pearl necklace series, reminded me of the flora I had seen in the Negev desert, so do you think there is any subconscious connection to your home?
I think most artists reflect in their works the places they come from and feel most attached to. Israel is very beautiful and has a great variety of landscapes for such a small place, but it can also be quite intense and a difficult place to grow up. Jerusalem and the surrounding mountains have always been a main inspiration. Until I was 26, I never left Jerusalem for more than 3 weeks, and its views and colors are very much with me. Living in London for three years, then the Negev desert for two years, and now in Scotland, I feel I keep coming back to those beloved views of my complex home town, probably in a desperate effort to define and form my identity, which is harder when you keep moving around. I find that the different landscapes, people and culture influence me and my design process, and have added much depth to my creative (and non-creative...) thinking; but in essence I’m still trying to realize where I come from, who I really am, and what I would like to be.
It is interesting how the colors of my pearl necklace collection have reminded you of the Negev desert flora, if I meant it, I am sure it was quite unconsciously done, but I do like that idea! On this project I was working on conflicts and contradictions (which do very much connect to the place I come from), and with working with superb materials such as sterling silver, lovely pearls and raw white wool, part of the conflict needed to come from the choice of colors and materials, and I wanted to contrast them with something that will look almost dirty, something that will take away all their freshness, and that's when brown, hairy looking materials were brought into the designs.
Has the local landscape or culture in England and Scotland influenced your way of arriving at your ideas or materials?
Since I moved to London, the British culture has been a major influence on me but while living there the only creations I made were baskets. To Scotland I arrived five years after finishing my BFA in Jewellery design, in those five years I was not having anything to do with jewellery, so I am very grateful to Scotland and to Vanilla Ink who accepted me and gave me the opportunity to get back into the world of jewellery and silversmiths. As I returned to this line of work in Scotland, I really think it has influenced my ideas and choices I make; a lot of it comes from comparisons to different places I have lived. Here is the first time in my life that I live right by the sea, so it is bound to have some kind of influence on me in the long term.
Is there a favorite garden, public or private, that you know you will walk away from feeling inspired?
My parents’ garden in Jerusalem, is a pretty little wilderness, with different trees and plants, amazing for such a small garden, but it has everything – from the most fragrant climbing Jasmine, a lovely vine with sweet green grapes, a fig, a cherry and a lemon tree, a great rose with massive white flowers. In springtime, tulips, freesias, narcissus, loads of cyclamens and much more. My family moved to that house just before I was born, and I grew alongside that garden.
The Jerusalem botanical garden is also a lovely gem, with beautiful native plats alongside more exotic ones. In the spring there is an extraordinary display of anemones that will make your heart leap with joy.
But my ultimate public garden simply has to be Great Dixter, since no other place can ever be as beautiful to me as Dixter, which is magical in each and every season. It is very easy to love in the spring when the magnificent tulips are everywhere and everything looks so charming, during summer with the long border just so full of colors and excitement, and autumn with the dahlias and that fantastic mulberry tree they have there. It is in winter when it’s at its most magical, when you can really see how the garden is built and all the trees are just beautiful skeletons.
If you were to be left alone on an island and could have only take one plant and piece of art with you, what would you choose?
It depends; do I need them for survival? I will assume it’s a no and choose pelargonium, as it can sometimes blossom all year long, has bright colors and reminds me of Jerusalem. A work of art is so hard to choose, as I’m not even sure about which medium I would like it to be. I guess it should be a painting, an impressionist work surely, possibly one of Degas ballet dancers or maybe Monet’s poppies field, with the mother and child walking down the hill? They always cheer me up and reaffirm my will to live, but it’s difficult to choose
When not working with jewellery, do you have other creative outlets do you turn to?
I weave baskets, twining and coiling them from soft materials, and find it to be very relaxing. I like photography too, always have, recently joining instagram, which brought back this old love of mine. I enjoy painting, colored pencils and acrylics, sewing, loads of stuff apparently. If I really need a creative outlet and none of the above are available – then I usually bake a banana-chocolate cake…
Thank you Shira for a view into your creative skills and thoughts. If you would like to see more work or contact Shira here is where she can be found: