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Czech Contemporary Jewellery in London

30 May 2018, Contemporary Lynx, Interview by Sylwia Krason

Electric and cosmopolitan design made in the traditional crafting process

In May, the fourth edition of London Craft Week returned to London with over 200 events taking place across the capital. On this occasion, Contemporary Lynx team had a pleasure to talk to designers from Prague – Zdeněk Vacek and Daniel Pošta from Zorya and Nastassia Aleinikava – young talents who are pushing the boundaries of what we understand by art, jewellery and craftsmanship. We met them during the opening of the group exhibition “Purity and Decadence” at the S O Gallery in Shoreditch. The exhibition was commissioned by the Czech Centre London, whose director Tereza Porybna frequently supports Czech design and fashion. We talked about DIY skills of Czech jewellers, the process of perfecting the production, and making tailor-made designs and lifetime warranty products for everyday use.

Sylwia Krason: You design necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings from your studio in Prague. Your projects include necklaces made of crystals, which you grow yourself, combined with a raw rope and used crystallised alum, in some cases, covered with black graphite. What is the concept and the technique behind this collection?

Daniel Posta: The collection entitled “Virus” means to bring to mind the spread of a virus which destroys the host and itself, at the same time. We can, however, also perceive this process of apparent destruction as a stimulus trigger of metaphysical rebirth. We started with some marine rope and alum salts, combined with the effects of time, which can change objects beyond recognition. We leave this rope in an alum bath, allowing it to become encrusted through this controlled crystallisation process for three weeks. Instead of decomposition though, in this case, there is an almost magical transformation, and ordinary things change to the point they cannot be recognised.

SK: What is the biggest challenge in creating a new collection of jewellery for such a competitive market like London?

DP: We first introduced some of the bracelets and necklaces from our “Virus” collection in Prague in 2011, where they became an unexpected sensation, particularly after we received the Designer of the Year award for them. Over the next seven years, we continued to perfect this collection, presenting it at exhibitions in Paris, New York, Chicago, Budapest, Vienna, Stockholm, and Shelburne. In all cases, they were received with great acclaim by curators and collectors alike. I think that this is mainly because of our original production process, as well as, the energy we have invested in these objects – crossing the boundary of art and design – over the many years of the development process.

SK: In your opinion, is there something unique about Czech jewellery in general, or is it more that each designer brings their unique vision?

DP: Although I say it with a certain amount of exaggeration, I view Czech jewellers as having an impressive ability to improvise and employ significant DIY skills for solving a variety of technical challenges. Our generation grew up at the turning point between communism and emerging capitalism when it was common to produce many otherwise inaccessible products through resourcefulness. Our mothers knew how to sew because they could not get quality clothes in the regular commercial network. Fathers built their houses, repaired their cars using components they made themselves. This ability to devise alternative solutions and deal with situations in all aspects were carried over to the next generation.

This theme you can also find in our collections, which we create through innovating traditional crafting processes, often using materials and technologies that are not generally found in the jewellery design trade.

Sylwia Krasoń: At the Purity and Decadence exhibition, you present a collection of unique sunglasses NA Collection#3 UTOPY”. Each piece is a work of art and craft; it could be a great addition to a stage costume of Lady Gaga or Rihanna. Where do you find your inspiration?

Nastassia Aleinikava: The essence of the collection “UTOPY” comes from science fiction as a specific way of perceiving the world of literature and industrial design of the second half of the 20th century. I look into the future that is colourful, electric and cosmopolitan. This vision has imprinted itself onto the look of the glasses (for example, some glasses recall a Muslim burka), combination of materials (for example, some glasses have sides made of horn) and also the design itself. The collection has a slightly retro-sentimental undertone.

SK: Your glasses seem to have their character and a certain mood of appearance; they are masks behind which anybody can hide. They bring strong emotions already when people try them on.

NA: I use mirror lenses, to conceal the eyes and the real emotions of the owner. The glasses are  provocative. On the other hand, some glasses are open and sincere with rose and violet lenses. When trying on the glasses and thus masks, we can play somebody else’s role, so it is a kind of experience in itself.

SK: Your collection is not just about extraordinary haute couture pieces but also sunglasses for everyday use. What makes your casual collection of sunglasses different and unique?

NA: The Idea of our brand is to produce bespoke glasses for everyday life. Most of them are dioptric glasses and that means that our customers wear glasses daily. We want to build frames, which will suit our clients well according to the face parameters and stylistic preferences. It is very important for us to work for real people and make unique glasses for every single client. Our clients gain great, tailor-made design and lifetime warranty on our frames.

Interviewed by Sylwia Krason

You can read the interview on Contemporary Lynx website HERE.