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Darja Popolitova: conceptual jewelry

Darja Popolitova creates stunning and original jewelry. Her work explores human essences and sexuality and is highly influenced by the Estonian landscape, weather, seasonal extremes and folklore. Her aim is to create whimsical pieces that enchant and make the viewer think and dream. Tallinn Arts chatted with Darja about her special perspective on jewelry design and what an ‘’urban nymph’’ might be.

Did you have any formal training in jewelry design and creation? How did you come to realize your talent?

Yes, I started to do my bachelor’s in 2009 at the Estonian Academy of Arts on a specialty of glass art and after two years switched over it to jewelry art, where at the moment I continue with my MA degree. Looking now at the situation from another angle I can't objectively claim that one specialty is better than another. How does it turn out that one idea in a person’s consciousness becomes more obsessive and stronger than another? Some wish very strongly and others complain that there's nothing to wish for.

My interest started in 2011 when I went for an exchange to Bratislava at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. It was an illuminating trip; I remember listening to lectures by such known jewelry artists as Katja Prins, Mark Monzo.

After coming back to Estonia I participated in the most interesting projects in the jewelry and blacksmithing art department at Estonian Art Academy. I had been looking for a mentor in art jewelry who would move me forward, inspire, believe in me and see further than I could see. Estonian jewelry artist Piret Hirv became such a person, she has an ability to analyze and understand human potential thanks to some phenomenal intuition.

At this time I created the body-jewelry “Well” and a headpiece called “Fire.” The last one was photographed at Theatre NO99, and afterward these pictures were published in a book dedicated to Estonian fashion "Kaamos." It is a remarkable and illustrated book supervised by Estonian jewelry artist Tanel Veenre.

One day I was influenced by a meeting with Kateryna Pishon, now the co-founder of Estonian jewelry brand Monquer. She taught me that it is important to look at the skill from different angles. Jewelry has to be shown not only at exhibition space, but also on a person’s body. Her love of beauty and people stayed with me regards ornamentation.

I grew up in an artistic family. I used to see how my father created beautiful objects using wood and semiprecious stones. His passion to collect old things induced me to stay in his workshop to play with his tools or to dress myself in antique dresses. These childhood memories influence my perceptions today.

How do you go about creating a new piece? We'd love to know about your design process-choosing materials, design development, how the team works to do this, etc.

I like everything to be well organized. I prepare a lot before starting to create an idea; drawing sketches, reading books, listening to people. Ideas find their force when you make time for them.

Usually the strongest ideas come at the most unexpected moments, being out of the studio or university. They sort of float in the air. An artist being sensitive to such vibrations can catch them and embody them into material.

In Estonia there are a lot of designers creating in private studios. A designer In Estonia is often the founder, creator, the service personnel and a businessman. Working as a jewelry designer for the new Estonian brand Monquer was for me a good experience. It is wonderful when there is a creative team, when somebody can look with a fresh view at the sketch and give a critical opinion. In this way good ideas are developed and the bad ones abandoned.

The jewelry production process is often hidden behind the scenes. Our consciousness separates the creative process from shiny and polished products in a show-window. Behind the scenes there is research of its form, a selection of materials, 3D drawing development and only then production.

How does life living in Estonia influence your design style? Describe your aesthetic.

It is difficult to talk about aesthetics objectively. Even if I consider my creativity as strict and elegant, these definitions exist on their own and I just project it into reality using different materials like silver, iron, wood, leather, stones.

I’m getting an Estonian education with its qualities. The Dutch school, for example, lets out students with another aesthetic view. Modest temperament, symbolism and mythology in Estonia is different from other moods. Also such factors as paganism of Estonian society, being surrounded by the sea and long dark winter days are undoubtedly influencing me.

In this context my aim is to create whimsical pieces that could enchant and make the viewer think and dream. I believe in the idea of a close relationship between the body and jewelry. It has the possibility of delicately manifesting a person’s sexuality.

If you could see any woman wearing your beautiful designs who would it be?

I like strong female characters like in Helmut Newton’s pictures. People nowadays have become more flexible and mobile. We have all these devices to plan our time. During the week we can lead a company and go to an underground rock concert on Friday. I would like to combine these lifestyles with jewelry where it could be worn by an "urban nymph.”

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