Have you ever thought of a piece of jewellery as being on a continual journey? That a portrait may be finished when it reaches its journey on a wall, but a piece of jewellery continues to add to its journey every time someone puts it on?
It’s a really interesting way to look at jewellery – and it’s just how jeweller Paulina Knapik thinks of it.
She loves the imperfections in jewellery, which reflect how nature is imperfect too. And she loves to celebrate this in her work.
Read her story here….
Where do you create your jewellery?
I’m currently based in Glasgow, Scotland, where I managed to set up my own workshop. I have stayed in this vibrant city after graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 2018.
Where do you feel most inspired? What inspires you?
I find inspiration everywhere, and at any time. I can never predict what will influence my making process. This is why I always have something handy to either draw or write down notes for my new ideas. Most of my projects have been inspired by music, urban geometry, nature, travel, art and technology.
How would you describe your jewellery?
My jewellery is a wearable statement. It proves the real beauty is full of imperfections which make the object delicate, intricate and unique. It’s also proof of no borders within the art world.
My latest collection was inspired by Alphonse Mucha’s paintings, especially the ‘Precious Stones’ series. He depicted not only the beauty of women, but also found it in the harmony of the opposites: geometry and nature.
Basing my research on the same sources, I have translated his paintings into jewellery. Most commonly, paintings are considered to be the final pieces, the objects to admire. But I wanted to prolong the painting’s life by taking it to another dimension and adding my own emotions and interpretation.
Mucha was clearly influenced by Japanese art which came in very handy, as I used origami. This was not only as a reference to Art Nouveau, but also to show the unity of controlled geometric forms with the wild nature. Talking about nature, it’s undoubtedly beautiful. Yet, is it flawless? Or maybe the fact it’s so uncontrollable makes it unique and admirable?
Having these considerations in mind, I didn’t aim to achieve perfect machine-like effects. I wanted the process to be traditional and visible in the final product. Even though I use the same templates for my origami flowers, each of them is slightly different, just like in nature.
What materials do you use?
I’m working mainly with silver, gold and precious stones, but there’s a whole variety of other materials used during my making process. Such as paper, nature finds and wax, before the casting.
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
That’s such a hard question. It’s a bit like choosing your favourite child. But there are pieces from the unsold part of a Degree Show collection which I wear the most often. And that will have to be Lily dangling earrings. They are really eye-catching, bold and delicate at the same time.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
This has to be the Ruby Flower Brooch. It’s the statement brooch from my collection and it took me quite a long time to both design and make.
I’ve gone through some challenges on the way which makes me even more pleased with the final effect. The brooch is a perfect example of my love to detail as well as patience (which I don’t always have in non-jewellery related activities).
It can be viewed as a little sculpture from any side. Some people find the back filled with the gold filigree even more interesting than its front! I managed to sell it during its first exhibition which obviously made me happy (but also a little bit sad having to say goodbye this soon.)
What’s your favourite part of being a Jewellery Designer?
Being a jeweller gives the full control. I’m not only the designer, I’m not only the maker. I love the fact that I’m in charge of the whole process, from the idea in my head, through to the sketches and samples, to the final piece of jewellery.
I love getting to travel and visit places for exhibitions. And I also love seeing my pieces getting to places I’ve never been to.
What’s your proudest moment of being a Jewellery Designer?
I’m the proudest when I see a happy customer. If I get the chance to meet them in person, I love the moment when they open the box to see their piece.
While I really like to lock myself in the workshop and work on the collection with no suggestions on how it should look like, the private commissions always give me an extra challenge as I need to listen not only to my ideas but also customer’s needs. Whenever I manage to please both of us, it’s so exciting.
What’s your design process?
It really varies and depends on what I’m about to make. Sometimes I spend a lot of time reading, taking pictures, sketching, making collages and technical drawings before I touch the metal, and in other cases, I jump straight into making.
I also have quite an experimental approach to casting. When I was creating my first collection, I wanted to stretch the limits of casting. I had the idea of how I wanted the final thing to look like but I allowed the metal to speak for itself and had some happy accidents on the way. I remember it took me a few unsuccessful tries before it worked the way I wanted it to. But eventually I got it to work, which proves it’s always worth a try.
How important is jewellery design to you and what do you love about it?
To me, jewellery’s a tool for self-expression. Depending on a project, it translates a different part of me: my ideas, thoughts, beliefs, observations. The whole making process is therapeutic to me, but what I love the most is the fact that its journey never ends.
I can finish the object and then it starts talking for itself. I first express myself by creating it, then it starts to express me. Or another person who adds their own story, feelings and meaning.
You’re originally from Poland. How did you come to live in Glasgow?
My Grandmum was the one who started the process. It was her idea for me to apply to foreign universities.
At first, I was quite skeptical, most of all because of the terrifying distance from home and everything I knew. I researched the universities anyway and Scotland ranked high within the design courses.
What’s more, it offered free tuition for students from the EU – I don’t know how it’s going to be now, facing Brexit, but it certainly helped me with my decision. It’s always worth trying, right?
So I applied, not really hoping for anything, I wasn’t convinced if I want to go, I also didn’t think I would get accepted. But I got through the first application stage and decided it would be nice to go and see the university myself (as well as a city and country I’ve never been to before!).
I was applying to Edinburgh College of Art and to Glasgow School of Art. I won’t say I didn’t like Edinburgh (as it’s a magnificent city) but it was Glasgow which stole my heart. The whole city seemed vibrant, friendly, multicultural and its university made an even better impression on me.
It was then when I decided I really wanted to get accepted and a few months later it really happened!
Initially, my plan was to come back to Poland soon after graduation but life tends to be unpredictable and I’m still here a year after. I don’t know how long I’m going to stay, if I’m going to come back to Poland at some point or maybe move somewhere else… Time will show.
For now, I’m happy where I am and facing the truth, I know that setting up a business wouldn’t be this easy in my home country. But also – Glasgow is thriving with opportunities for entrepreneurs: there’s a high number of exhibitions, trades, markets, which comes along with a big community of creative people supporting each other.
What I miss the most are people obviously, my family and friends who live in Poland. It’s not the same as if I was living there, but technology and affordable flights are really helpful.
A jeweller has to be very multi-skilled – you have to be a web designer, photographer, tea maker etc! How do you find that?
That’s true! I’d add a few other jobs like accountant, salesman or an advertising agent. The list goes on and on. How do I find that? Sometimes overwhelming, on other days super exciting. But what I love about it is that I’m constantly learning, often by making horrible mistakes, but still going forward. It’s very important to remember we’re all only humans and can’t be brilliant at everything. So being open to outsourcing is key. It means networking, a better quality of work and also more time for doing things you’re actually good at.
Jewellers often have to work quite flexibly, how does that fit in with the rest of your life?
I absolutely love this fact. Probably a number of other creatives can agree that one simply doesn’t feel inspired and productive all the time. I have great days when I wake up full of ideas, rush to my workshop and forget about everything what I left outside, completely lost in making. And there are also other days when nothing seems to work and you just need a break.
I feel that we’re not made to fit the strict schedules. They’re good to regulate some parts of our lives but freedom is key in the creative process. That’s why I always have a to-do list but I don’t put the points in any particular order. I look at it quite often and decide which job’s turn it is.
Being your own boss has its ups and downs but deciding when to work is definitely one of the greatest points. On the other hand, this is also why I like to take commissions – I treat my customers as my temporary bosses. They tell the rules and set deadlines which helps me to be more organised.
How did you start creating jewellery?
Serious jewellery making started when I got accepted to study Silversmithing and Jewellery Design at the Glasgow School of Art in 2014. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. I’ve been creating things for as long as I can remember.
I’ve always been drawing and painting but I also tried ceramics, pottery, sculpture, stained glass, graphics, photography, woodcarving and metalsmithing. All of these are amazing crafts giving wide opportunities, yet jewellery has stolen my heart balancing perfectly between art, craft and design.
I’ve always had the need for creating body ornaments. At the beginning it was threaded beads (or even cherries) found in my grandparent’s garden – which eventually evolved into jewellery making.
What are your aspirations for your business?
I’m at the very beginning of my professional journey and I’d love to see it growing bigger with time. One of my biggest goals is to become fully Fairtrade. I’m so very happy that we’re becoming more ethically aware as a society and in the jewellery trade. It’s high time that jewellery got to shine for its beauty, without a murky undertone in its history.