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Diploma 2017 in the ADBK Munich (3/5): Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova

For her diploma show titled … I was here, Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova darkened a small room, which you entered though a black curtain. The only sources of light in the room were a black light hanging in the middle of the room and a strip of a LED light attached under her pieces, which were hung on one wall. On the opposite wall, there were illuminating handwritten letters, which said “I was here”. When I came into the room, my eyes needed a bit of time to adjust to the darkness before I could start to explore Flora´s work. Parts of her jewellery works, which were all made of transparent glass, slowly emerged like ghost-like appearances on a foggy field. The longer I stayed in the room, the more details were relinquished, but still the upper parts of the pieces stayed hidden, merging into the wall. The text, which Flora had written about the installation of her diploma show, read:

“This is an intimate installation which I intended as a reaction to the moment of leaving. Somewhere inside me is stored all that I have lived, everything that has happened. I can’t touch this but it’s there. The more I try to define it, the more I lose it. These are the ephemeral moments, imprinted into the fragility of this point in life full of doubts and uncertainty.
With this installation, I want to take you on a walk, when in one moment you are losing the past, losing sureness and at this same moment, the present appears. It is not possible to catch that moment between, but we experience it all the time if we become aware of it.
What fascinates me about the actual act of writing on the wall ‘I was here’ is its connection to the past which it refers to while the act of writing is happening now and creating a bridge with the future hope. It is this moment of honesty with oneself, when I want to reflect, when I want to acknowledge, when I want to connect with the person who ‘was here’.”

Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova (born in 1976 in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia) obtained an Advanced Diploma in Art and Craft at the Hungry Creek Art & Craft School in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2010. In 2011, she gathered a year of work experience with artist Warwick Freeman, also in Auckland, New Zealand. Flora then enrolled in the Munich jewellery class in 2012 and studied there under Professor Otto Künzli and Professor Karen Pontoppidan.

I recorded our conversation when Flora was explaining to me about her jewellery pieces:

Carina: How do you make these pieces? I know a bit about glassworks because I learned glass bead making during my apprenticeship as a goldsmith in Neugablonz, but I don’t know how to make these bigger and free shapes?

Flora: I am using quite thick glass rods, either solid or hollow, for this series. These are heated in the fire and then stretched into a thin line, which then can be shaped.

Carina: Which kind of torch are you using for this? One with many tips? This was what we used for the glass beads.

Flora: Yes, the one I use has several tips too. I cannot make the beads though, that’s too difficult with this particular glass as it needs a much higher temperature to melt.

Carina: I always felt like the freer the shape, the more difficult it gets to control the glass.

Flora: Yes, you have to train a lot, but I have been working with glass now for around three years, so I have some experience with it. It also depends on which kind of glass you use. I learned to work with this particular glass, but if I used another kind of glass, it would be only slightly different and I would need some time to get a feeling for it.

Carina: I realized that even with different colours of glass, some colours were easy to work with and others were really hard. But you are only using the transparent glass, right? For me, your pieces look as if they were made of ice, also the sound when the glass chain you’re wearing now is moving is very icy.

Flora: Yes, they have an icy look. I like the totally transparent colourless glass, everything else would be too confusing, I feel.

Carina: What fascinates you about working with glass?

Flora: For me, it is like having a dance. My hands have to make the right movements in the right time, otherwise it doesn’t work at all. Of course, some days are better than others.
When I finished working with my previous project, for which I used newspapers, I was looking for something totally new. By chance, I visited a glass workshop and was fascinated by the process. I like this aspect of glass, that you can only shape it when it changes its state of aggregation from solid to honey like. And I also like that in order to work with glass, you need a lot of patience and focus. You cannot rush it. For me, this series is really about the material, to investigate what its possibilities are. I am also really fascinated with old traditional techniques and for working with the glass, I had to learn a lot about the craftsmanship of traditional glass working.

Carina: Probably a question you hear all the time: Are your glass jewellery pieces very fragile? You are now wearing a very fine necklace. Do you have to be very careful when you wear it?

Flora: It really depends on the shape of the necklace, on how big the parts are and how three- dimensional the whole form is. Naturally the thicker the glass, the more stable it becomes, but then e.g. this thin necklace with the small links I am wearing now is adapting to the shape of the body and moves with it, which makes it easy to wear and less prone to break. So, if somebody would hug me strongly now, nothing would happen to the necklace, but if I dropped it on the floor, it would most likely break.

Carina: That’s interesting, because my experience with bead making was that the bigger I made the glass beads, the easier they broke when they were cooling down or when I took them from the iron bar.

Flora: Bead making is a bit of different story. In general, if you temper the glass, you can release the inner tension in the thicker glass shapes and avoid the spontaneous cracking.

Carina: Does “tempering” mean that you put the glass in an oven to let them cool down slowly?

Flora: Exactly, if you don’t do this, the pieces would be super fragile. For me, the glass even feels different in my hands when I temper it. You have to temper the big pieces for sure, but I even feel a difference with the fine pieces. I put all pieces in an oven at a certain temperature for several hours and then let them cool down over night.

Carina: What are your plans now after the diploma?

Flora: My plans are to relax for now, but only until the Munich Jewellery Week. I will then have a show titled BIKKURIBAKO in the Kunstarkaden with four other students from the Munich jewellery class, Takayoshi Terajima, Asako Takahashi, Seung Hey Ryu and Nelly Stein. But I will also have some of my glass works in the Schmuck exhibition on the fair this year for the first time!

Carina: Congratulations, that’s so great!

Flora: Yes, this was perfect timing I believe!

Carina: Definitely. So, good luck with your projects and hopefully some well-deserved relaxation time too.

1 Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova: Invitation card for diploma show …I was here, Photo: Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova
2/3 Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova: Diploma show …I was here, Munich, 2017; Photo: Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova
4 Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova: Diploma show …I was here, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
5 Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova: Go and f… yourself you dirty bastard;  Necklace, 2015; Glass, steel wire; 96 cm long; Photo: Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova
6 Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova: Hara What?; Necklace, 2016; Glass;  17 cm x12 cm x7 cm (pendant part), 109cm long; Photo:Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova
7 Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova: Rain; Necklace, 2014; Glass; 130cm long; Photo: Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova
8 Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova: Diploma show So What!, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
9 Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova: Diploma show …I was here, Munich, 2017; Photo: Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova

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Diploma 2017 in the ADBK Munich (2/5): Nadine Kuffner

Nadine Kuffner and I have already worked together on several different levels: We shared a room during my last two years in the jewellery class, exhibited together and occasionally, Nadine was modeling for photos where she was wearing my jewellery. She was now one of the five graduates of the jewellery class of the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. Her diploma show was titled So What!

Nadine Kuffner (born 1982 in Munich, Germany) studied two semesters at the Contemporary Jewellery School Alchemia in Florence, Italy, before she completed an apprenticeship as a silversmith at the State Vocational College for Glass and Jewellery in Neugablonz, Germany, from 2004 until 2007. Afterwards she immediately enrolled at Konstfack, the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm, in the field of contemporary jewellery from where she graduated with a BA of Fine Arts. Since 2010, Nadine has studied in the jewellery class in Munich, first with Prof. Otto Künzli and then with Prof. Karen Pontoppidan.

Even though I know Nadine’s work, there was still plenty to discover for me in her exciting diploma show: She was presenting jewellery pieces and a wall piece all made of cast tin. On one wall, there was a necklace, which was apparently created by throwing the liquid tin directly on a chain, which was hung on the wall. The splashes ran down the wall and there were large spots on the floor. Next to it hung several oval pendants and a rectangular structured wall piece. The pedestals carried three very diverse necklaces. This is the conversation we had when I visited the show:

Nadine: I have been working for approximately one year now on this body of work, but it is part of a larger investigation, and I have been busy with it for quite a while now. I am examining and challenging different aspects of jewellery. Before the tin series, which I am showing here, I worked with bronze and cast massive pieces, which were not wearable because of their enormous weight. This brought the attention to other aspects of the adornment. This new series is scrutinising other facets of jewellery.

Carina: Are these new works made in a similar way to your bronze series, for which you used lost wax casting?

Nadine: No, these pieces are made differently. I heat up the tin on the hot plate, as it is melting at around 230 degrees. This enables me to work directly with the liquid material, which is really exciting for me.

Carina: So how do you create your shapes?

Nadine: I make negative forms from soft materials, e.g. for the really long necklace, I used self-drying clay, which I arranged in a ring-shaped heap on the floor, pressed a groove into it and poured the just melted tin inside. What you see there is the lower side of the casting. The proliferations were not planned of course, but I really like that they happened. I feel like I am doing some kind of collaboration with the material. The material has its own character and will, so the material and I are equally involved in the process of making. Of course, I make the decision in the end. Is the outcome going to be a jewellery piece or something else? Or will I quash the result and start anew?

Carina: What specifically is this series talking about when you say you are challenging aspects of jewellery?

Nadine: It’s about the craft of jewellery making, about what is expected from me as a maker of jewellery. Traditionally, jewellery making is precision work, for which you need to gather a lot of knowledge first. It normally also takes quite a lot of time and patience to make jewellery. With these pieces I am questioning these expectations towards the creating of jewellery, because the pieces were made in a brief moment and more by chance than by control and skills. (Nadine points to one of her pieces, a flat round pendant with cloudlike structures) And here I was drawing with the liquid tin.

Carina: How do you draw with liquid metal?

Nadine: I’d say it’s a kind of choreography of the material and me. It’s a technique, for which I am dripping and pulling the material, all in a matter of seconds. This piece here merely took a minute to make. So it is far away from the painstaking time-intensive work of goldsmiths. Of course, it took me plenty of time and countless tryouts though to understand how the material reacts and until I reached satisfying results. (Nadine points to the next necklace) And for this loop chain necklace, I used hematite stone powder, a stone which is also used for traditional jewellery. I pressed furrows inside the hematite sand and then cast the tin into it. The loops were not opened and hung into each other, but the next loop is cast as a link into the previous one.

Carina: And how is the wall-piece made?

Nadine: I folded the material and then forged it with a silversmithing hammer. Like this, the material got stretched more in some places than in others and when I unfolded it again, this three-dimensional shape emerged. It was exciting for me to create a piece of free art with the traditional technique of silversmiths to forge the metal with a hammer. I investigate the borders between fine arts and applied arts, I look at their relationship and question hierarchies.

Carina: I know that you are going to show during the Munich Jewellery Week in March now, I think even in several shows, right?

Nadine: As one of five finalists of the “Förderpreis der Kaufbeurer Künstlerstiftung”, my work will be part of a one-day exhibition in the Pinakothek der Moderne on Friday, the 10th of March, which is the same day of the opening of the Tone Vigeland show there in the museum. And “scattered flux” will be an exhibition of mine, together with Patrícia Domingues in Türkenstraße 78 from Wednesday the 8th until Sunday the 12th of March. In this exhibition, we will broach the issue of creating together and I am looking forward to working with someone, who does or did not study in the jewellery class in Munich, as I hope to experience a totally different approach to the theme.

Carina: Great, I am looking forward to that. May I ask what are your plans now for the near future?

Nadine: I am staying in Munich and I want to continue with my work in this direction. I have been studying and creating in the field of contemporary jewellery for already 13 years and ever since got totally hooked, so I want to keep at it and hope that I will develop my career.

Carina: I have no doubt that you will, but I still wish you the best of luck!

1 Nadine Kuffner: Invitation card for diploma show So What!, Photo: Nadine Kuffner; Layout: Future Playground
2 Nadine Kuffner: Diploma show So What!, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
3 Nadine Kuffner: Diploma show So What!, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
4 Nadine Kuffner: 169, Necklace 2017; Tin; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
5 Nadine Kuffner: A Jeweller’s Anarchy, Pendant, 2017; Tin, string; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
6 Nadine Kuffner: Ösenkette, Necklace, 2017; Tin; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
7 Nadine Kuffner: Diploma show So What!, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
8 Nadine Kuffner: A Jeweller’s Anarchy, Pendants, 2017; Tin, string, steel; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi

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Diploma 2017 in the ADBK Munich (1/5): Mari Iwamoto

A few days ago, I was in Munich to see the diploma shows of the graduates in the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. Of course, I was especially curious about the exhibitions of the five graduates of Karen Pontoppidan´s jewellery class. I know most of them from my own studies there as our time in the class overlapped for one or two years. It is an exhilarating but also a bit scary moment to finish these long studies: In the ADBK Munich, you can finish your diploma after three years, but most students stay there for five or even six years. So, we weren’t only talking about their artworks in the diploma show, but also about their plans for the future. The interviews with Mari Iwamoto, Nadine Kuffner, Jing Yang, Emi Fukuda and Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova will be presented here, one by one, over the next few days.

I want to start with a friend of mine: Mari Iwamoto (born 1987 in Tokyo, Japan), came to Munich 6 1/2 years ago to study in the Munich jewellery class, which then was still under Prof. Otto Künzli. Previously, she had studied at the Hikomizuno College of Jewelry in Tokyo from 2006-2009.
For her diploma show, which was titled Zieh dich aus! (“Undress yourself!”), Mari dared to enter a completely new terrain. She created an installation, which consisted of three parts: A city of glass jars, which were all filled with cooked peeled tomatoes, a heap of yellow leaves, and a single oval shaped brown pendant, which was lying on a square cement stone. I recorded our conversation, when Mari explained her work to me:

Carina: Did you cook and preserve these tomatoes?

Mari: Yes, I first separated the tomato skin from the meat and then cooked the meat and preserved it in glasses. The leaves here are the skins of all the tomatoes in the preserving jars. The pendant has a wooden core and then it’s covered with tomato seeds.

Carina: How many tomatoes did you use there? It looks like many kilos.

Mari: Around 150 kg. I cooked tomatoes for about three months…

Carina: Please tell me a bit about the idea behind it. I know that you worked with the shape of tomatoes before, but now this is a whole different story I believe.

Mari: For me, the tomatoes are similar to humans. They consist of a thin skin and inside there is meat, water and seeds. Also, tomatoes are a very common vegetable, and you see them all the time. And they are very fragile, which I find is comparable to us.

Carina: So when the tomatoes are symbolizing humans, why did you peel their skin off? Did you want to expose their insides?

Mari: My aim in the beginning was to create a jewellery piece. I think that one important characteristic of jewellery is that it helps to express the individuality of the wearer. So, I was thinking about what individuality means today for my generation, especially in Japan. I think my generation did not create a lot. My grandfather’s and father’s generation had to rebuild Japan after the war almost from scratch, but today, we are just followers. Today, most people in Japan totally identify themselves with the company for which they are working. Even if the work is really, really hard, you will never quit, because it is the most important thing for you. When we are born into this world, we have our own individual skin, our own character, but eventually we consciously or unconsciously get rid of it to fit into another cover instead. And we have to change a lot to fit in there.

Carina: So the jars symbolize the new “houses” where the individuals had to fit inside. And all the jars together create something like a city, an accumulation of unities, which contain the individuals. Is this installation talking about the loss of individuality when we obligate ourselves into a certain closed community, e.g. a company?

Mari: Yes, exactly. I must say I feel very secure and comfortable in a group, for instance, I belong to the group of students of the ADBK which makes me feel safe. The individuality of one person is beautiful, but also instable and weak. But when you belong to a community, the group is much stronger and protected. It feels comfortable. However, we do have a substantial need to be different from others even though I believe we don’t know what this really means. This is what the pendant is symbolizing.

Carina: What do you mean? What do the seeds of the pendant stand for?

Mari: The seeds symbolize the future. We have the potential to build something new, but we don’t know how to do that. Our system is finished and rigid, and to change or destroy parts of it doesn’t come naturally to us.

Carina: So do you think that we have to leave the safety of the jar to create our future differently?

Mari: Yes, definitely.

Carina: The pendant looks quite archaic.

Mari: Yes, I wanted to create a kind of talisman from the seeds.

Carina: So, now that you are finished with your studies here, what is the individual Mari going to do?

Mari: I will stay in Munich for now and will continue making art, but I don’t know which kind of art that will be. I’ve been working in the field of art jewellery for a long time now and I want to continue my research about the body etc., but I feel that what is more important for me now is to implement an idea that I have and develop it in the way I feel is right for it.

Carina: I think it works really well here. The different parts of the installation all tell one story together. It is totally conclusive. So maybe that is a good way of working for you, to express an idea in different media and bring them together.

Mari: Yes, I would like to choose the media according to the idea or thought that I have. Video, installation or jewellery, there is no limit for me, and also no hierarchy. The media has to express the idea well. That is where I will center my attention.

Carina: So congratulations on this great diploma show. You also won a prize for it, no? Which one is it? I know there are several…

Mari: It is called “Senator-Bernhard-Borstpreis” of the Stiftung Kunstakademie. It includes another show from the 9th until the 17th of June 2017 in Lothringer 13 Halle in Munich.

Carina: Great. So people will have the chance to see a similar installation again there?

Mari: Yes.

Carina: Thank you, Mari!

1 Mari Iwamoto: Invitation card for diploma show Zieh dich aus, Photo: Mari Iwamoto
2 Mari Iwamoto: Diploma show Zieh dich aus, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
3 Mari Iwamoto: Diploma show Zieh dich aus, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
4 Mari Iwamoto: Zieh dich aus, 2017; Tomato skins; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
5 Mari Iwamoto: Zieh dich aus, Pendant 2017; Tomato seeds, wood, soil; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
6 Mari Iwamoto: Diploma show Zieh dich aus, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
7 Mari Iwamoto: Zieh dich aus, 2017; Tomato flesh, glas jars, cement; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
8 Mari Iwamoto: Diploma show Zieh dich aus, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi