I Design Something and Sometimes I Call it Jewelle

GZ Interview with Stefan Todorov

“There's one thing I'm becoming more and more conscious of“, said Stefan Todorov in a conversation with GZ. “Jewellery is one of my favourite pastimes. Every new job sends me down a path I've been on several times before, but that surprisingly leads me somewhere else from the first step.“ In 1985, Todorov interrupted his study of art and art theory in Leipzig. He wanted to do something more practical so that he went to Halle, where he trained to be a goldsmith and studied until 1993 in the Small Sculpture/Jewellery Department at the Giebichenstein Castle College of Art and Design. Todorov was a free-lancer until 1997. Now he is training goldsmiths at the Arnstadt State Vocational School in Thuringia .

GZ: Mr. Todorov, you have presented very prominent and independent work as the winner of the Symbol Award. How important are competitions for you?

St. T.: I have enjoyed participating in competitions since I have been making jewellery. It gives me the opportunity to work on the same theme with a lot of other people and then to compare what comes out. As a designer, I try to work independent of social convention and fashions as much as possible. I can only create something new and really innovative that stands out from the mass of things that are often superficially designed if I can get away from the normal way of thinking. I want to shape tastes; I don't want to follow them.

GZ: Do the themes given at the competitions offer you enough latitude for that?

St. T.: I always ask myself when I'm working on a new competition if I'm going into it without reservations or prejudices. And I not only try to imagine the theme, but also what the work of the others would be like. The often-cited zeitgeist is an expression of the behaviour of the masses. Just when the themes begin to gel, that's when it makes sense to think about it, to get to the bottom of things. You always find work in the competitions that would have fit any other theme as well. You can even tell whose work they are from the "signature" immediately. I want to use some examples to demonstrate my approach. The theme of the Symbol III Award 2001 was the jewellery set. Normally, several pieces of jewellery are looked upon as a set if they are aligned with one another by external common features, for instance with shapes, colours, ornaments, one type of precious stone that matches or just by changing the size. The function and the way the individual pieces of jewellery are worn depend largely upon where it's worn on the body such as a pendant or pierced earring, neck jewellery or necklace, broach or a small broach, a finger ring or bangle, etc. When the individual parts of the set are designed and produced, individual pieces of jewellery are produced that maintain their function even if they are worn separately and still have a decorative function. With my jewellery set, the fact that the jewellery applications belong together is not only conceptual, meaning subjectively superficial, but they arise from the actual objective unity of the pieces of jewellery. I leave it up to the imagination and openness of the person wearing it what effect the jewellery has on others.

GZ: How did you approach the theme of the Symbol II Award 2000?

St. T.: The topic given was “Rings – Moving Up into New Dimensions of Interpretation“. The words from the call were “jewellery as a symbol“ and “the ring as an allegory of infinity“. They triggered my entry in the competition “Text Roll“. Is there such a thing as infinity? Intrinsically, there is, but not for each individual person. “Jewellery“ and “symbol“ are symbols. Do they really stand for “content“ and “form“? How can I, as a creator, immortalise this unity? Is this content lost more quickly while the shapes perhaps live on in a new content? Art history is full of interpretations of the essence of things. Jewellery has always had a communicative component, but we talk too little about it with one another. My entry arose from all of these deliberations. A titanium band is permanently written on with text, pictures, pictograms. As with life, this ring also has a beginning and an end. You don't need a special occasion to possess this ring. What was written on it once cannot be erased. Of course, you can change the outside ring as its exterior at any time, but the essence (the essential) lives on and grows with the person wearing it.

GZ: What meaning do form, function and content have with your jewellery design?

St. T.: A very important aspect of my work is developing jewellery functions. There are a lot of things in life that are good so that they remain essentially unchanged over a long time. Mostly, they are the practical things where only the decoration is changed. You take a function that has proven its worth and you only design on the surface. When you see an object for the first time and you may conclude something about the content from its appearance or even understand its function immediately, that's usually because of the good design. What's innovative for me is what stimulates you to ask questions at first glance. This means that when one of the components of “content“, “form“ or “function“ has not been generally recognised and therefore evokes questions, even a misunderstanding or even rejection at first. New things are always measured with old standards. Somebody appropriately said once: “Inventors are not ahead of their time, but the mass is lagging behind.“

GZ: What criteria does jewellery have to fulfil in your opinion?

St. T.: When I think about my work, I notice that I'm actually looking for a criterion I can objectify for jewellery. Just “beautiful“ is very relative for me and lacks constancy. I try to be creative in the truest sense of the word, to put something into the world that not only I look upon as well-done. Good design is always much more for me than putting pretty dazzling things on a string. It also contains the question: is jewellery what we call jewellery or what you make of it?

GZ: Mr. Todorov, thank you for this interview.

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