INTERVIEWED BY TRIINU TIKAS
Inspired by visiting the ring making workshop, Triinu Tikas made a small interview with me.
MARITA LUMI: MY JEWELLERIES ARE PICTURE BOOKS, FULL OF EVENTFUL STORIES
The life of artist and musician Marita Lumi has been organically intertwined with the art of adornment since her childhood, when Marita made flower crowns and spruce hats, and created jewellery for all the book characters and animals. As a conscious choice, she finally entered into a relationship with jewellery in 2004, joining the Jewellery department of the Estonian Academy of Arts. “It seemed to me that when I could chew through the world's toughest and heaviest materials, metals and rocks, the rest of the world’s problems are easy to solve,” Marita explains the important choice that influenced her life.
1. What does jewellery art mean for you?
It is a very privileged world that allows you to hide large and eventful stories in small objects. Oscar Wilde once said he had no time to write a short letter because it would take too much time for him to find the right words that would express his feelings precisely. In jewellery art, we inevitably have to take this time and abstract the stories: the story must fit into the jewellery or series, and the different materials are forms that symbolize the details of the story. I like custom-made works, those are finally the result of the style, spirituality and narrations of the customer — even if I summarize “story” with some minimalist hidden symbol. Exhibition works, however, are like adventure novels or short stories or even philosophical treatises. For the past year and a half, I have also been involved in electroforming (cultivation of material by electrolysis), gold plating and silver plating. I like the fact that my speciality allows me to learn all the time. So many things you don't know yet, but you would like to know; so many opportunities and playing field to explore and experiment further. This is a real life game for me: when I make jewellery, I feel like I write a three-dimensional picture book for transferring metaphors and stories, and simultaneously read on to find out more. Working with metals inevitably requires time and patience, and I feel that jewellery has shaped me a lot as a person. I guess true love changes the person in this way. Certainly, in a more philosophical way, metal art has taught me at the same time the simplification of complex issues, as well as the complex interpretation of simple things. Because a jewellery peace is a powerful amulet: it has to decorate its wearer and add value to that person, to amplify the strengths hidden in the human soul.
2. Your jewellery often has quite strange creatures and different birds and animals. What inspires you?
My jewellery is often associated with my love for ethnography. I have interpreted mythologies and narratives in different ways and further narrated those in my image language. I once attended Kadri Viires' events at EAA's expedition to Chuvash Republik and the Mari-El Autonomous Republic, and from there I keep up with the events and writings about the tribal people. It really matters to me that the jewellery there is especially symbolic and tells stories. Everything has a purpose; everything is justified — even if it seems like a huge mess! I am certainly not a minimalist — I believe that different pieces of jewellery can be worn at the same time and lots of it, creating a set of setu chain, a kind of jungle, which is still a complete system. My jewellery is created on the edge of noticeable and invisible; where there is still a lot of work to be done by scientists; where the deepest secrets of the unexplained universe are hidden. When I create jewellery, I not only create the stories associated with the topics, but I also read and introduce myself to these topics. I leave bits of the random various stories that I’ve heard and experienced hidden in my jewellery. The jewellery I have created is like a reflection of nature and should support a mythical spiritual world in a certain way. For example, earrings with songbirds should chirp an invisible poem in the wearer’s ear, make them notice and interpret the surrounding in a more charming way. Also, birds were a symbol of passing on our ancestors' intelligence and cats were symbol of knowledge in old Egypt. Some may think that jewellery items are merely decorative, but the art is almost as old as humanity and the items have been used for magical and ritual purposes. The magical ability of the jewellery may be significant. And not only that a jeweller creates a beautiful piece, but if a person feels beautiful when wearing it, the item can have a great impact. Through increased self-confidence, one is more active and courageous to speak, to defend one's opinion, and to set their goals. So, in that sense, jewellery has meaning and importance.
3. Who are your favourite jewellery artists and why?
I have many favourite artists. As genius artists, I have always admired all my teachers: Kadri Mälk, Tanel Veenre, Rein Mets, Kärt Summatavet, Julia Maria Künnap, Florence Lehmann, and Sophie Hanagarth. Also, Kertu Tuberg, Maarja Niinemägi, Ive-Maria Köögard, Annika Kedelauk, Nils Hint, Urmas Lüüs and Keiu Koppel. I'm a bit at loss here, but I would gladly name all the jewellers who surround me and who have influenced me. I would suggest visiting Hobusepea, there are a lot of us, 70 working jewellers!
Most of my favourites are of those who passed EAA, as their works generally have more to offer than merely decorative purpose. Kadri Mälk, who has been the head of the department of jewellery at EAA for a long time, has directed our generation, focusing on the integration of content and technological skills. We have been taught to see the diversity and abundance of opportunities, to make complicated and meaningful jewellery, to look for our handwriting and to be compliant. I think that our advantage of coming from EAA is, above all, the introduction of the force and power of jewellery that the wearer then puts into existence.
4. You also have one unique “piece of jewellery” that you put into existence as a wearer. Skirt harp, which was also your graduation thesis at EAA. What is a skirt harp?
The skirt harp is a harp, and at the same time a skirt, which can be worn as a skirt and on which one can play music. This is an impromptu project that is slowly developing. The beginning was just like most good things in life with butterflies in the stomach. As a foreign student, living in Portugal, I built a conical copper cone, on which I attached the strings. Later, I built another one, and now I can perform with other harp player. Although before, I knew nothing about the harps; knowledge came to the work by studying the matter more closely. At first, I knew more about metal, and so I decided to do as well as I could. When I create a whole new instrument, it could be something that would be played and danced in at the same time. To date, a disc has been released, which can be heard in SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/kannelseelikud.
5. You also carry out jewellery workshops; we had a good opportunity to participate in one of them. Tell me more about these.
For seven years, I have been conducting jewellery workshops where on average 2-3 people can work together at a time in six hours. This opportunity to spend one interesting day together, or, for example, young people about to marry can make each others rings to show their commitment. Or a nice gift for friends, but also for mothers and daughters... Metal is like a plasticine, which at the same time requires a little patience and the use of different technologies to shape special and timeless things. The course deals with the main methods of jewellery — sawing, soldering, rolling, polishing. A good result also requires love and commitment.
The participants will definitely complete their first pair of earrings or rings in one day. To make the result more meaningful and better for themselves, I would recommend that those who come to the course should think carefully about their idea in advance. Otherwise, too much of the time will be spent on formulating the idea in the workshop and the less time will be spent on the implementation. You might try to think and draw, but also search thoughts on the internet to find the most suitable and personalized design to accomplish. It takes the most time to think about the idea for me, too.
By the way, it has been interesting that many people have continued their jewellery making after the course. Some have also come back to the course repeatedly and some have quietly started to build their home jewellery studio. This could mean that the workshop has been infectious. It gives me the greatest pleasure.
Comment by the author: A serious risk of infection can be confirmed from my experience! In the workshop, under the guidance of Marita, I created a ring, which at first seemed complicated and unrealizable. “There are no unrealistic ideas and everything is possible in absolute terms,” Marita assured. Indeed, 6 hours later, an idea that seemed like a real challenge, had materialized into an amazingly beautiful ring. And immediately, I had a lot of enthusiasm and many ideas to continue ...