When you walk into Teodora’s tiny workshop you see a well kept, colorful wooden table filled with dozens of stones that shine in small bottles. Polishing tools, various cloths, and pliers lay seemingly unimportant on a tray. However, once these are in the hands of the jeweler, they become instruments that give life to a rough piece of metal.
All the magic takes place within these 3 square meters which Teo describes as “her magic creation corner”.
“I felt as if I had no direction. I did it all, from ceramics to glass, and from stained glass to jewelry… but not focused enough on either one to make it into a vocation.
I was always looking to work with small objects because I felt like that way I had more control.
After this season of exploration came a time when I had to start preparing a project for my bachelor thesis. I finally decided that jewelry was the best fit for me and ended up creating three collections of contemporary silver and porcelain accessories.”
Shortly after graduation, her house’s cold and dark cellar became a small workshop, and her desire to pursue a career in jewelry prompted her to follow up with a master’s and extra courses within the field. Her return to Cluj-Napoca and the making of her now atelier gave her the courage she needed to do what she loves, with confidence, every day.
How would you define your art?
A constant parallel to nature. I try to bring to the surface what cannot be seen with the naked eye. I prefer to rely on instinct rather than copying existing structures. I reinterpret shapes as I feel them at that moment. When I sit down to work, I do so without pre-existing sketches, but rather being fully immersed in spontaneity.
All the signature pieces I created so far are inspired by the natural environment, especially by the microscopic world. I have always enjoyed studying that whole universe. However, I still do commercial pieces as well because I understand the necessity of everyday jewelry, simple but powerful.
So, whether a signature piece or a more commercial one, I always strive for perfection. I like to work neatly and correctly. If a piece doesn’t turn out the way I want it, I redo it five times from scratch, until it’s just right!
When you make more commercial pieces do you feel as though you are betraying the artistic side?
Sometimes it can feel that way. I would love to do, for the most part, only signature pieces. To be honest, I don’t know how prepared Romanians are for this type of jewelry, but the good news is that things seem to be going better and better with each year within this area of non-commercial jewelry. I really believe that in the near future people will start attributing more value to the quality and uniqueness of a product more than the quantity.
Romanian Jewelry Week is an event dedicated to jewelry, with its first edition this year. This brings together a multitude of artists from all over the world, allowing them to promote their designs and get to know each other. It has two sections: the exhibit section, where jewelry designers present their pieces, and the fare section, where people are welcome to try and buy. Teo is one of the happily selected to take part in the event. This motivated her to prepare a novel collection that she worked on for months!
When did you feel most appreciated for what you do?
During my university years, I didn’t have the opportunity to experiment as much as I would have liked in this area of jewelry. But it definitely helped me set a foundation for what was to come.
I am mostly self-taught and have always been looking to learn more about this craft from wherever I could.
After a while, I started to feel that I needed to perfect my skills and I followed a course within The School of Contemporary Jewelry (Assamblage) in Bucharest. That is where I met people that have grown very close to my heart, and from one discussion to another, we ended up talking about Romanian Jewelry Week, and that is when the opportunity presented itself…
So, I would say that finding out I was accepted at Romanian Jewelry Week was for me the first and greatest step that I have taken so far.
Which pieces would you say best reflect who you are?
I think the ones that I made for Romanian Jewelry Week speak so clearly about who I am. They are so… me! The collection is titled “Inside My World” and from a visual perspective, it focuses on a series of microscopic organisms in combination with details from the female body.
It’s hard for me to describe them… It would be easier if I were at my workbench holding them in my hands. When I create a piece I do so out of a feeling, not out of words. The accessories speak about sexuality, about the female body described within the shapes.
This entire collection is centered around my journey of exploration across my own body. I like to play with the viewer’s imagination by using shapes and structures found in nature that also resemble certain female components. Sparking an entire fantasy through imagination.
Did your passion turn into work or was it through your work that you truly found your passion?
Passion transformed into work. I am very passionate and enthusiastic about what I do. However, I fear that by doing this daily, in the future, the routine might settle in and things might become monotonous.
Creating jewelry is my only activity. Here, in my workshop is where I both charge and empty my batteries. The most exhausting days have to be the days in which I start working at 8 AM and finish at 1 AM. This happened often during my preparation for ROJW. But the great thing about it is that it doesn’t feel like work when you love what you do. You start and then you completely lose track of the time. I think that is the most important thing when you do something to do it with joy and your whole heart.
Have you had people love something you made while you thought there was still room for improvement?
Being a perfectionist, I always wish to make impeccable pieces, but that is pretty much impossible since we aren’t robots, but humans.
Often times I analyze the pieces long after they are finished, and find myself stressing about a speck that might be visible under a magnifying glass or from a certain angle. I get so worked up about it because I always strive to meet my clients with high standards.
I’m sure that people don’t expect handmade products to be the same as mass-produced ones, but I just really want to deliver the best results.
So, yes, it has happened for my work to be highly appreciated but for me to still see room for improvement. Your heart just expands when you receive appreciation or good reviews on what you do.
When you know you brought joy to someone, you end up having even more joy.
Has anyone ever told you that your art is ugly?
Yes. It made me so sad! I can still recall one negative comment word for word: “Oh… I thought there would be something more interesting about it.”
Working with people you will often find yourself in uncomfortable situations, but in the end, all of these only help you grow, right? This business I have is created out of passion and a lot of hard work and truly it is a part of me.
Even though you are still at the beginning of your journey, have you thought about passing on your craft in the future?
For me it was quite difficult when I decided this was the path I wanted to pursue. I searched all over for someone I could learn from, someone who would take me under their wing and teach me, but sadly, I never found many open doors. So, I taught myself. The courses at Assamblage helped me very much in discovering some of the blind spots I had accumulated over the years.
I have always been, am, and always will be open and willing to help artists who are starting out in this field, artists who are willing to learn.
I think that if we don’t help each other out, if we don’t share tips and techniques with each other, jewelry design can never evolve. By sharing these things we can develop new ideas, test out new methods, and achieve things we never thought possible.
The perseverance, passion, and love Teodora gives a single piece of metal demonstrates how much she longed to arrive to this point, where she can do something she loves, something that reflects who she is; an art form that allows her to express herself and also discover things about herself.
As she says, no matter how hard it is to achieve your dream, you must never give up on it. What you will reap at the end will be more than you could have ever imagined.
“I have worked long and hard, and now I am happy I did. I don’t regret the nights I stayed up working, the exhaustion, or the hardships. You have to do what you love so that you can leave behind something of value.”