Meet the Jewellery Designer: Elisa Tabakman

Photo: Courtesy of Elisa Tabakman

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

From a very young age I was attracted to art, especially ceramics, and to archaeology. At the age of 8 I began to study ceramics in a children’s workshop and at 14 I entered the Fernando Arranz National School of Ceramics, where I graduated from the senior cycle. At the same time, I started university to become an archaeologist, but an anthropology class, in which I met the famous anthropologist Claude Lévi-Straus, changed the course of my vocation. I had suffered a lot of anti-Semitism at school since I was very young. And for the first time I had in my hands some marvellous documents in which Lévi-Strauss completely demolished the scientific pretensions of the racism that had prevailed in the world since the nineteenth century. And he did so in a world bled and mutilated by Nazi barbarism. I decided that I wanted to follow that path as well. It was very difficult to articulate both vocations because they both demand absolute surrender. I resolved to dedicate seasons to each one. That explains why I did not dedicate myself to art for many years, since I lived in Barcelona, Spain, doing my doctorate in Anthropology. I must add that in my work I tried to articulate those teachings. That is why I have a collection dedicated to freedom, which is the supreme good, and a work in homage to the children of the Holocaust.

What inspired you to become a jewellery designer?

My fascination with ceramics was awakened by fire, the magical transformation that fire works on clay. From there the need to venture into every art of fire was a matter of time. I went through vitrage, artistic ironwork, artistic glass, glass mosaic and finally ended up in the jewellery design. Absolutely all of these fields fascinate me but for practical reasons I was forced to focus only on my signature jewellery: in my country, Argentina, it is very difficult to live from art, in fact, it is difficult to live in general, for everyone, and I could not continue making my huge works of glass, iron and wood because I did not sell them and I had no more economic means to continue making them for my personal enjoyment. Nor did I have space to store them. Many have been broken for that reason. With the jewels I overcame that obstacle and I also managed to fuse artistic glass with metals. I also work a lot with semi-precious stones because I love them, they are rustic and most of them raw.

The jewels allowed me to set up my workshop and take it to Barcelona and Le Meux in France on several occasions. The entire production! Now I dream that a patron would like to sponsor me and take my art somewhere else. In my country, unfortunately, it is not feasible to continue my artistic career, and that makes me feel very bad, very empty.

When you start to design a new collection, what is the process like? Where do you take your inspiration? How do you keep up with the current trends?

To be honest, I don’t follow trends at all. I’m a free spirit and I create what comes out of me. I have been nourished a lot by my travels around the world, by my studies of art, of anthropology and by my many years in Barcelona where you can breathe art everywhere. And all of that, in a way, flows in naturally. If there is any criterion to separate my work in jewellery it is only the materials, so there is a collection with my own glass that is already a work of art itself, another with ceramic pieces, but this is the smallest, and the large collection with semi-precious stones. Stones have a raw force, the energy and beauty of creation emanates from them. When I see a raw stone that I like, automatically a jewel comes out of it. They are very powerful. My jewels are characterised by, besides the materials I choose, being very large, very striking, for combining the rustic with the brilliant, for being very solid. They are not for just anyone, they are for people with a lot of personality.

What do you enjoy the most about the design process?

The design process is incredible, I can go for a while with a blank mind and suddenly, usually in the early morning, I wake up with an idea and need to run to the workshop to work. It was always like that. The magic of the night operates alongside the alchemy of inspiration. As an anecdote, I can mention that I don’t like to design earrings. As all my jewels are unique pieces, it bores me enormously, after having designed the first earring, to have to copy the pair. It is something that makes me feel very frustrated. This, added to the fact that the dimensions I work with make the earrings unviable due to the weight that one ear can handle, is the reason why you will hardly find them in my collections. They are exceptions in my catalogue.

What are your favourite materials to work with?

I suppose that since I was trained in an art school that was quite traditional in its conception and practice of art, I did not have the opportunity to venture into my early years with alternative materials that are so en vogue today. Honestly, most of what I see in those lines does not please me. I believe more in innovative design from conventional materials than in modern ones of all kinds. An earring that is a wire from which hangs a Lego brick, or a mutilated head of a Barbie doll as a pendant for a necklace, just to mention a couple of examples; I’m sorry, I can’t see them either as jewellery or as art. I guess younger people understand this differently, but I can’t.

What are your favourite designs in your current collection?

Of my current jewellery pieces, the ones I like the most are the enormous necklaces chokers, made from brass, bronze or silver with rustic stones, very colourful. In particular, there is one that I’m thinking of in conjunction with a bracelet that seems to me to be a dream for a medieval princess, very feminine. It is made from bronze with a quartz druse framed by ruby roots. The bracelet carries only a small rose quartz stone.

What are your wishes for the future?

My greatest wish is to be able to continue my work. As I mentioned, in my country this is not possible and I do not see it as feasible in the next few years. Not only do I already make only jewellery, but every day I make less of it and I am on a straight path to being forced to give it up as well.

Will there be a foundation that will give me the opportunity to continue creating? If I could get someone to sponsor me from abroad, I could take up all my art forms again. I dream of being able to continue making my collections of fish, birds and cats. And of course, new ideas that will arise.

Where can we find your designs?

Currently my work is only available on Instagram


Photos: Courtesy of Elisa Tabakman

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