In this tumultuous and uncertain period, we are longing for jewelry as a connection path to the others. We are also longing for calm, tranquility, beauty.
Fortunately, something was happening. The second edition of DOR by AUTOR Pop-Up Shop, an AUTOR event, took place in the last weekend of October 2021. On this occasion, we are talking to Niki Stylianou, a resonant name on the European contemporary jewelry scene and a close friend of AUTOR Platform.
Niki Stylianou was born and lives in Athens and is a jewelry designer with a background in architecture. Moreover, she is also a creativity coach, co-founder of Athens Jewelry Week, and the managing editor of AUTOR Magazine. Although she is involved in multiple, extensive projects, Niki has time to experiment, work on her personal jewelry collections, and also talk to us about her career path, creative process, favorite materials, and the connection between architecture and jewelry.
Niki, let’s start with the very beginning. I know you’re a successful jewelry designer with a Master’s Degree in architecture and interior design. How did you change your path in 2004 and how come you got started with jewelry?
Life has its own ways…
I believe that we, humans, don’t have one face, or one path to tread. Even as a child I was fascinated by “Homo Universalis”. A concept that wants the man to be forever curious, always learning, always imagining, always creating in a non-linear way. So when life shows me a new passionate face or facet, I do not hesitate to follow its unfolding. This is what happened to me in 2004. I fell in love with Contemporary Jewelry… (And it was love at first sight!).
On another note, I never feel confined when it comes to creativity. My biggest source of pleasure is the crisscrossing between fields and disciplines. The borrowing and/or synthesis of different contexts and different styles into new permutations. I still borrow from Architecture.
After all… Who says that a piece of jewelry is not an architectural structure of a small scale?
How did your background in architecture and engineering help you along the way in your profession?
Some call Architecture the “mother of all arts”. This is because as a discipline and a practice, encompasses many of the rest of the arts. It is informed by sculpture, painting, calligraphy, and not only. Furthermore, as it has to serve practical and utilitarian purposes, apart from expressive and aesthetic ends, it is necessary to inform and be informed by Engineering too. Both of them together, [Architecture + Engineering], form a powerful tool that, moving at the intersection of art and science, shapes our built environment and inner landscapes. How did it help me? It gave me a keen perception of what a unified and coherent form or structure is, it taught me how to run research, and most importantly, it gave me the skills to materialize… to solve problems while getting from idea to implementation…
Here’s a tiny challenge: Describe your style in no more than three words.
Conceptual, bold, loved.
You work with metal (precious or not), stones, upcycled materials… What have you been obsessing over lately in terms of materials and techniques, considering you have such an eclectic mix of options?
Lately, I have revisited the lost wax technique… I’ve been obsessing over carving and melting and forming all kinds of shapes out of wax, which I, then, cast in silver. The process gives me an almost childlike sense of freedom… And silver is an amazing metal to work with.
How does your workspace look when you work? Try to paint a mental picture for us.
A mess… You just don’t want to know… 🙂
How would you explain the concept of “contemporary jewelry” to someone that has no connection with this subject?
It is difficult to give a definition to a concept that is fairly new and still evolving. I would say that “contemporary jewelry” is a means of self-exploration and self-expression. A unique statement, that unites in a common experience, the making, the maker, the made, and the body/wearer.
You’re also the managing editor of Autor Magazine since 2018 and the co-founder of Athens Jewelry Week. How do you see the Romanian jewelry community and market? Is there potential here?
The Romanian jewelry community and market are definitely growing. The works are evolving and the diversity is evident. I know that AUTOR Fair has been trying for years to enhance creativity, encourage the search for novel perspectives and provoke the Artists of the Romanian Contemporary Jewelry scene to reach their best version, while educating the public at the same time. I think you have succeeded. We are all tuned in, watching and waiting for the Romanian Interpretation of our field.
Do you have a favorite Romanian jewelry designer/brand? Or maybe two.
That’s a tricky question… My first reaction was to avoid answering it. But then again one has his/her soft spots… And it is no secret that I love Raluca’s Buzura work. We had the chance to welcome her more than once in Greece and wear her pieces proudly during several editions of Athens Jewelry Week.
You’re coming to Bucharest at DOR de AUTOR Pop-Up Shop, a smaller-scale contemporary jewelry fair by AUTOR, held in the heart of the city. Is there something you really miss about Bucharest?
It seems that due to COVID restrictions I will miss Bucharest and AUTOR this year too… I’m optimistic though. I’m sure that we will be able to meet again soon and enjoy the “augmented edition” of AUTOR Fair, which has always been a meeting point and a hub, giving the artists and the visitors alike the gifts of: the physical contact, the shared experience, the endless discussions and exchange of ideas…