Creativity and Travel: a Jeweller’s Journey
If there was ever a succinct way to describe a person, Indra Karpaviciute would be best referred to as cosmopolitan and urban. Yet such brevities don’t go very far at all, and to unravel at least some of the complexities pertaining to a person one must always probe into deeper introductions, thus – Indra is a Lithuanian-born, Barcelona-based designer in her late twenties, who spends most days crafting and most nights dreaming jewellery. Throughout her life she has extensively traveled, and has lived in 8 cities dispersed between the countries of Brazil, Lithuania, Spain, UK and the US. Indra’s professional and personal adventures began in her teens when she abandoned the safety of her homeland and left for the studies in the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, US, where the likes of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore send their offspring to study art. She had later graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland and since then has been creating unique pieces of jewellery that women can adorn themselves with.
Indra’s style is perhaps best described as a delicately balanced relationship of opposites. She combines clean and sharp angles with a bit of softness and flair. The result is a subtle interplay of muted colours and defined shapes that are distinctly urban yet at times chime with an undertone of nature – oxidized silver earrings may remind one a honeycomb, while the colours of gold and turquoise could evoke images of sun, summer and sea. The delicate intricacy of Indra’s jewellery does not overwhelm the gaze nevertheless sustains its attention by making it linger and explore – in such a way a relationship between the object and subject is born. And that is what one wants from an artistic piece of jewellery – for it not be a mere commodity but to open an imaginary space between itself and its beholder.
You have grown up in an artistic household – your mother is fashion designer, while your father is a sculptor – was studying art just something that appeared organically, or did you consciously decide to delve into it?
Obviously it was something that occurred organically as not only my parents were artists, but my older sister was studying textile design, and my maternal grandmother was a vastly influential fashion designer in her day and had established a Fashion House which was first of its kind in then Soviet Lithuania. I suppose I was exposed to a very creative environment and was often surrounded by graphic artists, sculptors, fashion designers and so on as they were my parents’ friends.
Am I correct by saying that you did not study jewellery initially? Which form of art has fascinated you most at the start of your creative journey?
In the high school I principally studied sculpture, and then during my studies in the Interlochen Center for the Arts in the US I got introduced to jewellery for the first time; it was one of the few art forms I haven’t yet studied in Lithuania as I had been already familiarised with same sculpture, painting, print making, interior design, academic drawing. It was something different. After having already been in the art school for six years I had to think about the quality from a different angle – I was working with silver, other precious metals and fragile materials, created structures could break easily thus they needed to be well constructed.
Since we are talking about your artistic journey lets touch upon your travels. Having lived in five countries you embody an image of a contemporary cosmopolitan. How do you react to such a description and what is your notion of home?
First of all, you can call me a cosmopolitan if you want, but being Lithuanian is very important and I am extremely proud that I am Lithuanian. I am delighted with what my country has manged to achieve in the aftermath of breaking away from the Soviet Union. It has its own problems as any other country, but it is a place where one can have a good quality of life, enjoy wholesome foods, it is extremely cultural – there is a lot of going on. Whereas my home for me is a place where I can go back, relax and be myself, where I feel safe. I am most at home in Lithuania and Barcelona, this is where I feel good.
How did you end up in all these different lands, was it a search for pastures green and new?
It was always a search for something better that for me no longer exists, I was looking for some perfect place. It is hard to describe this as my understanding of perfection has also changed during the years. It is easy to imagine that the grass is greener on the other side, but again that is something that I realized through the experience of having lived abroad. For example, as I was growing up people would depict America as a dreamland with all its prosperity, but a lived out reality is different. I also wanted to educate myself at good schools and that is how I moved to the US at the age of 17, where I felt enormously privileged to have had an opportunity to study at one of the best institutions in the country. However, during those two years I got extremely homesick and upon the completion of my studies moved back to Europe as I wanted to be closer to home. Learning a language has also been a motivation, I thought it was fun to experience a different place and at the same time to learn a language. Of course acquiring new languages is hard, but there was this desire to know more, and that was how I moved about – through wanting to absorb, know more.
How do you think life in such diverse environments has changed you as a designer and a person?
As a person it changed me because I am not as judgemental as I used to be and this is only due to the travelling; you are so exposed to different cultures and ways of thinking that even though you may not agree with them initially, after a while you just accept that you cannot change a whole country and it is the way of being for somebody. I found this to be extremely important, it opened my eyes – made me less stubborn and I also learned to appreciate things more. As a designer I think I just became more free, and I don’t care anymore about following fashion trends that exists between jewellers of the same country. Of course it is natural to have these similar tendencies, but I really try to not to be part of a swarm. I don’t even want to look at what others do so as not to be influenced by them.
The influence of urban modern architecture on the jewellery you create is undisputable, however is there anything else that inspires your work?
Nature and travel. My work is diametrical, but when I travel and spend time in nature I relax and let my brain rest, and I feel that then some decent projects come out of my subconscious. I am also influenced by fashion. I look at shapes and colors and they inspire me. I probably prefer haute couture fashion and even more such designs that cannot really be worn comfortably – the sculpture-like ones with prominent shapes. I would look at such a figure and visualise how a miniature version of it would appear say on an ear.
Can you think of a landscape, be it metropolitan or rural, that has surprised or impressed you most?
I was really surprised by Brazil, what I found there. I truly imagined it to be very exotic, but I think it is a myth that we Europeans create maybe because we miss good weather during our long winters and we make it more mysterious than it actually is. For example, there is this craze about the Rio de Janeiro carnival, but it is a highly commercialised and expensive event. The pictures of the carnival that we see in journals and magazines depict quite a false reality as for most native Brazilians the tickets to the parade are much too costly, so the main event is the party in the street with all the people. The spectacle on New Year’s Eve, however, was incredibly impressive and I find it hard to compare with anything I have ever experienced before. I was in Copacabana beach, which is one of the most famous beaches in the world that stretches along the city of Rio de Janeiro. I was in the middle of it in a massive private apartment out of which you could have a 360-degree view of the beach, it was absolutely amazing. There were about 3 million people at the beach waiting for the New Year and they were all dressed in white, which was an incredible sight. But Brazil is a country of contrasts where the gap between rich and poor is enormous, so being there on the ground was actually also quite dangerous, because one could get stabbed, shot or robbed. So there I was – on the beach, but not exactly in it, and with the astonishing fireworks and the sea of people in white in the background it was the most surreal feeling.
Tell me, what does beauty mean to you?
For me beauty is when a person is happy and accepting, and not being judgemental. I don’t know how to express it fully. I had previously felt that I needed to fit some beauty or other framework, but my understanding changed in Brazil and I realized that nobody really cares about that except for me. Most Brazilians are incredibly friendly, they are sincere, chatty and smile a lot! I would be talking to somebody who perhaps wouldn’t be deemed by mainstream standards as very attractive, but whose sustained smile, cordiality, and politeness would make my heart melt. So far only in Brazil have I met so many unbelievably friendly and open people, this affected me greatly.
I know that you are a socially and politically aware person, do these concerns ever find a way into your studio and do you ever try to reconcile these with what you do? I am thinking about a rampant consumerism and a seeming futility of our obsession with commodities.
Of course, one example is that I hate wasting. I am extremely aware of waste and I care to recycle. Again, while in Brazil I was shocked how most people didn’t even have an opportunity to recycle and when you think of the pollution that is created by a population of 200 million, it is astounding. In my work I make smaller editions to avoid surplus – I am not a mass producer, and I care about the quality.
Has the path to jewellery design always been easy?
I really do like a lot what I do, but in order for people to buy your jewellery you need to work on being known and to earn buyer’s respect. There were doubts of course as at the end of the day you want to be able to make a living out of what you do. A cruel reality check of how difficult it is to achieve this is the fact that out of my university year I am the only one actively making jewellery, there are a few others who do it as a hobby, but I alone am making it a full time affair.
What has been the most exciting pinnacle of your career so far?
Actually it is sales figures, returns. When people write to me, make inquiries and buy my designs I feel that I am being supported in what I do, it confirms that people are fond of the jewellery I create and this really motivates me to work further. I guess in this sense I am commercial, but I am also interested in the artistic value of my work. Chanel is also commercial but their products have a fashion value, which interests or speaks to other people.
Future dreams, professional or other?
Making it big. Indra smiles (auth.).