Meet the Maker – Aleksandra Vali

Come inside the world of wearable sculptures crafted by Aleksandra Vali. From the USA, EA talks to Aleksandra about her creative process and her transition from ceramic sculptures to jewellery. We touch on where she draws her inspiration and how she chooses the final designs. This Meet the Maker interview is a fascinating glimpse into the world of this award-winning jeweller.

EA. Your work relies heavily on form, textures and contrast, balanced with a fluidity of movement to create a harmony that many artisans strive for but do not achieve as successfully as yourself, what single influence has been instrumental in the development of this particular aesthetic?

AV. Every artist will have his or her own process. It’s similar to cooking, the differences between various recipes is a matter of ingredients and style of combination. With my jewellery designs, my unique style components involve shape and details. I don’t just see shapes, I feel shapes. The shape and conformity of a stone will influence my design for that stone. Likewise, I’m very attuned to details and connections between things and people; I think they are as important as the broader design of the piece. Details for me are about textures, layers, depth – creating a visual representation of a feeling or emotion, a complex relationship between two people in love, or a stunning piece of nature. Details – in the inspiration for the design and in the design itself – these are the key to my work.

EA. You draw by hand many of your designs. Do you find your work translates best to being hand-drawn as opposed to using CAD programs?

AV. Yes. I prefer to hand-draw all of my designs because I feel that I have a more natural flow between the spark or idea and the final design. Sketching designs allows me to play with dimension and depth as well as fluidity to bring the idea for a design to life. This is something that cannot be replaced by machines. Think of it as the difference between emotionless computer-made music and a full-spirited concert performance with live musicians.

EA. Do you draw multiple variations of the same design until you find ‘the one’, or is it a more immediate process resonating from one particular thought requiring only one sketch?

AV. This part of the process varies. Occasionally, I come up with an idea for which I create a few different sketches, and other times I start carving a piece right away. All designs start with a spark; some quickly burst into flame and the design spills out of me into a sketch or carving. Others spin around in my brain until all the design aspects fit the materials I want to use. I get a special kind of energy from every design and the process is more a product of that energy than any set process.

EA. Your original medium of choice was Ceramic and working as a sculptor, what influenced you to move into the smaller scale medium of precious metals and jewellery making?

AV. I always liked working on the details and fine points of any artistic creation. When I had the chance to learn jewelry-smithing techniques, I was intrigued, at first, and then totally captivated by the possibilities. I can do so many more things with texture, depth, weight, fine lines, embellishments with stones and wires and other objects. I was immediately excited about this medium; I feel a whole new universe of creativity as I design with metals and stones.

EA. Many jewellers rely on the process of creating samples from non-precious metals to refine their designs. Is this something you do?

AV. I create all of my models in wax first, then, if I am confident in the design, I go straight to casting the piece in silver or gold. Wax is easier to use than a metal for the design model yet it still allows me see how the final piece will work. Sometimes, a wax model doesn’t look the way I want the final design to work, so that model won’t get cast. Still, by using wax for my models, I’m ready to cast any design I think should be produced in metal.

EA. What is your favourite technique or material to work with?

AV. Casting is my favourite technique to work with, as it allows me to make 3-dimensional pieces with intriguing textures and flowing lines. Out of the many materials that I work with, I favour the combinations of precious metals, and these form the sculptural base of my jewellery.

EA. Do you ever feel that you need to follow trends when creating a collection?

AV. My jewelry designs are inspired by so many different things in nature, in my relationships with friends and family, in my journey through life that I never lack for new ideas. I strive to create pieces that appeal to people’s emotions and connections to life experiences. These are not trendy ideas per se but still resonate with many people around the world.

EA. What was the biggest risk you ever took with a design?

AV. All pieces created in this artistic process are a risk but every inventor and artist, every person who tries something new knows that a negative result is still a result. Each attempt at a design or piece yields new information about what works and what doesn’t. Some creations will not reach the finished product and will be destroyed; that doesn’t mean the process was a waste of time or money. I’m very lucky that I have the freedom to be creative – I have the materials, I have the ideas, and I have people who want to purchase my designs. I will always create jewelry and I will always find people who love it!

EA. What is your favourite piece in your current body of work?

AV. I can’t pick a favorite piece. That is like picking a favorite child. I love all the designs I create. They all mean something special to me.

EA. Do you create a new collection annually? Or when you feel it is ‘time’?

AV. I do not create collections based on any deadlines or time stamps. A collection comes from ideas and inspirations, feelings and emotions, connections with friends and loved ones. It has never been a process defined by time or an arbitrary design concept. The collections I’ve created to date reflect different aspects of my views of the world I live in. I love being able to express my ideas and feelings through my designs and collections.

EA. You have received numerous awards over the years and have been featured in many publications, do you feel that this is a measure of a successful piece or collection?

AV. The articles and awards are very flattering and rewarding because they demonstrate appreciation for my artistic style and techniques. I’ve had many different pieces features in articles or competitions and each one is a star because of its own particular special design features and techniques. However, these pieces are not more important to me than the rest of the jewellery I’ve created over the years. These pieces just give me a chance to show my artistic style, my technical skills, my creative expression to the world at large. I’m grateful for the opportunity and the recognition.

EA. What is the biggest challenge you face working as a jeweller?

AV. It’s kind of funny but in the beginning, I did not like working with pearls or gold. I didn’t like the look of either, they both seemed a little boring, very ordinary. Something changed, I had an inspiration, a spark, and I’ve found designs that use these materials, as well as others, in ways that are very expressive and unique. Now I thoroughly enjoy all the design possibilities with these materials.

Five Fun Facts about ………

  1. What is your ‘theme’ song: If I had to choose, I would pick ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ by rank Sinatra.
  2. Your favourite comfort food: Chocolate (preferably extra dark)
  3. Ocean or Forest: Forest
  4. Favourite tool in your studio: My favourite tool is the Flex Shaft; it is the one I use the most.
  5. Describe yourself in five words: Powerful, dedicated, curious, creative and outgoing