I just finished reading, for the third time, the answers Alexandra (website | facebook) gave to my interview and I am absolutely thrilled to be only one step away from sharing it with you. She is a wonderful artist, a young jeweler who had the courage to give up all the comforts of an “official” profession in order to pursue her creative calling. She is beautifully creating silver jewelry and, above all this, she is learning precious lessons on how to succeed in doing what you love. Be warned – take a cup of coffee nearby and prepare for a long read. In the end, you’ll see it was totally worth it.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Name, age, education and artistic background.
My name is Alexandra Ungurelu, I am 24 years old and a jeweler. I graduated in 2009 from the Public Relations and Communication College, at SNSPA in Bucharest. From a young age I was interested in colors and shapes, I had a passion for drawing and playing with beads and different materials and so I attended several art schools, taking up drawing and painting courses. All through elementary school and high school I had as favorite hobby creating jewelry out of seed beads and almost anything else I could find. During college I started developing a passion for precious metals jewelry and tried to take my hobby in that direction. After graduating I worked at Business Communications Company in Bucharest and after a year I dedicated myself completely to fulfilling my passion and becoming a jeweler. I took up a series of jewelry courses at Assamblage – School of Contemporary Jewelry with David Sandu and started my own jewelry workshop and brand.
You are turning silver and stones into beautiful, geometrical or playful jewelry designs. How and when did you discover your passion and how was the road this far?
It started when I was pretty young, I got a box of beads from my mother and I started playing with them and stringing them on plain thread. After a while I received a beading book as a present and it all really started to develop from then on. Everything really changed once I began the jewelry courses with David Sandu, this experience led me to focus on sterling silver and semi-precious stones as main materials in my works.
The road leading up to “Expression – Contemporary Jewelry” was somewhat difficult, not just because there are not enough places or schools that teach jewelry creating techniques but it is not really encouraged as a craft in Romania. Few people really appreciate the work that goes in creating jewelry pieces and so for anyone who dreams and stars such a journey they will meet difficult people and situations.
I still have to overcome some obstacles and continue studying this craft; I don’t think you ever really know everything so you must keep updating you knowledge. After a year and a half of designing and creating silver jewelry I can say I am finally doing what I love and I don’t think I will ever want to quit.
What aspect of your craft appeals to you the most and why? How does this keep you on your way?
The thing I love the most about what I do is that I work with my hands, it feels like I’m making something out of nothing. I start from an idea, to a sketch and then to melting and forming the silver and stones to a final piece, sometimes I can’t believe the things that people can create out of their own imagination.
I don’t think I will ever be the type to just sit behind a desk and not create anything, the love for jewelry and for working with my hands will keep me going for a long time.
How is it for a crafter like you to live, work and create in Romania? Any challenges you face? Maybe some advantages?
I don’t want to be too negative, but creating in Romania, in general, be it jewelry or painting is a bit hard, at least at the beginning. The majority of people still believe that this type of creative craft is not really a job or that it cannot provide real experiences. But the thing is I feel this is a bit contradictory, I say this because I think that most Romanians are very imaginative, creative and intuitive, they manage to surprise me constantly which is why sometimes I find it hard to believe that they are not too encouraging when it comes to creating for a living.
The good thing about living and creating in Romania is that for several years now the art scene is continuously evolving and more and more young people choose art and creating as a way of life. People are starting to open their eyes and realized that we do have a lot of talent and potential and I hope that more and more individuals will want to support the ones that do this type of work.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
This is a question that I sometimes ask myself and it’s a bit hard to answer. Most of my ideas come from me constantly observing everything around me. From a song on the radio to the shape of a fruit, everything comes together in my mind and shapes are formed, they are given a purpose and a life of their own. I don’t think I have one special thing that constantly inspires me and I think this is a good thing, because you can explore much more.
How does your studio look like? What do you need to get that creativity flowing?
I actually have two places where I work, one is the attic where I have the larger instruments and the other is my room where a have a desk and where I make the final touches to my pieces. My workshop is pretty busy, but I still don’t think I have enough tools. Creativity is always flowing, but what keeps me working well is peace and quiet, if I am not disturbed I do everything better, so I like to work alone, maybe some music in the background.
Do you think you will be doing this for a long time? If you wouldn’t be an artisan, what would you be?
I think I will be a jeweler for a long time, I say this because I feel fulfilled by this work and I never ever get bored or tired, I could work for days at a time if I didn’t have to sleep.
If I wouldn’t be a jeweler I think I would probably go into cooking, I love cooking and I do it when I want to relax and eat something good.
What do you plan or dream for your future?
I hope to expand my workshop, maybe open a boutique in the city, develop a well established website and just grow from every angle possible. I would like to collaborate with several Romanian designers which I admire a lot and create as much as possible.
What is your most treasured handmade possession?
There are several pieces I love, but one that is closest to my heart is a ring that I created during the jewelry courses. I like what I made because I was surprised at myself and so I treasure it, will never sell it.
What advice would you give to an aspiring crafter?
The most important thing is to do the work and keep your head high. It might not seem so hard at first but when you decide to go at this alone and start a small business on your own, (I say business because if you want to make a living out of this you have to think of it as a business and not just a thing you love to do) you will have a lot to do, not just the fun part where you work till the early hours of the morning or the appreciation you receive, but every little thing that goes into getting things done and sold.
If you are going at this only as a hobby then it will all be much easier. You will meet people that will ask you stuff like: “why do you do this? Isn’t it impractical?” and so forth, but if you love what you do you have to stick up for yourself. Do this and you’ll be fine.
See? I told you it would be all worth it. Do share your encouragements with Alexandra and stop by to support her work on her Facebook page or website. And make sure you keep your chin up and continue doing what you love.
Talk to you soon, lovely people!