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Students Make Jewelry at the HSE Art and Design School

In 2018, a new specialization  ‘Jewelry Art and Object Design in Fashion’ opens up for Bachelor students at HSE’s Art and Design School. It will provide broad training for jewelers, managers and even brand managers. This profile has evolved from an elective. Students of the discipline are already working on their own jewelery brands. Head of the programme ‘Fashion’, Anzor Kankulov, and jeweler and curator of HSE’s Art and Design School, Slava Fomin, told HSE News Service what the new profile will teach and how.

When was the elective in jewelry business created and why did the school decide to open a separate profile?

Slava Fomin: The elective ‘Jewelry Workshop’ was created at the Art and Design School two years ago. It consists of short courses of 40-50 hours, and any third-year student can enroll. Over two years, about 120 people took the elective. There was a huge hype: 90 students from almost all our profiles enrolled at a time, including designers, animators and illustrators. The most surprising thing was that even after these short courses, several students were already able start their own brands, and one of them even signed a contract with an Indian company that wants to enter the Russian jewelry market. She subsequently went to work in India for six months. Based on the overall exam results, we decided to open a separate bachelor profile.

Russia’s jewelry market is developing very rapidly. The Russian population spends 200 billion rubles annually on jewelry and this figure increases by 5 billion rubles every year. Furthermore, this is only the sum that is declared. A lot of jewelry is not made from precious metals, so the actual turnover is much greater. This shows that the demand for professionals in the market is very high.

How does a four-year Bachelor's programme differ from an elective?

Anzor Kankulov: This new profile is simply another step in the development of the ‘Fashion’ programme. Jewelry design is actually separate to fashion, but it’s still one of the most characteristic and visually accessible things which is associated with the fashion world.

We do not assume that a student will remain in the same area for their entire professional career. In the Bachelor programme, we teach general design. Each profile provides students with a specialization, as well as the opportunity to master the general techniques, principles and tools of contemporary modern design. These can be then applied in a range of different fields.

The new profile will provide students with a tertiary education in the field of design which include skills in jewelry design. The major aspect which is included in the bachelor's programme is a significant theoretical focus. This is necessary so that a jeweler, when developing their design, can draw on both history and practice.

In 2018, there will be an intake into 3 educational programmes at HSE’s Art and Design School, including 14 different profiles such as Communication Design, Environmental Design, Design and Programming, Design and Contemporary Art, Comics, Theatre and Cinema Art, Clothing Design, Photography in Fashion and Advertising, and Branding in the Fashion Industry.

What will the students learn?

Slava Fomin: Students will learn what they want to learn - there are virtually no limits. In my course, I can offer almost anything that is connected with jewelry - from the most ancient technologies to modern achievements of science and technology. Ancient technologies involve the moulding of simple forms. Modern technologies involve 3D design and 3D molding under vacuum pressure, electroplating and electrolysis of metals. Latest trends include an unusual metal coating which yields materials of different colors. In the previous course, I let the students work with titanium - the world's coolest Japanese artists are currently working with it. Everyone’s different: some students will want to learn how to work with their hands and some with digital technologies- but they’ll all get across-the-board knowledge and experience.

Anzor Kankulov: The jewelry business is rather unusual in many ways – it strongly depends on the jeweler’s personal ‘toolkit’. A student will receive a degree and be deemed a ‘designer’, but the main thing that we want to give them is the ability to understand the process of creating objects that embody a specific idea. We aim to train designers who know how to produce an object from whatever material he or she wants, but we also want them to be able to manage the creative process.

It’s important that a person learns to make a product on their own or that they can organize the process of production. We don’t teach students to make diamond necklaces with their own hands. We give them the skills to realise their projects both independently and by organizing the process, brand, company, and so on. How exactly they will do it – this is a question of their personal entrepreneurial trajectory.

How do you see the future of the jewelry industry in Russia?

Slava Fomin: We are creating the future right now. Jewelers in Russia have always been people who have produced jewelry themselves and knew how to create something with their own hands. This is not necessarily creativity, they just knew how to do something and gradually found more and more customers. They became leaders in the industry and the owners of jewelry factories. At the same time, there have always been artists who created some cool pieces despite not understanding how exactly it will be produced. A jeweler has an internal architecture and a technological concept. It’s like building a house: not only do you need a facade, you also need to understand where the supports are, what the foundations are made of, and so on. Very often, there was no middleman between designers and technicians, and this ‘opposition’ still exists today.

The people who now head the jewelry market are very conservative and they will believe designers only if they can speak the same language. There are two groups of jewelers - a closed group which makes the jewelry that is sold in shops all over Russia (which has practically nothing to do with design), and those designers who do not conform to any particular school. And our main task is to combine the two.

HSE news service spoke to students from the Art and Design School who participated in ‘Jewelry workshop’ about what it means to become a jeweler and to start making jewelry independently.


Lyubov Ivanova, 4th year student in ‘Communication Design’

In our third year, we had the opportunity to choose one of the elective disciplines and the choices included ‘Jewelry Workshop’. Each elective was presented by the curator and they explained what we would learn. Slava came out and said only one sentence: ‘I'll teach you how to make jewelry.’ I was hooked.

My profile involves mostly web design, and of course I get tired from using the computer so much. Everything I do and study is via the monitor or phone screen. I just wanted to do something with my hands, although I wasn’t sure I’d be suited. Jewelry requires accuracy and meticulousness, and I am chaotic. But we were told we could change out of the elective if we wanted to, and so I decided to give it a go.

In the very first module there were about 15 students. We arrived at our first session and I assumed that there would be some kind of a lecture. Slava came in, spoke for about five minutes, said that jewelry is a very important practice, and ordered us ‘to pick up our hammers’. He explained that you need to understand what metal is. I was amazed that we were already expected to do something, even though most of us had never touched metal at all.

We carried out three tasks. We tried to create something from metal, to shape it, to test the texture. It wasn’t easy- everyone understood that we had to use force to deform the metal. An important aspect of working with metal is heating, and many were initially wary of the open flame. Everything that happened in the first lesson took us out of our comfort zone – you usually sit, work, and have the computer to protect you from the outside world. I do not know about the others, but at first I didn’t get it all, because it's really difficult to understand the mechanics of metal. But it was extremely interesting to try to think creatively.

We studied a lot of literature, which is not easy to understand - it was like a physics textbook! If you want to understand it, you need to learn autonomously and read a lot, and it's very important to make notes. I suggest keeping some kind of diary with personal observations that you make during the creative process. For example, how best to hold a flame, a torch or some other piece of equipment- that is, tips that work for you.

At the end of each module, students have to defend their projects. We had to come up with a small jewelry collection that consists of not one product, but at least two, united by the same concept. This was challenging because I just wanted to learn how to make different types of jewelry.

I devoted my first collection to Klimt and his works. I made small evening earrings from brass in small squares and rectangles. They were inspired by his work ‘The Kiss’ and were the most important piece in the collection. There was also a ‘daytime’ series which featured small rectangular earrings with black enamel inside. I made two rings out of brass and nickel silver (similar to silver). I made scratches on them which were also inspired by one of Klimt's works

I will remain in jewelry because I really like it, and most importantly, it makes money. I already have several customers who sometimes come to me with their own ideas, and sometimes want to buy pieces that I have already made.