Popa Gabriel is not your typical jewellery designer. Until he decided to focus on jewellery creation, he loved sculpting, he studied philosophy, architecture, esthetics and created art in his own apartment from the underground floor. There is his sanctuary and “if there is a single day in which I don’t go in my studio, I consider it a lost day ”, he said to me, where he melts gold and silver at very high degrees, where he draws the ideas that wake him up during the night, or where he just dreams and finds comfort from the outside world, reading books that are very, very old, with pages that have gone pale under so many different hands that have touched them along the years.
He believes in hammer , abrasive stick, and a lot of work. About a year ago, he made a bet on art, only on art. Sometimes, he takes small pauses during the day and becomes a cook, driver, housekeeper, but then he goes back to the only role that he truly cares for and fulfills him: being an artist.
He agreed to give me an interview where we talked about jewellery, from inspiration to the techniques used in the manufacture, professional background, job, passion, feeling lost and getting sick, important people but also the involvement in addressing social issues through jewellery creation.
What is the meaning behind your jewellery?
Creating jewellery means a pleasant way of spending my time, means a way of thinking and communicating. I always liked to search deep in my soul for something that means something for me and also for the contemporary society, hoping that it will be something new. A jewel must be spectacular, but also wearable and you have to keep in mind a certain person that your jewel is addressed to. When an idea pops into my mind, it looks one why in my imagination and one way when I try to put it on paper. So I have to work on it. When I create my jewellery, I try to use minimum of lines and maximum of expression.
How did you prepare to become a jewellery designer?
I studied a diverse range of fields starting with two years of architecture in high-school, followed by The University of Decorative Arts and Design, specialized on Metal, where I also studied philosophy and esthetics and artistic anthropology. I also taught plastic education, I painted, and I learned many things related to composition, drawing, because being a creator implies having good abilities at drawing. So, you know, when an idea pops in your mind during the night, you have to get out of bed and draw a draft, because otherwise you wake up with your clear mind and it’s hard to remember something. Also, besides my studies there some very important people that I met and from whom I took only beautiful things that from which I try to give back.
Who were those special people?
I think now of my teacher Bogdan Severin Hojbota, from the National Art University, a man that I highly appreciate and to whom I own almost everything related to jewellery making and style. He taught us how to think on object at a compositional level, and also from a chromatic perspective and also how to see the big picture and mix together message with idea and shape. He taught us how to deal on our own and this is the most important thing, for me. The technical part I studied it and learnt it along the way.
So do you have a studio where you work?
I have a studio, which is also the place where I live, bewared of the outside world, of noise and surrounded by machineries, books, sculptures, drawings and jewellery. For me, the studio is like a sacred place, like a museum, I could say. You enter and you are surrounded many things, a lot of them very old, but each one of them with its own story.
Which objects are the dearest one?
I have a couple of books that are close to my heart and I received them as a gift from my teacher, in general school and it was also the first book that she bought and she wanted to give it to me. This book is 80 years old. Then, I enjoy art and jewellery albums, When I don’t create jewellery, I read, I turn pages and I start to find myself again.
Have you let anybody enter you studio?
Of course, I have a few friends who like to visit my studio and are amazed by this world, magical in a certain measure.
Can this work be dangerous?
Everything is dangerous, starting with the substances that I use, to the gas bottle, or the process of melting silver and gold. It happened once to split liquid silver everywhere in my studio, or to knock myself with the hammer, or different stuff had exploded.
I now see your studio as a crazy scientist laboratory, filled with dangerous substances What techniques do you use when creating your jewellery?
I mostly use classical techniques, like the use of hammer, file and abrasive stick and a lot of work.
How long does it take to create a jewel?
The hardest thing to do is to put yourself in the state of mind and spirit need for creating the jewellery. I try to create the atmosphere that I need, I listen to instrumental music, or I watch fantastic movies or games. I can make a bracelet in a day, or in two days, or maybe in a week if I am not satisfied with the work that I do and I have to stop the process. I can’t push it. When I don’t feel it , I have to do something else. Just to stay still, or to sleep.
So you can create something as an demand?
Oh, I can. I can create jewellery for special orders. I can create jewellery for a certain outfit, or for a certain event. I am open to ideas and I like to communicate with the client.
How easy is for you to find the necessary materials?
It’s not easy because the materials are very expensive. I use glass, that I process it manually , I use wood of different textures and touches, I get into experiments with new materials, like copper, brass, zinc, gold and silver.
I would like to go back to your professional life. Before becoming an artist, you were a teacher.
Yes, during college, I had to work because I couldn’t afford staying in college: I made ensigns, trophies, medals, I work in restoration too. Then I started teaching for a little while. I gave up my Masters Studies and I got a job, for two years, two years of racks.
So what kind of job was it?
The same, industrial stuff and object creation. But I couldn’t take it anymore, knowing that I am capable of doing beautiful things. So all these brought me stress which transformed into depression and after that into disease.
Like physical disease?
Yes. Just like that.
Because you felt that you can do more.
I felt I was losing myself. And that is exactly what happened. I lost a lot of my practice and dexterity that I had. So, it’s been almost a year now, since I resigned and I have started working for myself and doing art.
What kind of jewellery do you want to create for the future?
The jewellery I make represent my way of thinking, of being, of making something of the world that surround me. I have a new concept in mind, an idea and a message that I want to put into the jewellery: is about civilization and human interaction with nature and different problems related to the environment that we are all facing right now.
And who do you think would wear this kind of statement jewellery?
I think it’s kind of difficult to wear jewellery with a message like this and is also difficult to integrate the message into a jewel. You are not wearing an accessory anymore, you are wearing and idea, a protest maybe. I have a few pieces done and they are more to come.
Anyway, once you have created an object, it gains his own independency. Somehow, my jewellery are not mine anymore. I send them into the world and they live by the meaning which was given to them by their owners.
He can be found and contacted on his facebook page: Gabriel Popa
And his work can bee seen on the facebook page: The Jeweller