Interview: Mia Maljojoki
Dear Mia, how you got interested in making jewelry?
I left Helsinki in 1996, a good friend of mine made me to leave and to get out of my a bit confused life. I went to Blue Mountains North Carolina, USA to work at a summer camp. During that summer I slowed down and spent loads of time alone in the nature. There I started to twist the twigs into pieces of jewelry – that’s when my love to explore how to decorate body started.
What is your first jewelry you have made?
The piece is called “Wanderer”. I got inspired by the movie Blade Runner. It’s made out of brass, copper, print and plastic. I made it at Massachusetts College of Arts and Design, Boston, USA – where Prof. Joe Wood took me to the day classes even when I wasn’t enrolled into College yet!
Looking back now the piece is reflecting the time when I was looking for my place and where I belong to, questioning who I am, who we are.
Before your career as a jewelry designer started you worked in Helsinki as a stylist and hairdresser – How was life in the city back then?
Helsinki was amazing – free and open minded, full of creative people and we all were exploring how to stretch further. It was all about parties – enjoying the music, its rhythm and dancing. Flyers were moving around and announcing where the next party was. I was renting a seat in a hair salon, doing some styling jobs and assisting other stylists in the heart of Helsinki. It was fun and free spirit time until it was time for a change.
You made your first production collection Heroine last year, after 20 years of experience of making unique pieces. What differences you find between your art jewelry and production line?
In 2011 – 15 I worked as a freelance designer for Marimekko and designed 9 jewelry collections for them. That job came to me as a surprise – I really loved the work and the team I was working with. During that time I learned so many things. I travelled many times to Delhi, India to visit our lovely production team.
That project inspired me to make my own production line. I decided to focus on designing jewelry for women to celebrate and cherish their everyday moments – to feel beautiful and graceful in their daily life.
Both – art and design jewelry – they touch the everyday but from different point of view. In my art jewelry I am very free of expression. Starting point and inspiration comes from my everyday moments and emotions, referencing the body and where the memories of the moments were born. Material choices comes along with the meaning or message of the collection. When it comes to design jewelry I love to imagine what offers the joy and elegance for women – to celebrate themselves and to feel their beauty, elegancy and happiness in everyday life. My focus is on the body and its movement to follow gracefully its wearer. In Heroine I decided to use silver – timeless material which lasts. All the pieces are handmade and some of the pieces I still make by myself.
I love, feel, touch, experience, live, enjoy, kiss and love to be kissed. This is what my jewelry is about.
What is the story behind Heroine?
Heroine is about self-love and love towards others. The inspiration of Heroine collection comes from Magnolia tree flower. The shape of the petal is like a drop or a tear – two of them creating a heart. I find it as the play of love in its different levels from 0 to 100.
Do you find it emotionally hard while working on jewelry?
Yes, sometimes. I can go very deep and dark places during my research process, but once I start working I add the element of play and joy into making.
70% of the pieces are about planning and designing and the rest I trust what happens in the moment. I like to surprise myself.
You have created different jewelry workshops as well.
The ideas for my workshops comes from what I’ve been working on previously or what I see that could be helpful for others. It feels like Christmas when I see all the amazing and surprising results of the workshop participants.
Do you have an example?
My latest workshop is called Trust yourself. At first all the participants are asked to have a presentation about what they have done, what are their targets for next 5 days and where they see themselves in 5 years.
I help them to understand and find their own artistic process and their hidden individual, special spice that gives to the work the signature and presence of the designer. I support and help each one of them to move forward with their goals. In the end of the workshop everyone shows what they have done during the week and that’s the surprise moment for me! Simple often similar form and even the design becomes alive in a new fresh way.
You use ceramics a lot in your artwork, especially porcelain.
Yes, since 2013 I have used porcelain in my art jewelry pieces. Porcelain is very fascinating material – first it’s very pliable and after it’s burned in 1250 °C it turns into durable, hard and strong but it still has the memory of everything how it was touched. It is like our bodies – we come to this world innocent, open and with no memory of being here yet. As time passes we experience life and these experiences are documented into our bodies.
You have said that you don’t like if there’s some scent in the jewelry. Why so?
Jewelry is made to be worn on the body, or at least imagined. Generally it is placed quite close to our heads, and nose. In my opinion piece of jewelry should be tactile, visually appealing and transport scent (or not) but all senses should be satisfied to make wearer feel the lightness and flow. So if there is any scent it should connect what the piece is communicating. Everything matters.
Interview & Photos: Oona Heleena