Symbolism for inspiration and artistic expression is a natural process and lends a depth to creativity that concept alone cannot provide. Incorporating symbol meanings with one's art can be one of the noblest and fulfilling achievements life can provide.
Using symbolism for inspiration is precisely what Goran Jonsson, an amazing artist from Sweden does with his sculpted jewelry made primarily of silver and slate.
Goran creates symbolic sculpted jewelry, a unique art form, by using his passion for sculpture and expressing the beautiful balance between the realms of technical and esthetical.
Goran utilizes symbolism in all his work. In fact, this is how we became such good friends because we both share a deep respect for symbolism and incorporate symbol meanings in both our life and work.
I first met Goran over a year ago. He has been tremendously helpful to me in many areas of my life. I consider him to be an incredibly innovative artist and a dear friend.
I am always so impressed with Goran's talent; his pieces are bold, expressive, and each one holds intense symbolic meaning (yes, I own one of his custom designs, and love it!).
His designs take me away to another place in time - a place ancient and powerful…I don't really have the words to describe how his art and his friendship affect my life. Suffice to say, my life is far richer because of my friendship with Goran.
I asked Goran to do this interview because my intent is to share the special wealth of wisdom Goran has to offer, and to illustrate how symbolism can effectively serve as muse, inspiration, and artistic expression in all our lives.
WYS (whats-your-sign): You use the term "sculpted jewelry" to describe the unique pieces of jewelry you create. How did you come up with the term "sculpted jewelry?"
G (Goran): This is an extension of my work as a sculptor, and to me it's all sculpture. Whether I am sculpting on a large scale, or creating jewelry sculpture it is all the same only just on a different scale and in a different field of use.
Much of my sculpted jewelry could be turned in to more traditional pieces of sculptures if I wanted to do so.
Behind each sculpted piece is exactly the same creative path all the way.
WYS: What first got you interested in sculpting jewelry?
G: Before my partner Mia and I had our boys (1988, 1989), I was a sculptor and a practical art consultant assisting in art shows and installations. After the birth of my sons, I needed to make more money on a regular basis, so I got employed at that time.
This employment was with a technical graphic company and was in a phase of expanding with new data systems using computers and printers. As a result, I did a lot of technical work with computers and other new technologies and added some of my own esthetic touches too, but mainly it was about technology.
To compensate for the lack of esthetic work there, and thinking I had to find something I could do at home, I started to make some jewelry in slate.
I had the material, I had the tools, I had the material knowledge, I had the sculptor in me and I could do it at home. It was as making sculptures but in a smaller more manage able scale and form.
WYS: Each piece of jewelry you make is unique and special. I know from talking to you that you put a lot of thought into each piece. What kind of research and preparations do you make before you create a custom piece of jewelry?
G: Let us say for example, a person wants me to create a custom sculpted jewelry for their partner.
I talk to the giver about what he/she intends to communicate with this gift (my sculpted jewelry). We discuss what the sculpted jewelry should include like relationship, forces, feelings, special occasions between the giver and receiver.
We may also talk about symbols or other elements that are important to their relationship and will enhance the piece I am creating for them.
During this process, people tell me things about themselves and their partners. Things like their life, thoughts, beliefs, and interests - all this is an honor for me to receive, and it all enhances the sculpted jewelry I am working on for these people.
Once I have all this information, I find more information independently by reading about the different things relating to what the person has communicated to me. I research images, symbols, and signs that are connected to the information.
At this stage it's all in my head, body and soul. It spins around in there for about two weeks and suddenly it just pops out as an idea of what I should do.
During this period of time I might make some sketches, but not always.
What pops out from within me is my interpretation of the information, feelings, images, symbols and so on that I have gathered.
The final sculpted piece is made with a combination of my language of shapes, relations, materials, craftsmanship, knowledge as well as the giver's own thoughts, feelings and essence. It is what makes each piece special.
WYS: How long does it take to make a piece of sculpted jewelry from planning to completion?
G: Of course there are big variations. Depending on the piece, it could take some hours or 5-6 months. But for a normal piece I would say about a month.
WYS: What gives you inspiration? What do you do for new, fresh ideas?
G: Throughout my life I have always been interested in two prime concepts: Technical and Esthetical.
The play between these two has always been there, neither one nor the other separated, but both technical and esthetical joined in a balance, dancing together at the same time.
This interplay between hard structure and fluid creativity is an example of life, and life itself is a source of inspiration.
Life and all sorts of life experiences provides inspiration for new ideas.
WYS: How important is symbolism in your art?
G: It's a big part of the language I have inside me, which is the base of everything I make. On my website I make this statement: “Slate - Silver: For centuries, man has been using these materials to make beautiful things. The objective has been to honor or influence the powers that one believed in. Amulets were worn so as to receive some of their protective powers. These pieces of sculpted jewelry are a continuation of this long tradition.”
WYS: Which system of symbols (i.e., Greek, Hindu, nature, pop culture, Native American) do you find yourself drawn to the most?
G: I can't tell you any specific culture, because I don't have enough knowledge of all the different symbols in all cultures to make any kind of final judgment. This is one of the reasons why I appreciate the information on www.Whats-Your-Sign.com, there is an amazing amount knowledge on symbolism here.
What I can say is that many of the old native cultures appeal to me. These are indigenous peoples who lived very close with nature, and intimately understood the connection between humanity and earth. Some examples of these closely connected cultures are:
WYS: Why do these cultures and symbol collections appeal to you the most?
G: Because these cultures respect and coexist with nature. Their way of living fills me with admiration and sometimes gives me hope for mankind. We could learn so much from them about how to live our own lives as well as how to respect life itself.
WYS: What is your idea of a perfect project?
G: I don't know. Many artists say they don't want to have any limitation so they can do anything they want, but I believe there is always some kind of limitation, and that is a good thing.
I like to work inside some given limitations and to get the most out of that. To really turn on everything, change position of view, change point of interest, knowledge, try to see it as YOU do, feel like YOU do and so on.
To make something as beautiful as possible with my abilities and knowledge within the given limitations would come close to answering your question.
WYS: What is your favorite part about being an artist?
G: Again, I don't know.
I know I function best when I'm on my own, when I don't have anybody who tells me what to do and when. I'm mood-dependant so it's important for me that I can do what I want when I want.
As soon as you involve other people in your life/work to some degree you loose control and you have to adjust (same as the question before), so for that reason you can't be independent and in control all the way.
So I guess that I like to be in control as much as possible and being an artist allows me this creative control to some extent.
WYS: When you are creatively stuck or blocked, what do you do to get unblocked?
G: Keep on living/working and wait for the mood to change.
WYS: What are your plans for your sculpted jewelry? Where do you see yourself in your artwork in the next 5 years?
G: It's very hard to guess or even have a kind of plan.
I have been working seriously and full-time with my sculpted jewelry for over three years now, so thinking five years ahead seems impossible.
What I work towards right now is to getting more contacts, opportunities, and more interest in my sculpted jewelry outside of Sweden.
WYS: Yours is a beautiful website. Did you do it yourself? Did you take all your own photos too?
G: I wrote before about my employment with a graphic company. There I did a lot of different things. Among them I learned how to make websites and how to get systems to be human-friendly and work for the visitor/customer.
I also have a friend who runs a small web company and he helps me sometimes when I need to discuss something. So yes, I made the website myself.
As an art consultant, I documented a lot of shows and individual pieces of art so I got a lot of experience and I use that to take pictures of my sculpted jewelry. To do everything by yourself is good in one way, you get it as you want, you don't have to pay anyone but it also consumes a lot of time and energy, plus you are limited by your own knowledge.
WYS: What have you accomplished (personal or professional) that you are most proud of?
G: I haven't done anything I'm proud of in that sense, but some things I'm happy to have pulled through and completed.
I'm very happy I survived a very dark period in my life, and that I have found a better/richer way of living now because of it. This survival is very much thanks to Mia and my boys who let me take the time I needed to learn and recover; they have accepted the changes I have made in my life.
Regarding my art and sculpted jewelry, I'm very pleased with a special sculpted necklace I made (shown left). You, my friend, gave me the inspiration and belief to create it.
WYS: What are some things you like to do in your spare time, or wish you had more time to do?
G: Before I met Mia and we had our two boys, I traveled and worked abroad on several occasions.
Now our boys are getting more independent, I have the urge to travel and do some work in other countries again.
I love to just hang out where the local people do, travel with their local transportation systems and so on. To feel, smell and experience their everyday life is something I would very much enjoy having more time to do.
I would also like to see what new travel and new experiences will do to my sculpted jewelry, and along the way, find other symbols, signs, meanings, values and so on. It all adds up to growing as a human being.
WYS: What do you admire most in other artists?
G: I'm not the type that is inspired by or look a lot at other artists' work for inspiration.
Of course, I appreciate other artists' work, but not in the sense your question indicates.
Endurance is a thing I admire with people, also artist. To keep on doing whatever it is you are doing because YOU believe in it, and YOU think it's important; this is what I admire.
Those who do not care what other people think or say as long as they do not hurt or misuse life and everything included in that; this is also admirable to me.
WYS: If you could change one thing about your profession or life, what would it be?
G: Sometimes I think I would like to be where I am right now 20 years ago. I'm now 53 years of age and I can feel sometimes that I don't have enough time left to do what I want to do and experience everything I want.
But these thoughts last for only a few seconds because if I hadn't experienced what I have on my path for today, I wouldn't be able to do the work with my sculpted jewelry or live the life I do today. So the question is really impossible.
I don't think this is a question that gives you the right signals on how to think about one's life. If there is something in your life that you are not proud about or someone has mistreated you, it doesn't make anything better to think that it should go away.
Instead, I think it's better to use this time to try to live in a way that will ensure you do not do the same to others (meaning not mistreating or dishonoring others).
Living this way, maybe you can forgive and be forgiven, and you will have an impact on the people around you in a good way.
End of interview.
To learn more about Goran Jonsson and his art, you can visit his website at: http://skulpturalasmycken.se