Angela Ciobanu, Jewellery Designer. Not a Story, but a Love Story (english interview)


I have always asked myself if jewellers have always wanted to become jewellers since they were small. How was it with you, when and how did it occur to you to turn this into a job? 

I have wanted to become an architect ever since I was a little girl, and I actually managed to fulfil this wish. My jewellery story started when I was 26, and my years of study were already behind me, plus six years of traineeship in architecture (mostly in parallel to the studies).

Towards the end of 2009, I started to draw jewellery completely out of the blue, but with great passion.  In February 2010 I accidentally went into David’s workshop.  The second time, I went to ask him if he could teach me how to make jewellery.  I started in March 2010 and, with help, I worked my first piece – a ring.  I was utterly surprised by the result, as I had always been convinced that I had no finesse for manual work particularly that throughout my university years I hated to make mock-ups. At the end of October 2010, I participated for the first time in a public event, Autor Jewellery Fair, and this is when I won my first prize, the one for debut and for the best collection. It was the first time when I actually realised that other people might like my works, and I think it was the exact moment when I thought I should go on with this. I was encouraged to stay in the workshop and basically I became an apprentice for two years, in which time I learned a lot.

Do you remember the first piece of jewellery you created, when did you make it, how and for whom it was meant to be?

One never forgets the first piece of jewellery. It was a ring which I had decided to keep for my entire life, that I was going to show to my children and grandchildren, and which was supposed to always remind me of how I began making jewellery. I was going to lose it one month later, in the Brussels Airport.

What is your favourite part about this job and about the entire process of manufacturing a piece of jewellery?  

I have two favourite parts. One is the beginning, when I sketch, experiment and pick the materials that I am going to work with. The second one is when I see my piece already being worn by somebody.

What kind of jewellery designer are you, and what kind of jewellery do you make?

I am a jewellery designer with no proper jewellery studies, a “once-upon-a-time architect” and an “almost jeweller”. I make designer jewellery, and I believe that my pieces are objects to be worn on the body, bordering on the thin line between object and art, extensions of the personalities of the people wearing them.

I know you live in Vienna. When did you get there, how, and more importantly, why?

I moved to Vienna in 2012, after two consecutive years in Bucharest. Before that, I had worked for a while in an architecture office in Brussels, and when I came back to Bucharest I knew that it would be for a limited time. When I left again, several rather personal reasons overlapped. In 2012 I found a small jewellery workshop in Vienna, which I rented at an affordable price, and I moved there. In the meantime, I developed a little and I moved to another workshop.

What do you have in Vienna but you did not have in Bucharest, and especially what do you miss from Romania since you are living in another country? If you are missing something, that is.

When you live in one place, but your roots are elsewhere, you will always feel that something’s missing, from one place or the other. First of all, I miss the people who were close to my heart, my family and my friends, that I can no longer have close to me day by day, physically speaking.  I also miss certain states of mind, such as the joy of walking late at night, during the summer, on some little streets that I like in Bucharest, or mundane things, such as certain food dishes. Sooner or later, it’s impossible not to miss something. When I decided to move to Vienna, I was convinced that at least for the time being, that was where I wanted to live and work. And the situation is still the same. In Vienna I found a certain peace that I did not have in Bucharest, and which gave me the proper mental state to be able to create and evolve in the field that I chose.  It’s also a city decades away from Bucharest as regards contemporary jewellery. Thus I am well connected to a certain artistic environment that I am particularly interested in.

What inspires you to make the jewellery that you sign?  

Many things together, too many things, everything. Events and feelings, and most of all my perception of them, translated into something that one can wear as jewellery. Strong emotions are probably the best stimulus for creativity, no matter how difficult it might be to accept them.

Do you have a certain ritual in your work? Maybe you work more at night or early in the morning, with music or in silence, while having a coffee or a cup of tea…Details, details and more details that I would like to find out. J

I have very frequent bouts of insomnia, so in general I could work better late at night, rather than early in the morning. However, for strictly organisational reasons, I very rarely work at night in the workshop, when I have big deliveries coming, and I really have no choice. Although I start early, I work better in the second half of the day, always with music and I drink a lot of coffee. I almost always have flowers on my work table.

 What is the invisible and unknown part of jewellery work, which would intrigue the accessory lover?

It’s a literally dirty work, which involves a lot of physical effort. When you see a delicate piece of jewellery it’s hard to imagine the entire work process behind it. Your hands and back ache, you come in contact with rather toxic substances, which end up affecting your skin, hair and health, in general. Since I started to make jewellery, the fingers on both my hands have gradually deformed. There’s more noise than you might think in a jewellery workshop, because there’s a lot of banging, polishing, many high-pitched sounds caused by the hammer hitting the metal, or by metal mills. At the same time, you need a lot of attention, patience and concentration in order to create all the details.

What is the most beautiful story that came to life in your hands, in the workshop? The most beautiful piece of jewellery, and the most special?

I want to believe that I haven’t yet had the chance to work on the most beautiful story. But the project that I consider to be the most important so far is the “Hollow” series that I am still working on.

What are the materials that you best work with and that you prefer for your pieces?

There’s unexpected juxtapositions of materials, gold, silk paper, saw blades or syringe needles. Matted or sanded silver surfaces, gold granules and minute unexpected details. In general, feelings that I translate into pieces of jewellery.

Has it ever happened to you to make some pieces of jewellery and afterwards you found it difficult to part with them?  J

Of course, this is the case with almost all of them. But I am glad to know that they are worn by people who appreciate them, and that makes the separation much easier.

What kind of jewellery do you wear?

Actually, I rarely wear jewellery. When I do it, it’s usually a single piece, powerful enough, that complements my state of mind at the time, and also my clothes.

Does it happen that you enjoy wearing jewellery made by others? What are your favourites?  

It happens often that I fall in love with jewellery made by somebody else. One of the most beautiful things related to this job is that I have the occasion to come in contact with many very talented artists, so I already have many pieces of jewellery that I love, and I hope this collection will continue to grow in time.  It’s not a particular style, I like to have many different pieces, particular to each and every artist.

Is it hard to resist on this market of jewellery and luxury, making designer jewellery?

Yes, it’s very hard. You have to compete with powerful brands, or family workshops, with long-standing tradition, and such businesses generally have a cash flow and a marketing budget that I can’t even begin to imagine, because they have already established themselves by quality and longevity. What I do will always be meant for a small audience, since contemporary jewellery is somewhere in-between design and art. I am glad that I can look back and I see seven years, during which I grew much more than I ever thought I could.

How do you handle and how do you deal with copy/paste episodes? I know that you have been through this, at some point – somebody stole your models and sold them under another brand name.

It’s true, at the end of last year I had to deal with such a situation, and it was highly unpleasant. Unfortunately, in Romanian society, plagiarism is party of every-day life, as we well know. In my case, what bothered me the most was the attitude of the plagiarist when I approached him. I can accept an accidental (although striking) resemblance between two objects, but my good-faith is all spent when I have to deal with an attitude which transpires guilt, even more than the resemblance itself.  I was assisted by a very good legal team, and I think it’s best that things are cleared out before creating a precedent (in any field).

What do you want most from yourself and from your job?  

I want to give even more substance to my works.

What are the greatest little joys making your life more beautiful?  

Tulips or lilac on my work table, good coffee in the morning, pineapple, mango and melon  (in any state of aggregation), many good books, yoga, beautiful people around me (although this is in itself a great joy, not a little one).



Translated in English by Laura Botorcu.


For the Romanian version of this interview, please take a look here.


Photography: Angela Ciobanu, Michael Schindegger, Emanuel Baruch,


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