Karla Olsakova | kinetic minimalism

If you love geometry-inspired jewellery full of character, then you must be a fan of Karla Olsakova! Based in the picturesque Czech region of Moravia, she creates stunning pieces of timeless quality.

First of all, how did you get into jewellery design?

My relationship with jewellery was a very gradual and somewhat natural process. Since the mid 90’s my mum has run a private gallery called Langův dům in my home-town, in Frydek-Mistek. As a result, I grew up in an artistic environment, surrounded by inspiring ideas and objects. However, I first got into jewellery when I was studying at university where I met Professor Vratislav Karel Novak who was the head of the department of Metalwork and Jewellery at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (UMPRUM) back then. This meeting was a very significant moment for me. He inspired me to apply to join his atelier, so this has been one of my best and crucial decisions to this day.

How did your jewellery brand start?

The idea about my own jewellery brand matured gradually over the years. While studying at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, I dedicated a lot of time to sales and getting in touch with galleries who would represent my artwork in the future. I completed my studies at Eva Eisler‘s department, and thanks to her I was recommended to the well-known Dutch gallery Marzee. I got the opportunity to exhibit my diploma work there and was soon after awarded the Marzee Graduate Prize. This success launched a new direction in my work that I really love and enjoy – the direction towards collectable jewellery and limited editions. I established the brand „Karla“ soon after I completed my studies in 2011. Since then I have tried to create one new jewellery collection every year.

What influences/inspires your work?

I find it important to keep my eyes wide open, absorbing new information and impulses like a sponge. It might be a specific material or its quality that triggers my attention or sometimes a book, or a building/architecture is the source. For example, in my last collection, Ricardo Bofill’s architecture spurred the vision. The specific building that inspired me is La Muralla Roja, located on the coast of the Spanish town of Calpe. Such an exhilarating place!

What is unique about your products?

I feel that words like purity, uniqueness and craftiness describe my jewellery style best. I usually express myself by means of geometric language and minimalist forms, and my jewellery pieces also contain a kinetic quality - many designs are variable and mimic the movement of their owner.

What part of your work do you enjoy the most?

Every day I learn something new! There is always something I can do better. Recently, I have realised that the craftsmanship or technical skills are not everything. To build your label you must dedicate a lot of time to communicating with gallerists and customers, be skilful and prompt with questions and posts on social media, and at the same time have a clear vision and art direction of your brand. To make it all work, I must be strict on myself and have clear tasks. As a result, my work is versatile and variable, which is what I really enjoy about it.

How do you select the materials you work with?

I follow two approaches in jewellery and I like alternating them. Mainly, I enjoy working with silver and stainless steel, which are the key materials in four of my collections. However, there are moments when I am tired of metal, so I switch it for another material. Recently, I have been working with exotic wood instead. I love its scent, rich colour and texture. I have also worked with fragile and poetic veneers, made concrete casts, and experimented with rubber, carbon and slate. Working with new materials is both a challenge and a never-ending experiment since you can’t predict for sure how materials will behave and what they will allow you to do.

What is your motto?

Dedicate your time and energy to what you love, move forward in thinking and grow steadily.

Do you have a favourite piece that you made?

It is hard to say which product is my favourite one because it changes all the time. Despite the fact that I have a few "evergreens" - such as a ring or a necklace from the Cube Collection that I love wearing - I often need to test a new jewellery piece on myself (to see if it is comfortable to wear, fits well, etc.). So I continuously swap my favourite pieces with the brand-new ones. I love brooches, so always look forward to autumn. Cold and damp weather requires coats which I always decorate with several different brooches.

What are your plans for your brand in the future?

I would like to maintain two main directions in my jewellery portfolio. The first is designing beautiful pieces for everyday use and wider audiences, which is what I make my living on. The second is creating collectable jewellery and limited editions. In making these collections I can work more freely and play with my imagination without worrying about practical issues, such as not making a piece too heavy, fragile or voluminous. Within these limited editions, I can also focus strictly on visuals or an interesting topic. Unfortunately, in the Czech Republic, there isn’t such a strong tradition of collectable jewellery as is the case in Germany or the Netherlands. Nevertheless, the situation is improving, and you can find a few dedicated people in the Czech Republic who encourage it. If my brand continues to grow steadily, as it has been recently, I should be able to employ a few people and establish a small company, which I’m so excited about.

What is unique about designers in the Czech Republic, and how would you describe its design scene?

I think that the Czech design is comparable to the world design scene. This can be shown not only at Designblok and the International Design Festival of Prague (Prague Design Week), which has been met with an acclaim from the public and celebrated 2Oth birthday this year, but also by the Czech Grand Design Award, which selects and promotes the best Czech design projects. Jewellery design now plays an important role in these events. Previously, jewellery as a design category used to be overlooked, but nowadays there is a healthy competition in our field. When I was about to graduate from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, a new young generation emerged, eager to dedicate 100% to jewellery and make a living out of it. I am really happy that the group of new jewellers is still growing and we hear about new original work more and more often.

Why should customers choose small independent brands like yours over fast-fashion? What is your take on slow-fashion?

Nowadays, people are more aware of the quality of the clothes they wear. They are interested in what is the origin of the goods and are cautious about environmental and social impact. Small independent brands like mine care about the environment, focus on the value of true craftsmanship, quality, hand-made process or tradition; my brand incorporates all of these. People are also interested in local independent brands because the realise these are timeless and of greater value, compared to trends that come and go with speed.

What are the must-see places for design-lovers in your current home?

Mikulov is a relatively small town but is it rich in culture and profits from tourism. People are aware of this and strive to offer excellent service and interesting places connected with design. You can stop by the café and bistro KUK for an excellent coffee and home-made pastries, and the best parties are held in the cellar U Hrdličků right under Kozí Hrádek. The Závodný Gallery not only offers a high-quality art and design pieces right in the historic heart of Mikulov, but is a stunning private space as well, its building having been awarded by the Grand Prix of Architects in 2011. Lastly, if you visit Mikulov in the last week of May, you should definitely visit the Castle for the annual Křehký Mikulov, which is an amazing event full of great design.

What are you passionate about (besides your work)?

I love exploring new places and spending time with family and friends. I enjoy great food, wine, home-made cakes, music and I love staying at our cottage. In summer, I like preparing home-made jams and marmalades, and I often go to pick mushrooms and herbs in the woods.

What does minimalism mean to you?

Expressing a maximum of ideas through a minimum of space.

photography: Jan Rusnak | editorial: NURA