He’s a man who creates magnificent jewels out of thin air! Or so it may seem, because his creations, palpable with raw energy, are woven with gold, silver and exotic wood and don’t follow any set rules. He breathes life into the pieces and just like a dove pulled out of a hat, and sets them free to float in the sphere, before they nestle on a fortunate woman’s finger or neck.
Driven to stand apart from the crowd, GERMAN KABIRSKI, a Russian jewellery designer, who has now set up base in Thailand, did not want to be just another ordinary person and neither did he want his jewellery to be run-of-the-mill. The earthy pieces are radically different and just like him, his jewels under the brand name G. Kabirski, are spirited and crave freedom from the traditional notions of jewellery and nature-inspired designs. For instance, he finds a cockroach more fascinating than a butterfly or an ant and intentionally creates difficult pieces to fend off imitations. His quirky lines are sought after and also have a collector’s club dedicated to G. Kabirski jewellery.
Rugged, textured and asymmetrical, Kabirski’s jewellery is inspired by abstract concepts like chaos and complexity. Kabirski himself is a complex man. Despite having won several awards, including first place at the Moscow International Jewellery show in 2000, a technical excellence award at the international Jewellery London 2009, Kabirski shrugs off the accolades.
ALIYA LADHABHOY interviews German Kabirski to demystify the man behind the magic.
How did you begin your career as a jewellery designer?
I didn’t intentionally begin a career as a designer. In 1999, I noticed a deep distaste towards traditional Russian jewellery and created my first collection, if you can call it so. To be honest, it was a challenge to myself more than to other people. My initial jewellery pieces were really crude, but they had something about them that people liked.
Actually, I never dreamt of being a jewellery designer. I was always creative as a child and was a student of art for a while. But there’s no relation between this and being a jewellery designer. It just happened this way.
Do you have any formal training in jewellery designing?
No. Do you think it is necessary? I think formal education very often destroys a person’s creativity. Design is not a military marching where everyone needs to learn how to step in pace.
Your jewellery is very unconventional and has a raw edge to it. Tell us more about it.
Whatever I can say about it wouldn’t be true. When I work, I use my subconscious mind, not logic. My creations do not contain any symbols and that is the reason why people perceive them through their own attributions and associations.
What is your approach to jewellery?
Jewellery is a very wide concept, it can be art or accessory, or extension of one’s personality, or a bauble, or a status symbol. I would like it if more women treat it as an extension of their personality, of course.
What are you inspired by?
Complexes, fears, doubts, chaos intrigue me. When I’m alone at my work-table, I am able to sublimate these concepts into something more tangible. I don’t design jewellery based on themes. Sometimes my jewellery has a common technique, but this is not intentional. It’s more because I’m lazy to use a new technique for every single piece.
The cockroach is an integral part of your brand. Why?
Disgust is the first reaction of most people when they see a cockroach, but this is just a cliché. A cockroach is more interesting than a butterfly or an ant. You can consider me as an official guardian of cockroaches and it’s my amulet. I once read a book, Kockroach by Tyler Knox and I really liked it and advise it to everyone as an amusing read.
Tyler Knox in his book writes, “A cockroach, an arthropod of the genus Blatella and of the species Germanica, awakens one morning from a typically dreamless sleep. Cockroaches do not think, they either do something or don’t. When the cockroach lies still under the kitchen cupboard, there isn’t a single thought in its head. Cockroaches simply wait for an impulse to act as instincts tell them to.”
On your blog, you describe your jewellery as freaky. Why is that so?
Aren’t they? I see them as freaks in the regular world of jewellery. They are grotesque, cynical, rude and free, they don’t fit in the same line with traditional jewellery. Even among people, I find freaks the most interesting. But for most of us they are just freaks.
Do you have a particular type of woman in mind when you design jewellery?
I never work for somebody, because it can provoke a wish to please, which I try to avoid – though I’m far from being indifferent to women.
Are all your pieces handmade?
Yes. I never use 3D technology because I use different textures which are easier to make by hand than draw them on computer. Also, I hate to do what everybody else is doing.
Do you have a role model/jewellery designer that you look up to?
There are many interesting designers, but I don’t look up to anybody. Very often they are not well known. I like revolutionary, innovative designers like Gilbert Albert, Michael Zobel and Todd Reed.
What is your favourite material to work with?
I like to use different materials; materials that have no bounds. Organic materials work the best for me. Stones, too, have some very special energy that attracts me.
Metals have a high value and are very convenient technologically. But they are dead. I have experimented with a great range of materials. The most experimental was the cobra spine. When you work with it you start to understand how dull we are when we compare our work to nature.
I also like wood though I don’t use it so often. It is very warm and immediately takes the energy of the wearer, and gives its own energy in return. I’m fond of porous materials and would like to create a porous metal, but have not succeeded until now.
What are your favourite stones?
My favourites are fancy sapphires, tourmalines, and rough aquamarines. But what’s important is not the stone, but its inner life. I love working with stones that have internal flaws and defects. I’m indifferent to perfectly clear stones. They are dead for me.
How many pieces do you design in a month?
These numbers are not fixed. I can stop working for months, or can be tied to the work-table for months… I produce both serial and exclusive jewellery and on an average I do create about 150 models per month. The serial range of jewellery is produced in small numbers and it is sold at an affordable price. The Exclusive club means that each piece is a one-off. Sometimes, I intentionally use irregularly shaped stones and special techniques to make copying impossible.
Why did you set up base in Thailand?
I recently closed my production in Russia and have shifted focus to my factory in Thailand. Unlike Russia, Thailand is a very warm country. Besides, everything related to jewellery is easily available here. There’s a big gems market, almost like the one in India. Another reason is that Thailand has perfect conditions for export. It is extremely difficult to export goods out of Russia.
There are several collector clubs dedicated to G. Kabirski jewellery? How do you feel about it?
I’ve heard something about it, but never wanted to contact them. My jewellery and I are separate entities. I am like a parent to them, but they live their own life.
What do you strive to achieve through your work?
I don’t work for fame or accolades. I like to spend my time this way and also get money for doing what I like. For me, freedom is very important.