Photography / Editorial / Print

The Art of Storytelling - Tomasz Donocik

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 09

"Jewellery excites me and has a story to tell" says talented jewellery designer Tomasz Donocik, who I met up with on an unusually rainy day in July. Around the corner from the historic London landmark of Arnold Circus, seeking solace from the rain in the small workshop, I got to view some of the exquisitely crafted jewellery and talk about gemstones, metals and all manner of materials used in his work.

Born in Poland, Donocik grew up in Vienna, Austria where his passion for art really developed. Guided by his teachers at school who gave him the opportunity to explore the artistic culture of the country, '(it was) amazing and (the school) took us to exhibitions all the time'. At 18, Tomasz applied to Central Saint Martin's for a foundation course in art and design. Wanting to pursue a career that allowed him to use his creativity, Tomasz chose to design jewellery as a way of expressing his art. The university education gave him the opportunity to experiment with ceramics, fashion, textiles, jewellery and develop his exceptionayl craftsmanship skills. Before this, in Vienna, Donocik was predominantly creating installations, silk screens and occasional photography. Jewellery excited him in a different way, as he learnt the process of jewellery making, from first design to rendering and the techniques needed to make the final piece. Tomasz had found a way to 'now make a business out of my artwork.'
Donocik foremost considers himself a designer ‘who specialises in jewellery’, which is where his love of incorporating different materials can be clearly seen. He has undertaken work and projects for many different companies such as Tag Heuer, LVMH, YKK, Swarovski and recently collaborated with another designer for a collection of gloves. The work, and avenues for design, it seem, are continually evolving and there is also a 'new scarf collection which is quite wearable' he says.
Of people he would like to adorn his designs upon, "I would love Johnny Depp and Matthew McConaughey to wear my jewellery, for ladies, it would have to be Eva Green." The fine jewellery does befit a night at the Oscars.

A typical day is mostly spent at the workshop, 'sitting at my desk, shifting paper from left to right' he says with a smile. With jewellery, 'the creating stage is the most exciting stage, but running a business takes a lot of other skills, managing, chasing up stone dealers and so on'. His experience, on graduation, working for Stephen Webster 'taught me a lot about the professional side of making jewellery, weight, size, wear-ability and so on. The environment teaches you more about the practicality of design, using manufacturers and working to a clients brief - making it more accessible, you have the crazy ideas of course, but you have to tone them down for it to work (commercially).'

Inspiration for the collections are drawn from 'walking around and seeing things', but some are also based on novels, uniforms or components of a uniform. From a young age, he has admired the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. A lot of recent work he says is 'based on animal motifs and the four elements is based on mythological stories'. This can be seen with the cocktail rings centred around the symbolic creatures of the four elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Air which so far depict Phoenixes, and a Medusa themed ring with a snake wrapped around tourmaline with brown diamond scales.

Jewellery in menswear is expanding. A few large companies he has worked for such as De Beers, Garrard and Links of London have created new collections for this growing trend. Fashion continually evolves, according to Donocik and he says the 'royalty for example from several countries, India in particular, Taj Mahal and so on (Mughal and Rajput period), we see how important jewellery has been for men to wear in the past.' He goes on to say that 'mainstream style is quite understated, I think there is a growing market for it, (high street shops) for example create a lot of accessories for Men.'

Describing his 'work as bold, sophisticated and with the patience of a storyteller' some of the pieces are extravagant compared to the more everyday feel of the silver and leather collection. They all have a bit of a 'twist, or je ne sais quoi,' and sometimes he jokes, 'the boyfriends jewellery the girlfriend steals, so it works both ways.' The workshop, part of a beautiful old brick building with wooden floors and ample natural light allowed me to take a few impromptu portraits, using a star bracelet to cover the mouth, in a way, commenting on censorship in the Soviet Union with the iconography associated with the star. It is part of the 'Rising Star' collection, with inspiration indeed coming from military uniforms of Soviet era and platonic architecture of post- Soviet Russia.

In a paradox of the natural world 'The Garden of Good & Evil' collection fuses the sinister with the beauty found in a botanical garden. Venus fly traps, with delicate snowbells and water lilies are depicted in Donocik’s signature style in rose and white gold. The 'Venus Fly Trap Bombay Ring' with its Rose gold, Black Diamonds and Tsavorites is in stark contrast to the 'Snowbell Mini Droplet Pendant' with its white gold and beautifully appointed white round diamonds.

Donocik's biggest market is in Japan with over 40 stockists there, in the UK, there is Harrods, Wolf & Badger, Harvey Nichols and Charles Fish who are the key ones in London and other stockists in places from Brighton to Bath. There is also France, Germany, Italy, Dubai, Kuwait, Canada. It shows an international appeal for his style and men's jewellery in general, which is a trend we hope continues to grow.

Tomasz Donocik has received many prestigious awards for his jewellery designs. Since winning The Goldsmith's Company Jewellery designer of the Year at New Designers for his debut collection in 2006, Tomasz has gone on to be awarded 2009 Collection of the Year at “Collections” Show, Earls Court and 2008 Special Award Winner YKK at ITS 7 Fashion and Accessory Competition, Italy.  Most notably, Tomasz Donocik became the UK Jewellery Designer of the Year 2011.

Interview and Portraits
Nardip Singh
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