The sophisticated works of Igor Kontorsky, the designer of the Juvite jewellery collection can be found in every corner of the world - in the USA, Europe, China, Japan, Israel, Australia, Iran, and even Oceania or Namibia. Igor was kind enough to answer several questions, talk about his work, experience, and jewellery design.
Igor, you were born in Ukraine, but live and work in Thailand. Can you tell us how that came about?
My life in Thailand was not an accidental occurrence. I was born and grew up in Kiev. I love going back there once in a while and get nostalgic memories of my early days as a child in that city. Before my enlistment into the army I became very fond of the Far East and southeast Asia, especially Vietnam. I read all the material one could come across about that region. Unfortunately, in Kiev there was no school for Oriental Studies. Gradually I decided that I would study Southeast Asia in Moscow or Saint Petersburg. This decision brought me to the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Saint Petersburg. There I studied the Thai and Laotian languages, literature, history, and ethnography. During my academic years I was an exchange student in Laos for a year. Later I moved to Thailand with my family. Here in Thailand I established my company and started a commerce in 1996.
How did you get into the jewellery business and come up with your brand Juvite?
This part of my life, in fact, is an accidental occurrence. I don’t come from an Arts Studies background. On one occasion I was at an exhibition of Thai Gems and Jewellery to conduct business affairs. I was genuinely surprised by the sort of uniformity of the jewellery designs that were on sale at the exhibition. Thailand is famous for its jewellery industry and this didn’t add up to me. The design of the jewellery seemed boring and monotonous to me. I decided to start selling semiprecious stones and mix them up with different jewellery designs.
At the beginning this was just an experiment to try to get the feel for the market and the design was not in the same style as we have at Juvite. Naturally I developed an interest in jewellery design. I didn’t take this seriously enough, but it didn’t stop me from expanding my collection. This expansion gave it a certain style. My company became a member of Thai Gems and Jewelry Traders Association in 2002 and I started exhibiting my products at fairs in Thailand and later in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Munich, and Tucson. The exposure of the jewellery had to come in with a brand design and this is how I came up with Juvite as a brand.
What does Juvite mean?
Juvite comes from two Latin words: Juvit, which means “bringing joy or happiness” and te – “you”.
You mentioned that you have no artistic background. How do you feel that this affected your artistic work?
I had to work with certain rules and guidelines that are out there for beginners and slowly develop my craft. I am still a very long way away from being considered as an artist and tend to be modest in what I do. I am simply doing what brings me joy.
What inspired you or gave you certain associations that helped you make your design?
In a few words: texture, line, and colour. The contrast of glare and frosted materials. I am always curious about reflecting water or wooden texture in metal, making it look like a reef stone, folded paper, or wrinkled leather. Mixing this type of textured metal with precious stones seems like a great idea that gives a nice touch. Black and white plating combined with gold underlines the texture.
Tell us a little about the production process and how you bring the ideas to life.
I don’t usually make sketches, the visual ideas that I have in my mind are applied directly onto wax or metal. Sometimes they are shaped differently in the process from what I envisioned. This does not always become a finished model. Sometimes unfinished works are not turned into a certain ring, pendant, or earrings for a long time. Eventually I make them into a finished product. I am often not confident about how the unfinished work should be finished. This naturally leads to designs that are minimalist, yet have a wild touch to them. This is one of the reasons why I am not able to make custom made designs.
What materials do you work with? Where is your jewellery manufactured?
The larger part of my work is with silver and precious stones. Nevertheless I do experiment with gold and often with oxidized silver. I have a workshop in Bangkok where I bring these ideas to life.
What are your other interests besides jewellery design?
I love ancient and medieval period history. History of religions and ethnography. I love travelling.