Philip Sajet about the art of jewellery

I met Philip Sajet in 2014, when he came to lead a jewelry design workshop at Wytwórnia Antidotum. From that moment on, we stay in touch. Now we are meeting in his studio in Amsterdam, to which he has returned after years in Germany and France.

Philip Sajet w swojej pracowni w Amsterdamie, wrzesień 2021

The workshop is small and decorated in an ascetic way, each item has its place – including tools used by his grandfather, also a goldsmith. Philip emphasizes that order in the studio is the beginning of a good design: if a composition is to be clear and clean, it should be created in such circumstances. The studio is equipped with furniture and lamps made by Philip. “Artists don’t buy, they make things themselves,” he says. A tinted yellow sun shines through the windows of the attic studio, unless the classic Dutch rain is peeking through.

Interior of the studio in Amsterdam

Paulina: What is the purpose of jewellery? 

If we look at the etymology of the origin of the word jewelry, we discover that it comes from a very interesting source. In Romance languages, the root word is taken from the Latin words jocus – entertainment and iocale, meaning toy; something you enjoy. These words gave rise to French (jayoux) jouel, English jewel, Spanish joya, Italian gioiello, meaning jewels. The art of goldsmithing is therefore a field dealing with the production of items that evoke joy, satisfaction, perhaps beautiful, and perhaps humorous. Wearing jewelry, in this context, is expressing your feelings for yourself. Willingness to surround oneself with objects that nurture joy. It is also a way to express your personality.

I believe that jewelry is also a specific type of object that keeps us on the surface of great cosmic events – the cycle of life and transience. I see it as a form of spiritual compass. Ancestral jewels, rings handed down from generation to generation – these are the carriers of history, signs of belonging to a certain group – family, tribal, political … If we lose them, we lose a part of ourselves.

What is jewellery making? Is jewellery-making an art? 

Of course, making jewelry is an art. If only because of the fact that jewelry is not a basic necessity. There is no need to have it, since it does not satisfy basic needs, such as a roof over your head, does not protect against hunger and thirst, does not satisfy a sense of security. Art is work that produces things that are “unnecessary” from a pragmatic point of view. However, this is not the case if we think about ideological or spiritual values. What needs can be met by art in this dimension, the creator has yet to find out. It’s about asking questions and looking for answers – that’s what this job is all about, and by doing it, we develop. That is why art is essential! If you cannot find answers to your questions, keep looking. It is important to stay consistently in this discovery process.

Interior of the studio in Amsterdam

How would you describe a good piece of jewellery? 

Seeing things as beautiful or ugly, successful or unsuccessful is very individual. However, I think there is some universal principle that we can use as a creator to sense whether the object we are working on is finished or not yet. It would sound like this: you may consider a design good when you feel that adding anything will make the composition overload, and when you subtract it – the juxtaposition of elements seems insufficient. A good design will fall within this narrow range – between too much and too little. This moment can be felt intuitively. You just have to pause frequently to look at your work and feel the emotions that will accompany you at each stage.

What are the most important aesthetic features of a good piece? 

Symmetry and proportions are important, it makes us feel that the composition is harmonious. Perfectly matched proportions are expressed by the sequence of Fibonacci numbers. It is an algorithm reflected in the works of nature. We often consider the products of nature to be beautiful, but – if we want to analyse this phenomenon more deeply – what is their beauty? Can we give a definition of beauty? It won’t be easy at all. I have always been surprised that in works of art, once considered to be ugliness, we now see beauty. Take Picasso’s Maidens of Avignon, for example. Or the character of Jaques Brel, did his contemporaries consider him handsome? Meanwhile, today it seems he is attractive! 🙂 We have to redefine beauty every time. Seeking and finding beauty is a great power. In order to gain this power and be able to use it, one must have a strong psyche. One that will be able to contain this power. We can take care of emotional development by practicing art. That is why art is so necessary! It is learning to gain confidence. If you are sure of what you are doing, you will have no doubts to share it with others. being sure about your unsurenes is also perfectly ok.

How long do you have to study to make good jewellery?

To become technically proficient in goldsmithing, you need at least 10 years of experience. The time it takes to learn depends on the level you want to go to in your technique. In your creativity you ca be there right from the beginning. You won’t become virtuoso in a month … Nevertheless, even at the beginning of your path, your imagination is limitless. The most important thing in art is to be willing to discover. You need to be curious and kind. Don’t be dogmatic about what things should be. Don’t look for comparisons. Be tolerant, watch what comes out of your hands, but don’t judge what you are doing. It’s not about obtaining something, it’s about creating, being in the process, getting to know your possibilities and being surprised. As a teacher, I enjoy situations when my students are happy to see their projects as if they were thinking, “Really?! did I do it?” Much great art arises only as concepts – poems, music … These beautiful things exist for a moment and then disappear. That is why I emphasize how important it is to materialise your ideas. Especially in the case of jewelry – if done well, it will last forever.

You are an artist, but you also teach. What to you think is the essence of a good class?

all my workshops, I want the participants to feel at ease. Learning to make jewelry is not an exam, any tension will hamper your freedom to think and create. Jewelry, as I said, is joy, so creating jewelry should be done in this state of mind. Of course, there are often times when something technically doesn’t work out, so patience and persistanse is also important. To vent moments of frustration, I sometimes advise you to get upset, order metals to listen to us! 🙂 If your lack of patience served you in making jewelry, I would of course advise you to lose your head, but it is not. So be patient. You need to know what is important – don’t pay attention to what is not important. It’s just like life. Make complicated and heavy things lighter, easier. It’s a metaphor, but I think it captures the approach to jewelry making.

*Philip Sajet, an excellent teacher, for years he has been teaching artistic jewelry making at schools such as Le Arti Orafe in Florencea nd at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tallinn. He also conducted workshops at the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts in Hongzou, as well as goldsmith schools in Belgium, Mexico and Japan.

Text: Paulina Tyro-Niezgoda