I head to Shoreditch, the heart of hip East London to find out more about the multiple award-winning jewellery and accessory designer Tomasz Donocik. As a graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins (CSM) and the Royal Academy of Arts, (RCA) Donocik describes himself as both an artist and a designer. His range of styles is as eclectic as it is fascinating and he is known for both darkly romantic men’s jewellery and fine jewellery for women with a retro-futuristic air. On a mission to always do things differently, when creating Donocik looks beyond jewellery making traditions and experiments with accepted materials. Donocik has a loyal male clientele for his bespoke work in the UK as well as 15 points of sale around the world for his female fine jewellery collections that include Stellar, Electric Night, Cosmic and a bridal range. The easy to wear Fine Leather bracelets for men and women, studded with gold and precious gems, are top-sellers in the USA. He has a strong following in Japan for his men’s collections and is developing a line of men’s accessories. From zips for YKK, to leather, magnets, an emerald brooch for a lord, crocodile cuff links – and a lot in between – Tomasz Donocik talks to me through the 12 year journey so far.
Tell me about how you came to be a jeweller.
I was born in Poland and when I was nine months old, my father who was a United Nations diplomat, was moved to Vienna and I studied at the International School where I learnt English and German.
When the time came, I was torn between studying law, which my parents favoured, or art as I had always been into painting. At 18 I chose to come to London and obviously Central Saint Martins was the best place to continue my path as a professional artist. If I hadn’t been a jeweller I would probably have been a painter.
I started with an Art Foundation Course and we did a wide range of things from space and graphic design, to textiles and jewellery. It turns out that jewellery was my favourite because you could still draw and express yourself through art and you also get to make something. And like an artist, you can be conceptual or quite commercial as jewellery has a huge spectrum. What’s more, jewellery gave me a discipline that meant if I couldn’t be a jeweller myself, I could be a maker for someone or a designer for a brand.
After CSM I went to the Royal College of Arts (RCA) which was the ultimate goal. What I loved about it was that it was all under one roof, so I made a lot of friends in other departments like sculpture and fashion. It was here that my interest in fashion developed. They helped me when I wanted to make scarves and I really cross-pollinated with them, bringing leather and textiles into my jewellery.
How do you define yourself?
I am an artist who specialises in jewellery. I am not going to pigeon-hole myself into being a designer or a maker. As a maker I would be bored just perfecting the craft. I don’t have that traditional set of rules that means that I have to make everything myself. If I did that, I would limit myself to doing what I already know. I am not a stone-carver for example, and there are people out there who can do it much better than I can – and without having to put myself through more training. My speciality is definitely design and coming up with ideas. So when I was in CSM I really put a lot of emphasis in making sure that all the projects I did were executed to the fullest in terms of design. This gives me the freedom to do what I want like a leather range of bags for men that is coming out next year.
If I believe the design needs a certain material, I will use it, even if it is not considered precious. I won’t follow the old rules about stone combinations, and I will use the stone it takes to get the colour as the effect is all that matters. The same is true for my passion about leather that I used in my first Chesterfield cuffs for men and that I continue to use in my fine leather bracelets.
More recently, with the Dusk Halo ring I worked with unexpected stones like grey hematite and howlite in different cuts combined with morganite and diamonds. For me, the design is more important than the rules of the trade. As I am art college trained, I don’t have that jewellery mind set, I am more open.
What is the greatest recognition of your work so far?
The ‘Best Colored Gems Design Under $20,000’ and ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards at Couture, Las Vegas in 2016 were quite important as I was competing with huge companies at a really high level, so it meant a lot to me to win them as a small person in a massive market. However the most prestigious recognition was the diamond necklace commission from the Goldsmiths Company in 2017. I spent the entire budget on materials so I walked away without a profit but the reward for me was that it was a real seal of approval and it is now part of history and in the Goldsmiths collection.
Credit to: MARIA DOULTON
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