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Designer interview

Orit Elhanati

My universe is somewhat silent, but also very chaotic at the same time. Anything can happen here.

Growing up between two cultures, the rightly celebrated jewellery artist, Orit Elhanati, has created her distinctive universe of ELHANATI in the mix of Scandinavian minimalism and Middle Eastern mystery. Her jewellery, often

intricate, always intuitive and with a powerful sense for organic structures and surfaces, are like miniature wearable pieces of art. More than anything, through her attentive gaze and unique vision, she crafts magic.

When it comes to precious metals, you always use gold. How come gold is so special to you?
Gold tells a story… it has its own story to tell. I am in love with the color and the power that gold possesses. 

Your work expresses both childhood memories, nature and stories from Israel. How do you translate experiences and memories into jewellery in your practice?
Israel is a part of me, and as such is always part of my work, at all times. It is my story, and it is complex, electrifying and confusing at times. I am a mix of two cultures and have tried to find my own way amidst the chaos, which have led me to create a universe around me that is uniquely my own. This is one of the reasons I always have the pink sand or the beautiful sea with me, when I work. Without putting too much thought into it, the first piece of jewellery that I made was a necklace with a tag pendant. It was only after, when looking through old family photos, that I realized my uncle was wearing one, and in another photo of my mother carrying me as a child, she was wearing one too. So perhaps, I am simply retelling the story. I never translate the stories directly though; the most delicate part of my work is to remain in a playful universe. I begin my projects with pure emotion and end the job in pure emotion. I will never become a ‘translator’, which is directly linked to why I would never dream of drawing everything before I begin creating a piece of jewellery; I am afraid it will blow away the magic. 

Your aesthetic universe and visual identity is very strong and distinct. How would you define it yourself? 
I passionately wish to give the bearer of the jewellery something magical…a strength… and something special in their lives. I want for the bearer to have a natural connection with the piece, to fall in love with the piece. My universe is somewhat silent, but also very chaotic at the same time. Anything can happen here. I have come to the conclusion that I create my best work when I feel chaos or when I am hungry to create something completely new, which has never been seen before. My universe is really a balance between the North meeting the Middle East. My most precious task is to remain in that mix. 

“I passionately wish to give the bearer of the jewellery something magical...a strength... and something special in their lifes”

Have you always been so strong aesthetically? And is it something you’ve been brought up with?
I have always been difficult to make happy. Aesthetics is not something you can buy or order in the mail. To me, it is something you are born with. If you are afraid of failing, you will never achieve success. 

You use the techniques hammering, burning and dripping. What do these bring to your jewellery and why exactly did you fall in love with these techniques? 
When you build jewellery like miniature sculptures there are so many layers you have to build. So, I drip it; layer by layer. The gold needs to tell a story, so I use my hammer. I melt the gold to get it to drip again and to create the texture I want to achieve. I am completely in love with this way of working, because to me, it is all about the material. Seeing and understanding every inch of the material—and my material is gold. 

You only use conflict-free diamonds—how is the supply chain in the jewellery industry? Is it difficult to control? 
Of course, we work with papers and certificates and GIA certified diamonds, but at the end of the day it is impossible to be 100 per cent certain. We do everything in our power to ensure that we know exactly where all of our precious stones are from, that they are from conflict-free zones, and we work only with certified local suppliers. 

I like your thoughts about jewellery being something that is kept for an eternity, something that we borrow for a period in time, never fully ours—they are imperishable in an ever-changing world that, without exception, disappears.
Ultimately, we do not really own anything. It is just something that we tell ourselves. But we can put feelings in our jewellery to give it a special energy, and then one day, it will feel incredible to pass on to someone you love. Jewellery is something that you keep with you and your family forever. It is indeed something borrowed, something that is never yours to keep. In reality, it gets passed on to the next generation, who eventually passes it on to the next generation again. The future generations are very important and knowing that what I am creating lasts beyond time, drives me in my work. 

I know you have a daughter; do you make her jewellery? And what meaning does it have to create pieces for someone you care about?
The beautiful thing about having a daughter, and especially at the age that she has now, is the fact that she comes as you with 100km/hr. My daughter does just that. She grew up surrounded by the craft of making jewellery and she has spent countless hours in my atelier. To her, it is a completely natural thing to observe how the pieces are created and she has a huge respect for the art of creating jewellery. Given her young age, Palma already has some incredible pieces of jewellery. But she just told me that gold is so last year… 

What is the most essential part about jewellery making?
To create something that will outlive both you and me. I work a lot with bespoke jewellery and clients abroad, and have people flying in from all over the world to help them create that special piece of jewellery that symbolizes their unity or something special that has happened in their lives. It is a humbling feeling, knowing that I am part of helping people tell their stories, to create something that will be passed down for centuries. It is magical. 

There’s an incredible nerve and emotion in your jewellery, and in everything that you do. Where does it come from? 
We all have a story. I thrive on mine; it gives me the power and energy that I need to create. My story is filled with loneliness, some anger and an all-embracing fascination with the seductive powers of beauty. From here, I give my all and do my best work. In this world there is no time, and definitely no sense of fashion. Maybe this is the feeling that people get; the idea that I always make a piece of jewellery like it was my last. My husband likes to say that you are only as good as your last job.  

What precious stones mean the most to you, and why? 
It is evident that the opal follows me. If you look into the opal, you can picture the earth from above, or the moon. There is something very magical going on in there. I love looking at old stones, feeling their energy and their vibe. The malachite and tiger eye have also taken me by storm, but diamonds are my drug. 

You’ve recently started to work on creations that are bigger in scale. How is that different from jewellery? 
Creating is my calling. I love the feeling of working with 18kt gold—the texture. But working with other types of metal is a completely different playground, and I love that too.