2017 Hollowware/Art Objects - First Place
The extraordinary hollowware piece "Discovery of Eggcellence" by Alex Maryaskin was a personal and artistic challenge to himself: to create a piece with numerous obstacles to overcome in its making. Alex created the entire piece using the laser welder only; no torch ever touched the design. He set a goal for one year to make the piece, then because of the excitement in doing the project, it took four months instead (538 hours, to be exact), with absolutely no outside interference from his store or business (thanks to his amazing team). He didn’t use a blueprint to erect the church and all the plans for it were taken from his memory of the building 30 years prior. And he set as a goal to win another Saul Bell Design Award, having already taken home First Place in Hollowware in 2014. He accomplished it all in this masterpiece.
The Winning Piece:
14K white, yellow and red gold. There is also a center core that is 18K yellow, but you can’t see it. Altogether about 10 ounces of various karats. I used diamonds, rubies, sapphires, tsavorite garnets and lapis. And there is some enameling as well.
The entire piece is hand-fabricated. Part of the challenge was to not use any cast pieces or manufactured product.
I was inspired by my team at our gallery. This is a group of silversmiths and goldsmiths who encouraged me to come up with a project that would take a year to complete.
The church in the piece is from memory 30 years ago in the Ukraine. I had worked inside this church doing restoration. All the details came from my memory. The church is from the 18th century and I tried to keep it historically correct. At that time, they used shingles on the roofs of churches instead of steeples.
It took exactly 538 hours, four months. I kept count.
What did you learn from the piece?
I learned that it is very difficult to build a building without a blueprint. I chose not to sketch it out beforehand because I set that as a personal challenge to myself. Also there were three components that were a part of the piece which had to work together, and that was a design and engineering element I needed to solve. I wanted to challenge myself with a complex design.
Are you going to sell it?
It is for sale. My team will not allow me to make another piece until I sell this one to buy metals for the next piece.
Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?
Yes. Absolutely. Always forward. I already have plans for my next project. It has to be bigger and better.
What do you like most about the piece?
This is the best piece I have ever made. I like how it was engineered. If you open it up, on the inside there are pieces and parts you don’t see from the front.
Where do you live?
Carrollton, Virginia. I have been here for 20 years with my family.
How did you get into jewelry?
When I was still living in the Ukraine, a pastor handed me a 900-year-old jewelry box that had been damaged during the war and needed repair. I took spoons and coins and rolled them out to create the pattern, since I couldn’t buy wire. It took me about six weeks, and when I delivered it to the pastor, he hired me to do more restoration work. The box was 9” x 4.5” x 4.5” with filigree panels.
How did you learn to make jewelry?
I am self-taught. In 2014 I won the SBDA for a mirror I had made from silver coins using the same techniques I mentioned before about rolling out the metal. One of the things Iearned from another jeweler was that I could buy wire. This was a revelation to me and has saved me so much time since then. I still hand make all of the filigree myself. I also learned a lot from a jewelry store I worked at before I opened my own gallery about seven years ago.
How long have you been making jewelry?
Do any of your other passions influence your work?
Not related to my jewelry at all, but one of my other passions is my saltwater reef aquarium, 300-gallon full of all sorts of wonderful creatures. I love the challenge that maintaining an aquarium offers. In my new gallery I have space for this size of an aquarium.
Do you have a design/jewelry mentor?
Not really. No. I grew and developed in this industry by myself. I am extremely competitive and passionate about making things better, more efficiently and structurally sound (wearable).
What do you like most about designing?
I like to design one-of-a-kinds. I don’t like to make earrings because I have to make two of them. I will do it, but I would rather not. I also have to make earrings match and reverse them 180 degrees to be correct.
Tell me about your gallery.
Simply Unique Jewelry Design. We sell specifically my line, watches, have a case of consignment jewelry, bridal and cases for our in-store team designers to showcase their work. We also carry a couple of local designers. Personally, I pretty much work only with gold, making one-of-a-kinds.
Saul Bell Design Award:
How did you feel when you found out you were a winner?
You should have seen my face! I was very proud and excited and never thought I would have two of these beautiful awards in my gallery. I realized you have to put a lot of time into creating a piece to win the award. And without my team’s consistent support, I would never have been able to do it. My team covered my entire time for four months in the gallery and I didn’t have to do a single thing except focus on the piece. I am so amazing lucky to have their support.
What made you decide to enter the competition?
I wanted to have a second award. In 2014 I met the Bell family when I won my first award and they were so wonderful to me. That was a highlight for me and such an incredible honor. I want to do it again.
How did you hear about the competition?
I heard about the competition years ago and studied the winning pieces and learned from them what to enter.
What is your favorite material?
Gold and platinum over anything. When I worked with silver I realized I didn’t get enough of a financial return from it than with more precious metals.
What is your favorite tool?
The laser welder is a toy you need to have! Have two of them now. This piece was created entirely on the laser welder. All the work is done from behind. You can’t see any welding marks on the front.
What do you love about making jewelry?
I always had a passion for metal and working with my hands. When I served my mandatory military service in the Ukraine, at the end of two years I realized I had a special feel for manipulating metal. I had good feelings about metal. I made a choice at that time to either make jewelry for the generals or shovel snow. It was an easy decision.
Studio and Surroundings:
What is one thing you enjoy about your store/studio?
The store has five working stations; there is plenty of room for everyone. We have been open for seven years. We have literally every tool on the planet. My work station is a mess, but this is a good thing because I know where everything is.
What is your favorite tool?
My laser welder! I cannot imagine being without this tool!
Do you listen to music when you work?
Pandora. I don’t pay attention to background noise. I tune things out. My team knows that if they want my attention they must say “Alex” before they talk to get my attention. I go deep into whatever I am working on at the time.
What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?
I don’t want my kids to be jewelers. There is no money in the business. The Internet has made it more difficult to make a living at it. There is just so much poorly made work out there. Custom work is one area you can make your business grow.
You can see more of Aleksandr's work at www.simplyuniquejd.com.
Interview by Marlene Richey