Interview: Olesya Zolotaya

Olesya is currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Art at the Queensland College of Art. Through fusing the disciplines of drawing and jewellery making she ventures into producing works encouraging discourse into social, environmental and cultural topics.

From the 14th to the 20th of August Olesya showed us their work and process on our Instagram @inresidence_ari Interviewed by Isabel Hood


IH: How did jewellery making become your medium of choice to express themes important to you?

OZ: As a maker I enjoy creating tangible items with my hands and jewellery making, especially lost wax casting, is a fantastic creative avenue through which to explore themes I am interested in as an artist. Studying the Bachelor of Fine Art at the Queensland College of Art through Griffith University was a fantastical journey into various disciplines, and at first jewellery making didn’t strike me as something I would be interested in as drawing was the main way in which I expressed ideas and concepts at that point of my creative journey. However since drawing wasn’t offered as a major, when I was beginning my second year of studies, I decided to chose to major in a discipline I wasn’t familiar with in order to learn new and valuable skills. Diving into the second year Jewellery & Small Objects courses saw an introduction into many fascinating techniques, teaching skills to create industry competitive works, and I began to realise the potential of jewellery making and the value of those skills in earning a steady income as an artist.

IH: Does the delicacy and intricacy of working with such a medium as jewellery making assist your communication process? Is it a useful tool to convey themes of cultural identity?

OZ: Absolutely! Minute details and fiddly techniques have always delighted and stimulated my creativity, and jewellery making is a fantastic way in which I can communicate my ideas and draw the viewer's gaze to details I find interesting or which underline certain issues I’d like to communicate. There is also something alluring about filtering inspirations from nature and my environments through my personal lense, to then bring forth into physical objects made by my own hands, it’s deeply satisfying.

Going on to tackle themes of cultural identity through jewellery is quite fitting, as cultural identity always has been expressed through bodily adornment and costume. What I’d like to continue investigating through my current works is where I fit in within the Australian culture coming from an immigrant background, by discovering the cultures I am connected to through adornment.

When I was two years old my parents immigrated with me to Australia from Abkhazia, escaping impending war. My ethnic background is Russian however I never lived in that country, wasn’t born there and haven’t yet visited. Up until my early 20’s I felt disconnected from Australian culture and then later from Russian culture, once I began reading into diaspora and began thinking about my position in the world within the context of rapid globalisation and evolving subcultures things started to make more sense. So in a way the jewellery I am making so far is a process of discovering my cultural roots while redefining roots that make sense within a global context.

IH: People are lucky enough to purchase some of your jewellery pieces. Have you ever found a contentious middle-ground where you’re aiming to express social and environmental ideas that are important to you, while also pleasing a market that appreciates it as a wearable item?

OZ: The contentious middle ground is still being discovered as I am quite new to the jewellery/art arena. However I think in favour of making a living from my art it is important to find a balance between fulfilling creative expression and financial stability. Also being environmentally focussed, it does pose interesting challenges to making and reproducing items efficiently while also being true to an environmental ethos, with it being such a prevalent issue for makers in the 21st Century.

I think it is important not to forget to approach being an artist from a business perspective. I’m interested in developing a mutually beneficial relationship between the artist and buyer. As a maker I would like to counter the effect of mass produced items and to install lifetime values in purchasing behaviour and incorporating a higher degree of decision making in consumption of resources.

As creatives living in the current time our work practices can be up to scrutiny by the public and our customers, so aligning oneself with certain beliefs and work practices can work in or against one's favour. I have to say though, it is very hard to ignore some very real environmental issues, for example after researching into the gold mining and diamond industries and seeing the evidence which points to how many things are wrong with the sourcing, consumption and the environmental impacts those industries have, it is very hard for me to give blind support when there are ethically sourced options.

So empowering oneself with knowledge into sustainable practices and ethically sourced materials can help to shape the world we want through our purchasing power. I think it’s important to find those businesses and makers who incorporate environmentally conscious practises into their business and support them.

Circling back to my works made during my time studying J&SO, I utilised various recycling and up-cycling options which we were exposed to, as well as using purchased recycled sterling silver from the J&SO shop. Once I began incorporating those mentalities and work practices into my own practice it was quite easy to continue, and having a mindful and sustainable practice is definitely something I would like to embrace further in the future. Currently I am collecting various plastics accumulated from everyday use and working on repurposing them into my jewellery designs.

IH: You describe yourself as a multidisciplinary artist. In your takeover we were fortunate to witness a lot of your jewellery making process. What are your other mediums of choice?

OZ: For the past few years I have been focussing on jewellery making as I majored in that discipline at university, however I’ve always been heavily invested in drawing, and I come from a study background of fashion, clothing production and costuming. As an artist my belief is the more I diversify my skill-set the more tools I have at my disposal to bring back into the work.

So far in my practice I have incorporated the disciplines of sewing, costume making, textile design, jewellery making, casting, drawing, embroidery and crocheting. In the near future I would like to experiment with woodworking, resin, painting, and large scale casting.

IH: You discuss the process of drawing and wax casting the objects for jewellery making. Do you appreciate the slight differences in each piece as a result of re-drawing each iteration?

OZ: I do, and that is one of the reasons I am drawn to drawing on and into wax. I feel like there are too many replicated objects in the world and if I can make objects that are similar but each having their own identity, then the works I am producing align with my values of creating unique objects and actively resisting mass production. I like the idea of objects with their own unique fingerprint so to speak, works which compliment and celebrate an owner's unique identity.

IH: Can you tell us a little more about your recent trip to Cairns? You chose heliconias and Etlingeras to represent as jewellery. Was there a particular reason why you specifically chose these subtropical plants?

OZ: To be quite honest it was the first time I saw those plants and they evoked such awe in me that I very much wanted to celebrate their beauty. The sculptural forms of those plants had a challenging enough tactility, so I wanted to see if I could translate them into wax and then metal form. Also those pieces were part of a body of works with a concept of wanting to transform a travel experience into a wearable object beyond the typical touristy trinkets, which barely hold any material or conceptual value.

IH: We got to see several photos of inspiration fabrics during your takeover. Can you elaborate on why the skill and attention involved in making these fabrics inspires your work and aesthetic?

OZ: Coming from a study background of fashion design I have developed a keen interest in textiles and am very much in awe of the skills and labour required to create certain fabrics. In a world where fashion is fast and interests wane even faster, slowing down and appreciating something for it’s quality and craftsmanship is something that really appeals to me. Starting in my teenage years I began collecting costumes, textiles and adornment pieces as they served as a constant inspiration for my works, so textiles especially those seen during travels have quite a place in my heart and I draw inspiration from them especially when those fabrics capture a sense of place.

IH: Are there other particular artists that inspire your work?

OZ: I’m very enthusiastic about the works of Del Kathryn Barton, Junko Mori, Manish Arora, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano to name a few, as well as many other artists and countless creatives I have the pleasure of interacting or studying with.

IH: Do you have any plans after graduation?

OZ: Absolutely! I’d like to have my arts business set up and running, and begin entering competitions very seriously and actively, as well as investigating collaborative exhibitions, and solo shows incorporating large scale installation works. Another idea that has been on my mind lately is to develop an arts focussed networking platform where arts workers and practitioners can connect with others in the field through regular networking events. It’s just so important for every wave of recent arts graduates to have access to a strong support network to thrive in the industry and I’d like to facilitate something like that.

IH: Can you tell us about any upcoming shows you’re involved in?

OZ: After exhibiting in a group show earlier this year at Jan Murphy Gallery, which featured two other emerging artists, I took a slight break from exhibiting as I was a bit exhausted after working non-stop everyday for many months while working, studying and also doing an internship, therefore afterwards I decided to have a creative break and focus my efforts instead on setting up my art business. Getting back into exhibiting this month, I am participating in an exhibition titled ‘Go Fish’, which is an environmentally focussed group exhibition organised by one of my friends in Ipswich. It will be showing from Fri, 8 Sep - Sat, 30 Sep at Art Time, 203 Brisbane St, Ipswich. Please go have a look and make a day of visiting Ipswich!