The first collection of jewelry by Irina Shabut was inspired by Henri Rousseau. Her silver rings with hot enamel told the enigmatic story of “The World of Henri Rousseau”. In this interview, Irina tells us the secrets behind the creation process.
Former neurologist Irina became a professional jeweler, making this radical career change unexpected for others, but quite obvious to her. Irina Shabut’s silver jewelry can be found in art galleries and exhibitions in Russia and Europe, and today she admits that from everything she has done in her life, it is her jewelry business that brings her the greatest pleasure.
She has always been creative. With a smile, she told a story about one of her first works – the clay hippopotamus, which is exhibited in the window of the regional library. Little Ira was then only 7 years old, when she went with other girls to a clay workshop, a mom of one of her friends owned. “The mom of this girl was a member of the Union of Artists of the USSR, and I remember that she worked on a huge sculpture of Lenin, and we, dressed from tip to toe in special clothes so as not to get dirty, we made what our imagination was capable of to imagine” recalls Irina.
IS: I have a well-defined concept of jewelry: it’s not about precious metals, not about modern trends, it is something that I can wear, and what can be given to heirs through the generations.
One of the key elements of marketing is to identify who your customer is. Do you have your “buying persona”? Who do you think your jewelry appeal to?
IS: Once in Brussels in a jewelry store I saw a beautiful brooch. The special attractiveness of this thing was that it was clear for whom it was created – it was created for a slender woman in a little black dress. Later this brooch determined my target audience. I asked myself – What jewelry would look great on a slender, small-chested woman in her mid-forties in a little high-necked black dress? That would be the image description of my ideal customer. It may be a 50-year old woman in beige, but she would still have to be that type.
Where do you study, and if you do – what are you studying right now?
IS: When I came back from Brussels and decided to make a brooch by myself, I started with a research. I read all that I could find about this topic, learned about tools, and techniques one needs to master to create something like this. Then there was a long and difficult process of finding the right teachers. And I am still studying! First of all, because jewelry is like a new world for me and I am discovering it. Second, the fact that I have no former education in art is liberating – it unleashes my creativity and gives freedom to experiment. Nobody told me what to do, how to do it and what I can do and what I cannot, and what will happen as a result of my experiments, and what will not.
I liked your comment in Vedomosti about “safety” of a flower made from silver: “While in the company of professional jewelers, Irina was at first very shy that she did not go to art school, and felt ashamed answering the question about which high school she graduated from. “When asked about education I kept silent, but then at some point, I said that I graduated from the First Pavlov State Medical University of St. Petersburg with a degree in Neurology and Neurosurgery and that what I learned was a million times cooler than is taught in an art college. And yet, when you make a flower from silver, there is no risk that someone will be left disabled”
Was the experience in neurosurgery helpful in what you are doing now?
IS: As for the working experience – of course, it is useful! I have perfected my fine motor skills, and it is a very important skill to have in jewelry. Great doctors and teachers taught us how to work.
Who makes the jewelry?
IS: I do everything by myself. As for the services of subcontractors I use only the services of a foundry and work only with one concrete caster. We work well together; understand the tasks that what needs to be done during casting. Models are complex, sometimes very large, and almost all exist in a single copy.
How do you market your brand? Do you have people who help you promote, sell products, communicate with galleries?
IS: So far this is one of the biggest challenges! I have been leveraging my internal resources and enjoying the help of my daughter. But the business is growing and I am looking for an experienced art-dealer! Not only to negotiate the terms of contracts with the art-galleries and exhibitions but also to apply for participation in international art contest run by the European museums and cultural institutions.
Do you have a creativity crisis? Who or what helps you to get out of it? Where do you fill up the inspiration in such moments?
IS: Honestly, I have never experienced it. I absolutely love what I do. Probably my biggest source of inspiration is my family and my girlfriends. They are all so wonderful! And so different! My Mom, my daughter, my close friends (with some of us together with the kindergarten) – they are all so different and they are the first who wears everything I do. And then all this is already being formed in the collection.
What is your formula for success?
IS: I do not know … I would say – do it according to conscience and for the joy of it.
What advice would you give to those who want to create their own jewelry brand?
“It’s tremendously interesting! Think about who do you want to make beautiful? Who will give your jewelry to her granddaughter? Imagine these women, and create jewelry for them.”
Based on the article by Olga Kalashnikova
Photo by Polina Koroleva, Irina Shabut