“A Talk with Terhi Tolvanen”, Contemporary Art Jewellery Maker

December 29, 2011 | No Comments

“Nature & Culture, Rough & Elegance, Raw & Modesty” the work of Terhi Tolvanen in a nutshell.This time I had the honour to have lunch with Terhi Tolvanen from Finland, working in France and easily speaking Dutch because she lived for eighteen years in Amsterdam where she still spends a lot of her time at her ‘Pied-a-terre’ and clearly feels at home!
After finishing her silversmithing study at the Lahti Design Institute in Finland Terhi planned to go for ‘one year’ to the Rietveld Academy of Art in Amsterdam. But stayed for six years connected to that academy, inclusive the Sandberg Institute for two years, and just ‘never left’. 
The Rietveld Academy of Art became a unique experience and a beautiful match to the technical and ‘metal’ background of Terhi. I asked her to what  “it” was that had such an impact on her to decide to stay at the Rietveld Academy? Without any hesitation, she answered clearly “The Dutch Thing”! Of course she then had to explain to me what she meant by that expression. With a smile on her face she easily clarified this by saying “the conceptual way of thinking in combination of feeling free, so free, so immensely free to make exactly that which you want to say. It took me one year to understand this way of thinking, but then I was fully caught by it”. The last two years at Sandberg Institute was the time where everything (skills, vision and interest) came together. It was exactly during that period she started to make jewellery. Her personal vision is identified by the concept which is based on the idea of the impact of culture on nature.
What does your work process look likes?
In her own words, Terhi explained:
“Over the years I have accepted it as it is, it’s a strange one…I know. It starts with an idea in my mind, almost never making drawings or sketches, starting to make the object with my hands. During that process it almost always (!) seems that parts that are made for a specific piece end to become parts of an entirely other piece of jewellery I’ll make. As you can imagine it’s a very slow process, but that’s the way it is. I just need time to think it all over very well. It’s not only about ‘what I would like to make’, but also ‘how to reach it technically that the piece will be wearable’. Probably due to my craftsmanship background I’m destined to make wearable pieces. A necklace has to fit very well. Which means that it can only be made link by link on a ‘model dol’.
The same counts for brooches which can become sculptural, but still they have to fit the way I meant it. This implies that how to fix on clothe is one thing to think of very well”. Looking at her collection it’s easy to see and feel her Scandinavian background. The natural love for nature combined with an extraordinary feeling to express culture to the object in such a modest way is something that I adore.  Not only in her latest collection, but also in her former pieces. Like ‘The ‘Picnic-branch brooch’, dating 2007, which is covered with a motive based on the pattern of the typical hand-towel & the feeling of a pizza baker and picnic-cloth at one time!Due to her craftsmen background I can assure you that objects fit in a lovely way, Amazing! Terhi let me try ‘Chaine Petite’. What a unique oppurtunity to wear a necklace made of pieces of branches set with gemstones and beautiful rough wooden links and clasp. Each and every link with finials of silver or other metal, that amazingly fits perfectly around my neck in one second and gives me the feeling of never wanting to leave me again. Personally I’m so touched by the immense eye and attention for detail accompanied by her amazing feeling for nature and culture influence. The way she works it out, so sturdy, rough and sensitive at the same time. Each and every detail worked out exactly the way it has to be. What a quality!
List of up-coming events, lectures & exhibitions:
December 2011 & spring 2012, Terhi will teach in Finland at the Saimaa University of Applied Sciences (Master of Culture and Arts, Degree Programme in Cultural Entrepreneurship, visual arts)  in Lappeenranta, during this academic year their focus is on jewellery art.
Untill 5 February 2012, Pieces will be on display at Unleashed! Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, Nederland.
21 January 2012, ‘FrontRoom Presentation’, at Galerie Rob Koudijs, Amsterdam. 
11 May untill 23 September 2012,Pieces will be on display at  Unchained, Jewelry without limits. Museum Bellerive, Zürich, Switzerland.
May 2012, “Collect” at Saatchi Gallery London, pieces will be on display at Galerie Rob Koudijs.
March 2013, Solo exhibition at Galerie Rob Koudijs, Amaterdam.
Terhi’s book recommendations:
‘Georg Dobler Schmuck Jewellery, 1980-2010’, €30, ISBN: 978-3-89790-330-2. Terhi recommends this book because of the impressive big gemstones which are used in his jewellery.‘Hanging Around, Manon van Kouswijk’, ISBN: 978-90-804085-5-5. “It’s a great research, a photo collection about ‘pearlschains’ in landscapes and other ‘pearl’ structures in the world as a basis to her own work” says Terhi.
‘Jewellery from Natural Materials’, by Beth Legg, ISBN: 978-07-136827-6-2. “Different jewellery makers for each material”.
And last but not least Terhi recommends the book ‘Dead or Alive’, MAD Museum NY, ISBN: 978-1-890385-20-0. ‘Although it’s not a jewellerybook it’s an absolute wanna have!’, it’s a book of artists whom’s sculptures and installations with natural materials. 

The museum recommendations by Terhi:
Kiasma, Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki, Finland.
Mineral Collection, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris.
The Gulbékian Museum in Lissabon, of course because of the awesome René Lalique collection.
Tate Modern, London. Although there’s no jewellery it’s so beautiful!

This article is published with the courtesy of Terhi Tolvanen, 2011. 



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Margriet Sopers

Margriet Sopers, FGA

Having a diploma in jewellery, FGA and a propaedeutic of the Academy of Art followed-up by interesting years as a jewellery expert at Sotheby's & Gemeentelijke Krediet Bank, as well as being a member for years of the Society of Jewellery Historians, I am glad to share with you today's world of jewellery.

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