FINDING BASIS

“I know I'm making beautiful things but self-doubt can be a powerful confidence killer.” Enter the world of Zdeněk Vacek, a high-end jeweller, goldsmith and co-founder of the envelope-pushing Zorya brand. In the below interview, Zdeněk introduces his new eponymous label, reveals what is his “seed of peace” when creating, and how jewellery can defy entrenched social rituals.

Since we are focusing on the theme SEED OF PEACE, let’s talk about harmony in design. What part of creating a jewellery collection evokes the most essential feelings of peace in you?

Right off the bat, I think of the first time I ever feel the urge to start creating. Designing collections in regular seasons to create something new again, in my experience, doesn’t really work. I think of collections as a bit of a free-for-all. The need to change, to do something new, in a different and new way, comes from within me, and it’s not completely planned. And then when I think about what direction I want to go in, I start to get excited!

Then comes the next interesting phase. The process of refining the themes and the language that the collection should use to communicate. And then naming the work brings me the greatest peace of mind. That completes the circle. And ironically, it’s only at the end that the original motivation for the collection becomes clear. This was also the case with the Báze (Basis) collection. It was only at the end that I was able to name a very strong need, again, in a new way, to symbolise my own foundation. I’ve relaunched my eponymous brand, I’m building a new structure, we’re forming a new collective and knowing that I can build on my craft is a really reassuring fact.

In the case of custom-made jewellery, it’s a little different, unexpected. When the input comes from the outside. Because the sense of calm comes with the client and their new assignment every time. It’s always great when someone shows interest in your work and in my case, wants to pay a substantial amount for it. Mutual understanding is very important here. Trust is established and we both know where our communication is headed. There is absolute peace in the creation itself when in the flow without boundaries of time and space, I catch the moment “now this is it, now it’s time to stop!”. And the thing in my hands vibrates and radiates into space everything I wanted to weave into it. A very relieving sense of calm is brought to me by the client’s satisfaction. That is the priority. But now it actually occurs to me that above it all, the feeling of peace within me is the most important. When I’m happy with my work, and I have very high expectations of myself, that’s pretty cool.

What challenges do you face as a designer and how do you overcome them to continue to create cutting-edge pieces over the years?

I could answer that every new commission or project is a challenge for me. Discovering new materials, developing them. Learning about new technology. Or to take care of a client a little better. Yes, that’s all true. But these are the obvious things for me that are connected to the production of luxury gold jewellery and other projects with an overlap into the liberal arts. Of course, my daily challenge is to step out of the role of “entrepreneur” and be an artisan and create. My personal struggle is to shift from my naturally elemental setting to the rational one.

The longer-term challenge then is to not copycat myself. I have the advantage of always liking something new and either wanting to be able to do it too or create it, and those are important inputs to my work. It helps me a lot when I see something I haven’t seen before. That awareness alone gives one the power to create novel things. In a different way, from one’s own point of view and perception of the world. Another challenge is to overcome the fear and uncertainty of knowing that what I choose to pursue is the right thing. Especially with freelance work. That it is the most important thing to process right now. And that it will be “good enough”. I mean, I know I’m making beautiful things, but self-doubt can be a powerful confidence killer.

When I’m working on something bigger or more extensive, the challenge is also to keep the initial idea. Not to get distracted somewhere along the way. Again, it’s a relief and peace of mind when the end is what I wanted at the beginning. Though I admit, sometimes I totally miss the mark and an unexpected bombshell results. Something completely different. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

In other words, I’m facing and overcoming only myself all the time.

What do you think sets your brand apart from others in the industry?

I’m not afraid to experiment. I like big challenges, monumental solutions and I put emphasis on the expression of the works. It has crossed my mind a thousand times while designing jewellery that when working with my wonderful partner, we are actually designing architecture. At least that’s how I approach each piece of jewellery. The final scale is not very important.

I don’t know the phrase “but you can’t do it that way”!

People who say something can’t be done totally motivate me to find a way and prove that it is always possible to come to a new solution.

I love improvisation. So often the best ideas come out of limited options.

I decided to make jewellery for people, I don’t do gender. Woman and man are supposed to be equal. My jewellery is worn by people who have chosen it for personal and intrinsic reasons. They identify with something unconventional, unique and different.

There have been dark and challenging times in my life that would put many people down. I’ve had to defend myself to the world on many levels and I think that comes through in my work. I’ve managed to find a way to translate difficult experiences into something beautiful.

I dare say that my clients are drawn to some unspoken experience that they either know personally or perhaps are just beginning to confront. I can sense people and know what suits them. A good friend once told me that he had to mature to wear my jewelry, he needed time. And today he can’t imagine leaving the house without his earrings.

Despite the fact that I make “only” jewellery, I can also consider my work as a kind of small private activism. To make otherness a priority. For example, it still happens that many people are outraged when a man wears earrings. Nowadays?!

And with that comes a big question about – for generations – entrenched rituals that we often don’t even know why we keep them anymore. So many of them are no longer valid in today’s society.

What design elements or details do you think are essential for your work to continue to embrace sophistication while retaining its provocative aspects?

“Luxurious and weird”. This is my personal motto whenever I design.

Luxury for me doesn’t just mean expensive materials. It is first and foremost the time and care of the people who work with me and create the entire Zdeněk Vacek brand.

The word weird helps to capture my purely personality trait. I tend to go over the edge all the time. And that can also be said about pushing the boundaries of my work, whether it’s jewellery or big projects. When you don’t understand at first glance how the jewellery is actually made – I enjoy that a lot! I mean combining precise craftsmanship and the indispensable work of human hands with totally modern contemporary technology.

It’s important for me to define contrast by the legibility of the details. Even though they are tiny, they create the whole, the expression and the final vibe that matters most.

Are there any specific goals or projects you are looking forward to in the coming years?

Currently, I am looking forward to the new silver line Bones, which we will introduce in our studio in Prague’s Vinohrady on October 31, 2023. We have heard a growing demand for this line, which has only been available in gold so far. I believe that this will expand our circle a bit more and bring us closer to the current young scene. The motif of the Bones line evokes the solid and organic structure, the synapses and connections that are created with our customers and supporters. My jewellery is worn by people from all corners of the world and when I imagine this invisible connection… Wow!

Two years ago, we produced a large-scale multi-layered piece called JITKA-PUK-3D-UPM, where we combined video art, precision jewellery-making techniques and cutting edge industrial technology also used in medicine. In doing so, I not only introduced my mom, who makes diamond jewelry in our studio, but I pushed my creative boundary again, away from the jeweller’s workbench. I love this kind of work, but projects like this need to mature and they also need a generous budget. And for this reason, I actually turned down an offer to do a solo show in a 700 square-metre gallery. That’s a very big bite. Last year, we prepared BESPOKE SITUATION – at that time, in our new, 200-metre studio, we presented 24 originals that were created in the last two years.

I’m taking a break from doing things like that. And now I enjoy adding new models to existing collections and especially creating custom jewellery, which is a crucial part of our work. Although, I must admit, I already have ideas in my head for a limited series for adults and its very experimental way of presentation.

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Bio

Zdeněk Vacek is a skilled artisan who crafts bespoke jewellery and produces limited high-end jewellery collections using precious metals and gemstones. He specializes in engagement and wedding rings, one-of-a-kind pieces, and rare objects.

He senses, listens, and observes. With meticulous attention, he creates details that come together to form a complete piece. Vacek defines contrast and possesses a unique altered sense of aesthetics for which he is grateful.

Vacek captures the vibrations of an idea with impeccable craftsmanship. He is captivated by the marriage of traditional methods with the innovations of modern technology and deeply believes in the strength of will.

With two decades of experience as a professional goldsmith under his belt, Vacek co-founded the Zorya brand. For a decade, he and his team of twelve have ventured beyond the confines of their discipline. Vacek doesn’t operate in isolation; he collaborates with trusted individuals who share his core values.

He envisions a horizon where the gold-smith craft integrates with sound, motion, and video, aiming to blur the lines that currently define individual creative domains.

Credits

Designer / Zdeněk Vacek

www.zdenekvacek.com

Instagram /  @zdenek__vacek

Photo collages and photos / @shotby.us

Beach photos / Boodya

Photo of the designer / Václav Jirásek

Interview: Kateřina Hynková @khynko

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