Wearing Your Heart On Your Sleeve

Did you know that “arm” means beloved in Estonian? In our first atelier of 2019, TUMO Studios students worked with Estonian jewelry designer Kairi Sirendi to put their own unique spin on our hardest working muscle — the heart. They designed and made heart-themed jewelry with tuff stone, basalt and a wide assortment of different metals. But the atelier wound up exploring so much more than how to create romance-packed pieces of jewelry.

Growing up with an intimate connection with nature, Kairi brought the thematic threads that have so long characterized and threaded together her collections, encouraging her students to convey a sense of tranquility and oneness with their surroundings. This was to be expected, with Kairi consistently delving into the remoteness of isolated, rural areas as a source of inspiration. “From a very early age I’ve always been drawn to forests, finding myself stunned by their sense of peacefulness and their ability to stop time in its tracks,” explained Kairi. This is immediately evident when perusing her work, identifying persistent themes like time and continuity, with her jewelry capturing the importance of little, unseen moments between the individual and the soothing emptiness that envelopes them once they step outside of civilization.

“It’s difficult to put into words, but knowingly or unknowingly Kairi encouraged me to move beyond my own mindset, allowing me to discover a new way of thinking, designing and appreciating design through her words and advice,” recalled TUMO Studios student Argine Torosyan.

We experimented with a lot of different materials, especially tuff stone and obsidian,” described fellow student Lilit Ghazaryan. “The main influence that I took away from her atelier that has shifted my own designs was how she approached materials. For example, she showed some jewelry that she made using mushrooms and fungus and carefully explained how she had processed them and combined them with natural stones. All of that was very inspiring and fresh, challenging us to look outside of traditional materials, create new ones, and find ways to fuse old and new together.”

“I had a really memorable time working with these young designers,” said Kairi. “I hope I was able to introduce them to a different style of design, one where no step is more important than the other, where everything coalesces into a whole.”

The atelier concluded with a host of new pieces, like Argine’s Chain of Hearts. Elliptical and enigmatic, Argine’s heart-themed piece captures the spirit of love while not being bound by any banal strictures of what romantic pieces of jewelry should look like. Her unconventional, yet elegant, neck piece also winds up putting a whole new spin on the expression “wear your heart on your sleeve.” 

“When researching for my project I found this beautiful quote from Leo Tolstoy. ‘If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.’ I liked it so much that I told Kairi that I wanted to use it somehow, maybe by writing it somewhere or using it as the title of my piece. And in the end, whether consciously or unconsciously, my Chain of Hearts, in which each heart is unique, became the expression of that thought,” describes Argine, full of passion.