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by Ron and Barbara Marshall  

 


In Poland the family name "Zaremski" is synonymous with the best of modernist jewelry design. Marcin Zaremski (1951- ) is heir to this artistic tradition and Poland’s design cognoscenti know of at least one of his three "METAL" retail stores in Warsaw. The author caught up with Marcin Zaremski (who speaks Polish and French) and his assistant Miss Bartosik (who fortunately speaks English) at his combination jewelry store-café in Warsaw’s "Old Town."

RM: I’ve been collecting your jewelry for several years so it’s a great pleasure to finally meet you.

MZ: It's my pleasure.

RM: Let's start at your artistic beginnings. How much influence did your father and mother, Jerzy and Jadwiga (both goldsmiths), have on your choice of a career? Did you always know that you would be a jeweler?

MZ: Oh, yes. Even though I was schooled as an interior decorator at Warsaw’s Academy of Arts, I guess it was inevitable that I would end up a jeweler. Remember, I grew up in my parent's Swarzewska Street workshop in Warsaw. My father was completely self-taught…he viewed his ability as a practical talent, sort of a combination of clock making and blacksmithing. My parents loved what they did and that was contagious. As you might expect, both of my brothers, Łukasz and Tomasz, also design and make jewelry.

RM: Is it true that in the late 1940s your parents scavenged material from scrap metal dumps to make jewelry and other art objects?

MZ: That's absolutely true. My father also went to the local bazaars to find silver spoons and forks. Under communist rule it was difficult to get precious metals. Gold was completely unavailable.

RM: How did life under communism affect your work?

MZ: Even up until the 1990s in order to get silver to make my jewelry, I'd have to send a letter either to the Ministry of Culture & Art, Ministry of Trade or the Society of Artists.  I'd usually wait for three months and would eventually only get 2 or 3 kilograms of silver for the whole year. This was typical of shortages under the communist rule. Fortunately, the communists viewed supporting athletes, actors and artists a good public relations move because it showed that they were "forward thinking." Today it’s great [laughing]…I call a company and I get all of the silver I need the next day.

Marcin Zaremski
Rings
Amber and Sterling silver 

RM: What are your sources of artistic inspiration?

MZ: Like most artists, I’m constantly inspired…I get inspiration from nature of course-- the leaves of a tree I saw in Thailand, the roofline of a row of houses in Italy, or something as dull as a tile floor. This bunched-up fabric on the sleeve of her blouse [pointing to our interpreter] just caught my eye. It's a very interesting pattern. I still have about 1,500 pieces of my parent's jewelry and recently I've been looking at them for inspiration.

Marcin Zaremski
Pins
Sterling silver

RM: Those pieces must be a very satisfying personal connection to your parents.

MZ: Well, they have taken on great sentimental value to me. I could never sell them. Perhaps it will be exhibited someday--my parent’s jewelry displayed with that of all the sons.

RM: It’s wonderful that your parent’s designs are still inspiring you. Are there any jewelers you particularly admire today?

MZ: Hmmm...In France there's Francoise and Claude Chavent. In Germany, Christina Langes and Hans Ufer...[laughing]...they like my jewelry too so that's a bonus! I really admire Hermann Jünger, he's been around for a long time but he's always doing something new. Jünger's still developing and I think that's marvelous.

RM: Would you consider yourself a modernist jewelry designer? 

MZ: What is modern? It's funny because I remember people coming into my parent's workshop and telling them how "modern" their jewelry was and as they were saying that I was bringing in a bucket of coal for the furnace [laughing], so our daily life certainly didn't seem very "modern." But in hindsight I see how well designed my parent's jewelry was in a communist Poland where everything else, even the buildings, seemed so poorly designed. This design instinct was all the more remarkable because my parents had virtually no contact with others of their kind…they were artistically isolated. They claimed to take their artistic cues from the "villages" -- you would call it "folk art."  But, their interpretations of these motifs could certainly be viewed as modern. I admit that I have a great love of modern architecture and engineering and that certainly carries over into my designs.

Marcin Zaremski
Three pins
Sterling silver

(photo courtesy of Marcin Zaremski)

Marcin Zaremski 
Pin
Sterling silver

 

RM: Isn’t your use of amber a recent phenomenon?

MZ: Yes, well amber is not highly thought of within Poland. It is considered, you have a word for it, "kitschy," but some American and German tourists complained to me about the awful amber jewelry being sold here in Warsaw so I gave it some thought and came up with some designs that I think are quite good. I only sell things that I sincerely believe are well designed.

Marcin Zaremski
Pin
Sterling silver and amber

Marcin Zaremski
Parure
Amber and Sterling silver wire

Marcin Zaremski
Collar
Amber and Sterling silver

RM: One of your jewelry lines makes use of inlaid ebony and rosewood. You may know American studio jewelers frequently used these materials in the 1950s. Wood was considered an "honest" material because it had little intrinsic value.

MZ: That's interesting. I think using wood is a fantastic idea. In the 1970s I saw an exhibition of Bauhaus jewelry. Some of the pieces displayed made use of ebony so I tried it myself. Those designs have now become consistent sellers. About the same time I started making the geometric, architectural shapes that you seem to like, that has been a line I've continued and always try to have available in my shops.

Marcin Zaremski
Cufflinks and Tie bar
Sterling silver and amber

RM: Your silver hallmarks are quite curious. Can you explain them?

MZ: Sure, obviously the second and third marks are what you need explained. The second cipher is "M" for Marcin superimposed over my parent’s mark, a "zJz" cipher. The third mark is my "eye" (laughing) winking at you telling you to "love life."

Marcin Zaremski
Maker's mark

RM: When are you coming to America?

MZ: Maybe in the coming year, perhaps for a jewelry show in Las Vegas.

RM: I wish you great success!

MZ: Thank you!

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Marcin Zaremski's three shops in Warsaw are located at:

00-272 Warszawa, Rynek Starego Miasta 8, Telephone (22) 831-6481

00-020 Warszawa, Ulica Chmielna 32, Telephone (22) 827-4509

00-499 Warszawa, Plac Trzech Krzyzy 10/14, w budynku ING, Telephone (22) 627-2363

The staff at Marcin Zaremski's "Metal" shops can be contacted via e-mail at marcin@zaremski.pl  and the website address is www.zaremski.pl.

The author would like to thank his daughter, Blythe Marshall, for her help with selected photographs.

Article by Ron Marshall
Photos courtesy of Blythe Marshall, Marcin Zaremski, and Marbeth Schon

Web design by Marbeth Schon
www.mschon.com

 Copyright ©  Ron Marshall and Modern Silver magazine 2005
    
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