Karolina Stefanska Keshi

Karolina, please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and how you first got interested in making jewelry. What was your initial reaction when you discovered metal clay?

I was born in Krakow in Poland and I luckily still live here today, I love this place - the old king’s capital with all its history and beauty. I graduated from PWST National Academy of Theatre Arts in Krakow and I work in a theatre here as an actress. I was always interested in painting, costumes and scenography, sort of like creating different worlds from scratch. But I was born in times of communism and I still remember how different it was - there were not many things you could buy, if you wanted something different it had to be made. I remember my mother sewing me colorful dresses from dyed diapers, then my friends from first fantasy conventions learning different crafts to make their costumes, all with no access to internet :) When I saw first very unusual store with jewelry made with beading technique I was like 23. It was very expensive so I stood there and watched how this lady took some pliers and with a few moves made a pearl necklace - my first thought was "so easy?! I bet I could do it myself" - that's how it started, I tried beading, strings, stones, all that I was able to find. Searching through internet became my routine and I was really good at it, but also somehow very lucky and by one of those lucky accidents I saw this strange description of some clay that was silver.... I just couldn't believe it, all my childhood was back, everything I ever imagined about jewelry was suddenly possible because I could just make it :) I was obsessed and it never changed, it was just a hobby but I couldn't stop making it. I never took one jewelry class in my life, all I know or ever tried I learned searching through internet, watching, figuring it out myself.

There seems to be many good artists developing in Poland today. Why do you think Poland has so many talented artists?

I'd say a lot of them were here before, they are just being 'discovered by the world' right now ;) My friend Waldo Iłowiecki, was also asked this question many times. We tried to figure it out, talked about how this country may be different. All we came up with was that old traditional crafts are still alive here, lots of families can name a member that was good in some of them, just like a hobbyist unknown to the world. It was natural, coming back to the fact that if you wanted to have something it had to be made, if something broke you don't replace it, you fix it. Maybe it is still alive in our mentality, we use simple tools to create complex designs like when we played with sticks as children, and all we needed was our imagination.

For you, is the creative process, from idea to creation, long or short? Please tell us a little bit about the way that you realize your ideas.

Oh I think I am a bit of a weirdo, very emotional, bouncing easily between euphoric states and grim negativity. So is my process, it tends to differ dramatically, but I can never get it organized :) Usually I talk to someone, who pretends to listen, and suddenly I just know what to do. It's very funny, I always thank those listeners for the idea but they have no clue what I'm talking about ;) Sometimes it takes much longer when I have a glimpse of an idea but it's not finished, so I do nothing, rarely even try to draw it. But after some time, like two months even, here it goes again - I think of something else and suddenly I can see my previous idea completely changed but finally as a whole, completed. That's when I just want to run and start making it, especially if there's a deadline, it gives me additional motivation, but also tends to turn into lots of sleepless nights. I guess normal people take time and can work on something big for half a year, but I rather spend two weeks working nonstop and sleeping 3 hours per day.

Creative expression is obviously very important to you. Why?

No one ever asked me that! I guess it always was just a way of expression to me, whenever I couldn't say something, felt bad about something or just knew there is not one person that would listen, I used to draw it. They say I'm really good in it, that I should've gone to art school and become a painter or a sculptor, but my parents talked me out of it when I was a kid, scaring me to death that it doesn't pay at all and my life will be miserable:) Now at least I know that being an actress is just the same :) But I never really stopped drawing and I think that turned into jewelry making, for example I seem to have a problem with any design that is just a simple flower, just pretty and that's it. I try to find a meaning in every piece I make, even if it's hidden and just for me. That really does not help with selling, trust me ;) But that's what gives me joy.

 As an artist, what is the greatest challenge that you face?

Once I read this quote by D.W Winnicott that described it perfectly: "Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide." So I guess that challenge would be me myself. I had many people asking me why they never saw my work, why I don't show it to everyone, and my thought was "why should I?" that was before I met Waldo Iłowiecki who told me to join all those Facebook groups - yeah it seems he is a very important mentor when it comes to pushing us out there:) That was before some of my friends realized at all that I make this jewelry myself and told me to make a Facebook profile for that, helped to make a decent website - I would still be some unknown hobbyist if it wasn't for Marcin "Lycan" Smolarek and Marcin W. Dąbrowski. Those people taught me to communicate :)

 What is next for you?

Learning how to work! Last few months I'm trying to learn how to actually work at home, to be more organized, stop being such a baby and practice some more instead of just having fun.  I have problems repeating any of my own designs, I get bored immediately and want to make only something new. So the goal would be to find joy in training too. But I bet I will never grow up, always sticking to my favorite Confucius thought about choosing a job you love, so you never have to work a day in your life ;)


You can find Karolina's website here: