Jewelry Journey Podcast
Sofia Bjorkman didn’t intend to create a globally known art jewelry gallery when she opened Platina in Stockholm 20 years ago; she just wanted to have a space where she and her friends could showcase their work. However, Platina quickly became known for its collaborative exhibitions with jewelry artists from around the world. Sofia joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about the history and future of Platina, her own work as a jewelry designer, and why she thinks the global art jewelry community is so tight-knit. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Welcome to the Jewelry Journey. Today, my guest is Sofia Bjorkman, founder and owner of Platina Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. That is really an accomplishment. Sofia is a maker in her own right and a leader in the art jewelry world in Sweden. She’s also on the board of Art Jewelry Forum. Today, we’ll hear all about her jewelry journey. Sofia, welcome to the program.
Sofia: Thank you very, much, Sharon. I’m so happy that you want me to be a part of your program.
Sharon: I’m so glad to have you. Tell us about your jewelry journey. Did you start out in jewelry? Were you always attracted to it?
Sofia: Well, it’s not that I didn’t know much about it when I was a little child, and it wasn’t my plan at all, but when I finished school, I wanted to do art. I went to art school and it was more the basics, like painting and drawing, sculptures. Then I started to work a little bit with interior and wood, more with design. I had in mind that I could be an interior designer or something like that, but then I thought, “I don’t know about metals.” So, I wanted to study metals, and that was when I was around 20. I went to craft school to learn metals and I was hooked. It was there that it all began.
Sharon: So in metals you were doing jewelry, then.
Sofia: I did all kinds of things, bigger sculptures and hollowware, and then I applied to the Konstfack School to study more metal art. They accepted me and I went there for five years. I did a lot of different things there, not only jewelry; I also made bigger things and sculptures. When I graduated, then I started to work full time with jewelry.
Sharon: I’m sorry, I missed what you said. Which school were you attending for five years?
Sofia: It was Konstfact University here in Stockholm, a design university.
Sharon: Were you attracted to art jewelry as a result of your work with crafts and art? Is that what attracted you to art jewelry, as opposed to diamonds and platinum and that sort of thing?
Sofia: Not really, actually. Some people think that I come from the more classical, traditional world of jewelry, that my background is like a goldsmith, but it’s actually the opposite. I came from the art field. I found jewelry as my medium, and I learned goldsmithing on the way.
Sharon: I don’t think I’ve seen your metalwork. I’ve seen your work, but I don’t think anything you’ve done in metal, so I’m surprised to hear you’re a goldsmith. That’s wonderful. Do you ever have a chance to practice that today?
Sofia: I do. I do a lot of orders for people. If they come to me and ask for anything, I make it. I love to practice metals because I’m practicing my skills. Even if I do work in plastics or fabric or whatever, I use the methods and the techniques that belong to the more traditional goldsmithing and silversmithing techniques. It is important for me that I don’t lose the knowledge in the metal crafts.
Sharon: How did you segue to art jewelry? I only know you through the art jewelry world. How did you find art jewelry? What attracted you?
Sofia: When I graduated from art school, I didn’t know exactly what to do. All my friends and my brothers, they started to work with the internet in different ways because that was the thing. It was around the millennium. The big internet companies were growing but I didn’t want to do that, so I thought, “I have to open something to show people what we are making.” I found a space quite central, and then together with two friends from art school, we opened this place. We didn’t call it a gallery, but it became a gallery. We opened more as a studio and a shop, but then we started to make exhibitions and invite other artists to come and show and work with us. In that way, I started the gallery and I have continued—and that was like 20 years ago.
Sharon: That’s interesting. You didn’t say “I’m going to open an art jewelry gallery.”
Sofia: No, it wasn’t like that. It was more like I wanted people to understand what we were making and what jewelry and crafts can be and do. Quite fast people came in, and they wanted to buy our art jewelry and our products. We also understood that if we wanted to be out in the world and work with people from other countries, we could travel, but another way was to invite them to us. So, we started to do collaborations. At that time I went to Los Angeles, actually, and that was fun. That’s how it started; we started to collaborate with people.
Sharon: Why did you come to Los Angeles?
Sofia: It was for the exhibitions. Lisa Berman invited me to have an exhibition in the gallery. That was thanks to her.
Sharon: I know you came to SNAG, the Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference a few years ago and you spoke, right?
Sharon: What else would you like us to know? You’re so well-connected in the art jewelry world. Do you see any differences when you travel in how art jewelry is looked at or perceived compared to Sweden? Can you compare or contrast for us?
Sofia: I think it looks very different in different countries, of course, but I also think the jewelry art field is global in that it’s easy to travel with jewelry. You can bring them with you and travel around the world. If I compare it to other arts and crafts fields, for example, it is more difficult to take your pieces and go and have an exhibition somewhere. I think that is a reason why we in the jewelry art field are traveling a lot and we get to know each other. I don’t want to say it’s a small field, but we know each other. It’s more like a family around the globe, I would say. When I go to another country, they always welcome me with open arms, and I think that is fantastic.
Sharon: It is. It’s very nice.
Sofia: In that way, when we start to work more globally, we come closer to each other, and sometimes it’s difficult to say who is who and who is making what.
Sharon: I like that; the more global we are, the closer we come to each other. That’s really interesting. Where do want to take your business from here?
Sofia: Of course, this Covid economy is very difficult, especially to work internationally because we can’t go and see each other. I think that jewelry is very important to come close to, to touch, to feel. It’s interesting, because when I have exhibitions in the gallery, people come and they want to touch things; they want to try; they want to put it on. Sometimes, when I have people from the more fine art field, they are literally shocked that people are picking up things and starting to touch them. They say, “You don’t do that with art pieces,” and then they understand the difference between jewelry art and other art practices.
Sharon: That’s interesting.
Sofia: Isn’t it? I love that myself, actually, because you can come close. Sometimes it gets more interesting when it comes so close to you that you think, “O.K., now it’s coming maybe too close.”
Sharon: I know Covid has affected things, but it’s not going to go on forever. It may go on longer than some people say, but it’s not going to go on forever. What are your long-term plans for the next three years?
Sofia: I don’t know exactly how it will affect us, because you also have climate change and the impact of that, so we also hear that we shouldn’t fly as much as we do. One positive thing, I think, is if we develop internet networking and these techniques so it’s easier to meet in that way. Maybe when we travel and see each other, we really appreciate it, I hope. But I think it’s a little too early for me to say exactly what’s going to happen. Everything is quite unsure how it will be. I’m not sure it will be as before, but I don’t know exactly.
Sharon: Right, the world is going to change, definitely.
Sofia: It’s going to change.
Sharon: Sofia, thank you so much for being with us today. I know it’s getting on in the evening there, so I really appreciate you taking the time. For everybody listening, that’s it for today’s episode of the Jewelry Journey. Don’t forget we’ll have photos of Sofia’s gallery and some of the work she exhibits. We’ll post those along with the podcast episode. Please join next time when our guest will be another jewelry industry professional sharing their experience and expertise. You can find the podcast wherever you download your podcasts, and please rate us. Thank you so much for listening.