I first became acquainted with Manya & Roumen a few years ago when I wrote this piece on bird jewelry. Their jewelry designs–dimensional, capricious–usually involve animals with character. Animals you might want to spend quality time with.
These seriously enchanting creatures and extraordinary cocktail and wedding rings suggest a timeless, skilled craft. So it may surprise you that Manya Tessler and Roumen Vragov have been designing jewelry for a relatively short time. It wasn’t until 2006, when they decided to design their own wedding rings, that they took a wax carving class from Alan Brodsky. Feedback was so positive, they decided to debut a collection at the JA Show in NYC, and promptly won the Mort Abelson Design Award.
True artists in every sense of the word, their curiosity has led them to open a gallery, Open Concept, in their new hometown of Cold Springs, NY. A collaborative, cooperative environment, the gallery is about sharing not just beautiful art with the public, but is also a place where artists can share ideas and philosophies.
Interview with Manya and Roumen Jewelry
I caught up with Manya recently to get the scoop on their exciting new endeavor and their gorgeous jewels. The following is an excerpt from the full interview on the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group, where they are a member and I am an Editor. Click here for the full interview.
idazzle.com: I’m intrigued by the personality of your individual designs. Manya, you are an illustrator, does the character of your designs start with a drawing then move on to the wax carving?
Manya Tessler: Yes, usually I do a very quick sketch. I keep it loose because I enjoy seeing what happens in the wax once I start carving.
Do you have a favorite among the wearable creatures you’ve designed so far?
I did make a Night Chameleon ring for myself, so he’s probably my favorite so far.
It’s been a whirlwind for you two since you fatefully decided to design your own wedding rings! Do you ever stop to catch your breath and wonder about how quickly things have moved?
Thank you so much for saying that. I guess you’re right, if you look at the big picture, things have moved quickly, but we still have so much we want to accomplish that I often feel like I’m not creating/advancing quickly enough.
The last time I was in touch with you, you still lived in the New York City area. What prompted the move to Cold Spring?
We love nature, and our dogs are happiest when running around on the beach or in the forest. We wanted a slower pace and a supportive community with an inspiring backdrop and access to the city.
What was the impetus for the gallery, and how is it tied to or influenced by your new location?
Through the shows that we have done, we have met so many amazing artists. We wanted to settle down in Cold Spring and make it our home, and traveling with all of our pets was difficult, as was fitting in travel time with Roumen’s full-time teaching job. So we thought, ‘Why not create a gallery where we could show our work and the work of other artists?’
How do you fit in time for jewelry design? Has this taken any focus away from your own work?
You’ve hit the nail right on the head. It has taken focus away from my own work, but I feel that creativity ebbs and flows for me, so this is just a downtime. I do still get into the studio on days that the gallery is closed, but I do feel the pressure of time. Sometimes downtime is productive—our evening walks and trips to the farm are inspiring.
What direction of jewelry design are you finding exciting right now?
I’m working on some bird cuffs which I’m really excited about.
Are you excited by delving into a new jewelry category, or the design theme—or both?
I’m excited about both delving into a new category of jewelry—it’s a bigger canvas in a way—and also the birds themselves. I feel I have more room to express the details, emotions, and movement of the birds, and the arm lends itself to the movement of something flying up or around it. The arm itself also moves, so it literally propels the bird around. The cuffs themselves will be hinged, so that is one more element of movement. I’m really excited to see how they turn out!
Can’t wait to see! Do you still love the wedding rings that started this whole crazy jewelry ride?
To be honest, I haven’t even made mine yet, and since Roumen’s was one of the first rings I ever made, I am not satisfied with it anymore. I actually want to make him a new one someday.
That statement really shows that you are a true artist—that there is always work to be done, improvement to be made…
What’s next for Manya & Roumen?
We’re preparing to debut our new bridal collection, so that’s pretty exciting and new for us.
Thank you so very much for your interest in our work and gallery, Monica.
Thank YOU, Manya, for sharing your world with us! I love the collaborative nature of their new gallery. You can find Manya and Roumen’s work at their Open Concept gallery space in Cold Spring, NY, and a few select ateliers around the country, see their website for more information.