There once was a YouTube video that I had to watch over and over again. It is a cruel, yet at the same time, amazing video of animal loyalty and courage. And when I learned that it was this particular video that inspired the jewelry couple Manya & Roumen when they created their wedding rings, I was immediately intrigued.
When I reached out and asked if I could do an interview with them, they responded with much enthusiasm and very soon it became clear that we had a huge love for animals in common. We have chatted about this love and they not only cherish their pets but activily support a number of charities regarding animal welfare.
Manya is an amazing artist. She studied fine art with an emphasis on printmaking and illustration. She earned her MFa in illustration at the School of Visual Arts, New York City. She travelled to many parts of the world, which of course, inspired her very much. Manya had her illustrations published in 2008, in her first children’s book: Yuki’s Ride Home ( Bloomsbury 2008) which is still available.
When Manya married Roumen, a full time infoeconomics professor, in 2006, the couple decided that it was Manya who would carve the wedding rings. Manya studied wax carving with Alan Brodsky, who is one of the leading jewelry instructors in New York City. And what better way to express the love they had for each other! They both loved art and nature, and Manya made the wedding rings depicting two intertwined buffalos. Inspired by that amazing video that I mentioned earlier. I already saw some of their designs when I did research for other blogs and after I read this story about the buffalo’s I just had to ask them for an interview!
Esther: Your jewelry reflects a huge love for animals, something we have in common ( in fact, my hubby is a vet) How did this start for you?
Manya:I am so excited to hear that you and your husband love and care for animals. We feel that animals are like children. They need humans to look out for their best interests, and pets need and deserve the same love and attention that they bestow upon us. Roumen and I are drawn to animals for their genuineness and beauty.
Esther: The creations of Manya & Roumen are beautiful and exquisite and all handmade. I think there is a very limited amount of jewelry that you produce at any one time. Thus making it even more exclusive. At this moment, where can people buy your jewelry?
Manya: Since opening our gallery, Open Concept, we have decided not to do wholesale in order to keep our prices down and concentrate on customized one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces.
Esther: Are you always creating jewelry according to your own taste and view?
Manya: Yes, because I make what speaks to me and what I love; in fact, if I fall out of love with a piece, we will either not show it or I will go back into the wax and try to fix whatever is bothering me. And although I make what I love, I enjoy collaborating with clients to make unique pieces that they love too.
Esther: Do you like to observe the trends in either fashion and jewelry?
Manya: I do enjoy leafing through fashion magazines, but I am not in touch with trends, I prefer to remain a bit in the dark so that I can better follow my heart and not be influenced by others.
Esther: Are you more an artist that creates jewelry, or a jewelry maker with an artistic view?
Manya: What a fantastic question. Because of my background in Printmaking and ceramics and my love of sculpture (particularly Classical Italian Baroque sculpture like those by Bernini), I like to think that I make mini sculptures that conform to and adorn the body.
Esther: I could imagine that there are a lot of people that love your jewelry but can't (yet) afford them. Will we be seeing some more affordable jewelry lines in the future or a silver line by Manya & Roumen?
Manya: Thank you so much. I hope that there are a lot of people who love our jewelry, that would make me very happy. Because I make what I love, it's hard to say whether others will love the pieces too. But yes, I recently made a silver Swan ring and a silver Bunny ring (in honor of a beloved bunny named Dessi who lived with us for many years).
Esther: So the exciting news is that you have recently opened your own store! How did it go and how exciting was this for you?
Manya: We are riding high. We are so excited that our dream has actually come true, but every day I question myself and my work, which can actually sometimes be beneficial when it makes me push myself and my boundaries and come up with new ideas. For example, up until now, I have been obsessed with rings. I am currently working on cuffs. But the gallery has shown me that many women adore earrings, so I am trying to push myself to design some earrings, which is challenging for me because I have to figure out how to make light-weight three-dimensional pieces that dangle and float.
Esther: Could you have imagined this in 2006? Is it a dream coming true?
Manya:This is absolutely a dream come true. But the idea of opening up a gallery didn't come to us until a little over a year ago, when we realized that many people move to or visit Cold Spring because they appreciate nature, like we do. So we thought; "What better way to remain home more with our pets and not do so many shows around the country?" It seemed perfect, and the community has been wonderfully supportive, so we are thrilled.
Esther: Will we see you both often inside the store yourselves?
Manya: I recently moved a small workbench into the gallery, so I can work from time to time, so I am there sometimes and Roumen, who teaches full-time at a college, usually works weekends.
Esther: Would you consider to expand with more stores in the future and where would that be if the sky was the limit :-)
Manya: Wow, we are so honored that you would think to ask that. The thought actually never crossed our mind right now, we're so obsessed with running one successful gallery!
Esther: You are based in the U.S. For your artistic studies you have travelled abroad a lot to very interesting and inspiring places abroad. Do you consider to expand abroad and if so, which countries would you love to start with?
Manya: Wow! Again, we're honored by your question. To be honest, we feel like we're still figuring out how to run one gallery! But thankfully the gallery is close to NYC, so many of our clients are international, which is exciting for us because it's such an honor for me when my pieces cross cultural boundaries and are perceived as universal and it's fun to talk with people from around the world.