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Art & Life with Marlena Winiarska

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marlena Winiarska.

Marlena, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in 1962 in Gdansk-Poland. As a child our family moved to North Africa and I attended St. Monica’s School in Malta. That’s where as a teenager I developed an interest and love for Italian Fashion and style in both clothing and jewelry. My first designs were in clothes at the age of 16.

I moved to Vienna to start college and ended up working as an interpreter for Tolstoy Foundation assisting fellow Polish Citizens gain Political Asylum in the US during the period of the Solidarity Movement and Martial Law in Poland. I myself became a political refugee and moved to Arizona in 1982. I played music for a living for a number of years before I returned to my first love – Jewelry. In the 1990’s I started designing and making my first jewelry pieces. I was always fascinated with Turquoise and Pearls. I discovered the Kingman Turquoise Mine and to this day I make regular trips to hand pick my stones. Pearls are my personal favorite though, so most of the pieces I handcraft are in pearls. I am a self taught silversmith, 20 years in the making:) My goal over the years has been to create my own Stems and Gems Brand.

My signature designs are the flower stem motif that I use in most of my ring designs (stems and gems) and my wrapped wire clusters around my tall bezels that crown the gem stones. Even though my work has evolved over the years and has gotten much better IMHO, I stay true to myself, always looking for ideas in my imagination that express my personal esthetic while continuing a cohesive collection. I never stop working, creating, designing and learning. Over the years I have taken advanced workshops in Europe to further my skill, working under the instruction of top college professors and accredited schools.

My unique designs have earned me a featured spot on Modern Living with Kathy Ireland that we filmed in 2016 and it aired on E! Entertainment Network in 2016/2017. The feature provided me with a global platform to share my story, my creations and designs worldwide. Over the years,my work has been on display in many Boutiques, Art Galleries and Museums. The one I am most proud of is the Renwick at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. My other favorite is my own Stems and Gems Jewelry Gallery that I open every Holiday Season at the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale AZ as a Pop Up Business Model. Hope to see you all there!!!

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My Jewelry is not designed to fit in, It is designed to stand out, so dare to wear” That is my tag line, my motto, my mission statement in a way. Everything starts with sterling silver sheet wire and free form gems stones. I design and create statement pieces that I am passionate about, blending these natural stones with modern, European, contemporary design, creating a unique brand of truly one of a kind custom handcrafted jewelry. Since I grew up in Europe and North Africa and later moved to the US, my influences have been from all 3 continents. You may catch a glimpse of something that is influenced by the Arabic and Turkish jewelry in a Suk Shop in North Africa, or my main inspiration that is a blend of the Maltese Cross that has a very specific proportion and the Native American Cross that you would see in a Gallery in Santa Fe. Regardless of shape, they all make a statement and allow my customers to express their individual sense of style. I have a “customer for life philosophy”, so every collection that I create is a continuation of the previous one. This way my customers have become collectors of my work over the years, and every new piece of jewelry perfectly blends with what they already own. My “Convertible Enhancer Bail” is my own invention and my own design detachable bail that allows my customers the flexibility and interchangibility of switching the pieces out to create different looks. My jewelry is the love of my life, and my creations are like the children that I never had, every piece is unique and comes with a lot of love and patience.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
Random question answer: Personally, I isolate intentionally. I like piece and quiet away from everything. That’s when I get most creative. On topic of community building, the Art Shows are a great place to network and meet kindred souls. The rest of my answer in this case is going to be off topic of community building. I don ‘t know that it is necessarily lonely. I would say the more appropriate word would be competitive. We compete against each other to get into a great art show and as artists we compete against the brick and mortar communities of the towns where the art shows take place. I have seen this attitude for a number of years and this is the main reason that I hardly ever participate in Art Shows anymore. Instead I open my own retail location ( a Jewelry Gallery as a store front or a Kiosk at Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale) every holiday Season for the past 3 years.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work is always available thru my website at www.stemsandgems .com I, myself, show at 3 to 4 Art Shows a year, all in Arizona, that I post on my website schedule. I also open a Jewelry Gallery for 2 months over the Holiday Season at the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale. I tour Europe with my work every summer. You can purchase limited items from my collections at the Desert Botanical Gardens in AZ, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, CO., The Renwick/Smithsonian in Washington DC,, Wild Orchid in Santa Fe NM and many other Boutiques, Galleries and Museums in the US and worldwide. My customers can support my work by wearing my art. Unfortunately, my profession is becoming extinct as the Global Marketing Machine seems to have forgotten handcrafted, one of a kind, fine jewelry in favor of mass produced base metal trinkets.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
The photo with Kathy Ireland was taken on the set of Modern Living with Kathy Ireland during my feature segment and interview with Kathy about my work, designs, etc….. The rest of the pics were taken by myself or my boyfriend.

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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