In Conversation with Piret Hirv

In English/Eesti Keeles


Piret Hirv at her bench, photo: Urmas Lüüs
Piret Hirv at her bench, photo: Urmas Lüüs

Piret Hirv is one of the standard-bearers of Estonian jewelry. International audiences will identify her as part of the trail-blazing õhuLoss collective, and will know her powerfully melancholy low-reliefs in silver: paper-thin silver shrouds draped over passing souls.

I met Piret on a trip to Estonia in November 2015, in a studio that typifies the Estonian esprit de corps: She shares a space with Eve Margus-Villems and Kristiina Laurits, in a building that once belonged to the goldsmith Joseph Kopf but was taken over by the Soviets when they occupied Estonia. After Estonia restored its independence, it was purchased back from the government to be given over, once more, to independent makers. Piret is on the third floor and Tanel Veenre has a studio on the second, while some of the younger alumni from the Estonian Academy of Arts, including Urmas Lüüs, occupy a studio on the first floor. This model of vertical integration may explain why we still think of Estonian work as a single body of work, and forget that it is created by very different makers. Urmas Lüüs’s practice, for example, combines metalwork and jewelry with staged performance. Urmas was kind enough to respond to an invitation to walk up two flights of stairs and interview his erstwhile teacher.
—Benjamin Lignel

Urmas Lüüs: Where do you come from, what is your current position, and how long have you been working in this field?

Piret Hirv: I come from Tallinn and I have lived here all my life. After high school I studied first clothing construction and after that jewelry and metal art in at the Estonian Academy of Arts. At the moment I’m a docent in the same department.

Talk about your artistic coming-of-age. Why and how jewelry? Who and what have been the strongest influences?

Piret Hirv: This decision to commit to jewelry was made quite randomly. During my spiritual searches, I could have chosen another place, but a friend told me that the metal art department was the school’s best. Then Kadri Mälk started to lead the department, jewelry shifted into focus and stayed there. From that moment on, everything was in its right place. I felt another shift a few years later in Geneva at the École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués with Esther Brinkmann. I started to see my home school, the Estonian Academy, from a distance and sense my own reflection mirrored in the wider world. But important influences came also from my fellow students, who were the companions on this rough road.

It feels like your pieces have no excessive forms or lines. What is the relationship between haphazardness and sketching?

Piret Hirv: I am not a good planner. For me it’s really hard to stick to the plan. But at the same time I cannot say that everything happens accidentally. There’s a feeling that has no shape in the beginning. The shape starts to form as I move back and forth between that vision and the physical act of making, in search of the right shape. It goes on until that feeling gets satisfied. Until you feel some kind of precision. Accidents play a big role, but they are sort of planned accidents. You have to make your plans so that this kind of accident can happen. To form a platform. But you cannot forget the accuracy. It is very important to hit the right moment.

Do you believe in inspiration, and how do you get your ideas? Any special techniques?

Piret Hirv: Yes! But it will not come to you just by waiting. You have to be ready. There has to be some kind of energy that forces it. That helps you jump over your own shadow. If you can recognize what really touches you, then you know where to search for inspiration. You will wait on the right crossroad. If one says that he does not believe in inspiration, it means that he can work and concentrate without extraneous stimuli. Inspiration can be just a gust of wind that makes you guess where it could carry you.

Piret Hirv, One Straw, 2015, brooch, silver, 120 x 70 x 10 mm, photo: Tanel Veenre
Piret Hirv, One Straw, 2015, brooch, silver, 120 x 70 x 10 mm, photo: Tanel Veenre

We both have practiced archery. I sense emotionally some connections between your pieces and archery. Do you also feel it, or it is just my imagination?

Piret Hirv: Maybe yes. I’m not sure if that kind of things affects you so strongly. Sport is more focused on technique. You define your activities through competition. But now for me hitting the target is not as important as the effort and release are. Sensing the presence and distance. Sensing your own body and capabilities. Sensing the readiness. The moment of the release, letting it go. If I had seen it like that when I was a teenager, it would have been a much more mature experience. At the moment I’m aiming with my senses. Which in the end is exactly the same thing.

You tend to use mostly silver. Quite a classical choice. Why silver? How do you choose your materials?

Piret Hirv: I would rather not classify materials as “old” and “new.” “Why” and “how” are much more important. It can be very touching, if something unbelievably effective is done out of something totally obvious. We are looking for the extraordinary, but I feel that the singularity of materials is hidden somewhere else.

Your silver pieces with fragments of hands and faces feel like they have a light connotation to shrouds. How would you define the represented figures? Are they dead people, souls, or something else?

Piret Hirv: Wow, I have never seen so simple a connection myself. I think they might be the imprints of my visions that do not exist in the real world. Or low-reliefs of my fantasy. Nonphysical traces from an immediate past. These thin sheets give you an idea of that past. I could compare them with photography. Other people see just an image, but I have been in that place myself. I remember the smells and sounds. And if the piece is expressive enough, then maybe also others can sense it.

Some of your silver pieces have an extremely fragile white layer. So impermanent that you have to touch them with gloves. How important is wearability for you?

Piret Hirv: Not at all. At least not physical wearability. Your soul can also wear it. And it does. It gives a totally different meaning to things that are prickly or wear out or break easily.

Piret Hirv, Untitled, 2006, brooch, yellow gold, white gold, electrum, 30 x 65 mm, photo: Tiit Rammul
Piret Hirv, Untitled, 2006, brooch, yellow gold, white gold, electrum, 30 x 65 mm, photo: Tiit Rammul

How much do you think about the afterlife and new owners of your works? How do you feel about the ownership, when you see a stranger wearing your piece? It is still your spiritual child, but you have no control anymore what happens to it.

Piret Hirv: I think about that “afterlife” more and more as time passes. But sometimes I even feel a wish to get rid of some pieces, so that they will not block new ideas.

What is Estonian jewelry? How does one recognize it? Any specific characteristics? Does this question make sense to you at all?

Piret Hirv: Locations influence creativity less and less the more people travel around. They export and import. I like to think that there are theologians and philosophers in the West, poets and icon painters in the East. We are between those two, but keep rather closer to poets and icon painters with our mentality. The West is in linear movement, one thing changes into another. What I do today is forgotten tomorrow. Must go on. But the local land is filled with gold dust. Existing is already filled with reasons to continue making jewelry. You just have to learn how to see and reevaluate. You have to learn how to find the same little grain of gold again and again. And geographical location is very important for that.

It looks like you have never wanted to enter the main stage of European contemporary jewelry, but rather have investigated what happens on the periphery. Why? What’s happening there?

Piret Hirv: If somebody or something turns into a myth, then it creates currents, which moves large masses of water. Centers are like low-pressure areas that get filled with cyclones. But trenches stay rather untouched. Like peripheries. These are the areas where you can find the genuine stuff.

In the countryside, where we are used to go with my friends, lives an old lady who has never gone beyond the forest around her home for all of her 83 years. She lives in the same rhythm with the rain, snow, wind, and sun. She can predict weather, speaks the languages of birds and animals. She has seen how trees grow and disappear. Remembers all of the hundred or so persons who have visited her during her lifetime. Time and space are their own being in the periphery.

Piret Hirv, Presence, 2011, brooch, silver, 55 x 140 x 18 mm, photo: Tanel Veenre
Piret Hirv, Presence, 2011, brooch, silver, 55 x 140 x 18 mm, photo: Tanel Veenre

How much do you still doubt if jewelry is the right thing for you? Do you get bored of it sometimes and look for new mediums?

Piret Hirv: Sometimes yes, but if you have worked though some specific theme for yourself, then the final medium is not so important anymore.

You have quite a lot of experience both as an artist and as a teacher. What are the directions of contemporary jewelry now?

Piret Hirv: I think that the biggest danger is when students learn how to speak one specific language. They learn how to make contemporary jewelry and what contemporary jewelry should be. The most interesting projects and makers for me are the ones who don’t take the contemporary jewelry field into consideration while working. Mongrels, independent ones, outlaws. I like when people have their own reasons and ways to do things. Ones who get water from the ground with their own roots, not from other people. It’s totally understandable that strong figures create their own circle. Those who are able to exist outside that circle charm me with their honesty and wholeness.

You almost never give any answers as a teacher, but rather give hints until the students find the answers themselves. What are the most important things that you want to give to them, before they enter the big world?

Piret Hirv: An interest in searching and the belief that finding is possible. The ability to see through and beyond things. An acceptance of the tough fact that hard work may not end up with the desired outcome, and the persistence to start from the beginning. Empathy.

Could you give a small sneak peek into your current interests? What are you reading, researching, keeping your eye on?

Piret Hirv: There are many books gathered on my nightstand. Universe and man. Journey to the end of the world. Arabic temples. Diaries of the creation. Paths of the Orient. In a funny way you could say that I keep my eyes on the creation of the world. I have a strong pull for perceptibility and imperceptibility both in the sense of time and space. For the things that are out of my reach. Singularity is not interesting me so much anymore as things that we have in common.

Translated from the Estonian by Urmas Lüüs

* * *

Piret Hirv at her bench, photo: Urmas Lüüs
Piret Hirv at her bench, photo: Urmas Lüüs

Urmas Lüüs: Kust sa pärined, milline on sinu praegune tööalane positsioon ning kui kaua oled sa sellel väljal töötanud?

Piret Hirv: Olen pärit Tallinnast ja siin kogu aja elanud. Peale kooli õppisin esmalt rõivaste konstrueerimist, seejärel Eesti Kunstiakadeemias metalli- ja ehtekunsti. Praegu olen samas ehtekunsti dotsent.

Räägi veidi oma kasvamisest kunstnikuks. Miks just ehtekunst? Kes ja mis on sind sel teel enim mõjutanud?

Piret Hirv: Eriala valik pühenduda ehtekunstile toimus üsna juhuslikult. Vaimu otsingutel oleksin võinud sattuda ka mujale, kuid sõber mainis, et metallieriala on ülikooli parim. Siis asus Kadri Mälk eriala juhtima, ehe nihkus fookusesse ja jäigi. Kõik oli korraga paigas. Kui mõni aasta hiljem Genfi École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués´i Esther Brinkmanni juurde läksin, toimus teine nõks. Hakkasin nägema kodukooli eemalt ja enese peegeldust muu maailma taustal. Aga mõjutanud on ka kaaslased, kellega koos oleme läbi võsa ragistanud.

Näib nagu su töödel pole ühtki ülearust vormi ega joont. Milline on juhuslikkuse ja läbiplaanituse vahekord tööde loomisel?

Piret Hirv: Olen vilets planeerija, väga raske on plaanidest kinni pidada. Samas ei saa öelda, et midagi tekiks juhuslikult. On tunne, mil pole alguses mingit kuju. Kuju hakkab tekkima kujutluse ja teo vahelises edasi-tagasi proovimise käigus. Kuni tunne rahule jääb. Kuni tekib teatav täpsus. Juhuslikkusel on väga suur roll, aga see on pigem teatav planeeritud juhuslikkus. Plaane peab tegema nii, et juhused saaksid juhtuda. Loob platvormi. Aga ei tohi unustada täpsust. Tabamise moment on väga oluline.

Kas sa usud inspiratsiooni ja kuidas sa jõuad oma ideedeni? On mingeid tehnikaid?

Piret Hirv: Jah! Aga niisama oodates ta ei tule. Sa pead olema valmis. Mingi energia peab olema, mis asja käima lükkab. Mis aitab sul oma varjust üle hüpata. Kui panna tähele seda, mis tõsiselt puudutab, tead, kust inspratsiooni otsida. Millisel teeristil oodata. Kui keegi ütleb, et ta inspiratsiooni ei usu, siis ta ilmselt mõtleb sellega, et suudab töötada ja keskenduda ilma kõrvalise stiimulita. Võib-olla on inspiratsioon tuule tõmme, millest võib aimata, kuhu ta kanda võib.

Me oleme mõlemad tegelenud vibulaskmisega. Tajun teatavat emotsionaalset sidet su tööde ja vibulaskmise vahel? Kas ka sina tajud seda või on see lihtsalt mu enese kujutlusvõime vili?

Piret Hirv: Võib küll olla. Ma ei tea, kas sellised asjad nii tõsiselt mõjutavad. Spordis on rõhk küll rohkem tehnikal, tegevust mõtestatakse läbi võistluslikkuse. Enam pole tabamine nii oluline kui pingutus ja vabanemine. Kohaloleku ja distantsi tajumine, iseenda keha ja võimete tajumine. Valmisoleku hetke tajumine. Päästmise hetk, minnalaskmine. Kui oleksin osanud siis sellise pilguga vaadata, oleks tookordne kogemus küpsem. Praegu sihin pigem meeltega. Mis on ju lõpuks seesama.

Piret Hirv, After Rain, 2013, brooch, silver, 140 x 27 x 13 mm, photo: Tanel Veenre
Piret Hirv, After Rain, 2013, brooch, silver, 140 x 27 x 13 mm, photo: Tanel Veenre

Sa kasutad peamiselt hõbedat. Küllaltki klassikaline valik. Miks just hõbe? Kuidas sa valid endale materjale?

Piret Hirv: Ma ei tahaks materjale hinnata uuteks või vanadeks. Oluline on pigem, miks ja kuidas. Võib olla väga liigutav, kui millestki iseenesestmõistetavast loodu on enneolematult mõjus. Otsime erakordset, aga mulle tundub, et materjalide erakordsus peitub mujal kui enamasti arvatakse.

Sinu hõbelehtedest töödel on teatav peen surilinalik konnotatsioon. Kuidas sa ise neid figuure tõlgendad? On need surnud, hinged või miskit muud?

Piret Hirv: Nii lihtsa seose peale pole ma tulnudki. Mõtlen, et need võiksid olla tõmmised kujutlustest, mida füüsiliselt olemas ei ole. Või kujutluse reljeefid. Olnul pole ju enam füüsilist keha. Õhuke leht võiks sellest aimu anda. Kohati ma võrdleks neid töid fotoga. Vaataja näeb kaadrit, aga sina oled olnud selles kohas. Mäletad lõhna ja heli. Ning kui on piisavalt kõnekas pilt, siis tajub seda ehk ka vaataja, kes seal olnud ei ole.

Osad su tööd on kaetud nii õrna valge oksiidiga, et neid saab katsuda vaid kinnastega. Kui oluline on sinu jaoks ehete puhul kantavus?

Piret Hirv: Mitte üldse. Vähemasti mitte ainult füüsiline kantavus. Ka hing võib kanda. Kannabki. See annab teistsuguse tähenduse asjadele, mis torgivad või kuluvad või ei pea vastu.

Kui palju sa mõtled oma tööde järelelule ja uutele omanikele? Kuidas sa tunnetad omandit, kui keegi võõras jalutab su ehet kandes vastu? Ometigi on need ju su oma vaimsed lapsed, kelle üle oled nüüd kaotanud igasuguse kontrolli.

Piret Hirv: Mida edasi, seda rohkem. Kohati mingite töödega on lausa soov neist lahti saada, et ei jääks järgmistele töödele ette.

Milline on Eesti ehe? Kuidas seda ära tunda? Mingeid eripäraseid iseloomujooni? Või kas sellise küsimuse esitamine tundub sinu jaoks üldse mõttekas?

Piret Hirv: Ajapikku mõjutab asukoht inimeste loomingut üha vähem, mida rohkem rännatakse ringi. Viiakse välja ja tuuakse sisse. Mulle meeldib mõtelda, et läänes on teoloogid ja filosoofid ning idas on luuletajad ja ikoonimaalijad. Me oleme nende kahe vahel, aga pigem kaldume oma mentaalsusega luuletajate ja ikoonimaalijate poole. Üks variant on läänelik lineaarne mõtteviis, üks asi vahetub millegi teise vastu. Mis ma täna teen on juba homme unustatud. Pean minema edasi. Aga meie kohalik jalgealune on kullaliiva täis. Põhjus miks ehteid teha on selles olemasolevas juba sees. Sa pead lihtsalt õppima nägema ja ümber mõtestama. Õppima leidma seda ühte kullatera üha uuesti ja uuesti. Ja geograafiline asukoht on selleks väga oluline.

Piret Hirv, Breath, 2008, objects, rock crystal, 50 x 60 x 35 mm, photo: Tiit Rammul
Piret Hirv, Breath, 2008, objects, rock crystal, 50 x 60 x 35 mm, photo: Tiit Rammul

Paistab nagu sa pole väga üritanud tungida Euroopa kaasaegse ehte pealavadele vaid pigem uurid ja uudistad ääremaid. Miks? Mis perifeerias toimub?

Piret Hirv: Kui kellestki või millestki saab müüt, tekivad hoovused , mis liigutavad suuri veehulki. Keskused on nagu madarõhkkonnad, mis täituvad keeristega. Samas sügavik, nagu äärealadki, püsivad suuresti puutumata. Sealt võib leida ehedat kraami. Maal, kus sõpradega käime, on naabrimemm, kes pole oma 83 eluaasta jooksul kodumetsast kaugemal käinud. Ta elab samas rütmis vihma, lume, tuule ja päikesega. Ennustab nende järgi ilma, teab lindude-loomade keeli, on näinud metsade kasvamist ja kadumist ning mäletab kõiki sadakonda inimest, kes tema ajal külast läbi on käinud. Perifeerias on ajal ja ruumil oma olemine.

Tihti sa veel kahtled, kas ehtekunst on ikka õige väljund? Kas sa vahel ka väsid ehtest ning otsid uusi väljendusvõimalusi?

Piret Hirv: Vahest jah, aga samas kui sa oled mingi teema läbi seedinud, siis pole lõplik väljendusvahend enam nii suure tähtsusega.

Sul on päris palju kogemusi nii kunstniku kui ka õppejõuna? Millised on hetkel kaasaegse ehte tendentsid ja huvitavamad suunad?

Piret Hirv: Kõige ohtlikuma asjana ma näen seda, et õpitakse ära mingi kindel keel. Õpitakse viise kuidas teha kaasaegset ehet ja mis see kaasaegne ehe peaks olema. Minujaoks kõige huvitavamad projektid ja tegijad on need, kes ei arvesta kaasaegse ehte väljaga. Segaverelised, sõltumatud, lindpriid. Mulle meeldib kui inimestel on oma põhjused ja oma viis asjade tegemiseks. Inimesed, kes imevad mahla oma enda juurtega, mitte teistest inimestest. On arusaadav, et iga tugeva tegija ümber tekivad koolkonnad. Kes suudavad eksisteerida nendest koolkondadest väljaspool võluvad oma aususe ja terviklikkusega.

Õppejõuna annad sa vähe vastuseid vaid pigem juhatad vihjetega tudengid õigele rajale. Mis on kõige olulisemad asjad ja tööriistad mis sa soovid oma tudengitele eluks kaasa pakkida?

Piret Hirv: Huvi otsida ja usku leidmise võimalikkusesse. Oskust läbi näha.

Leppimist tõsiasjaga, et töö ei pruugi viia oodatud tulemuseni ja püsivust, et uuesti alustada. Empaatiat.

Kas sa annaksid vihjeid, millega sa hetkel tegeled/töötad? Mida loed, uurid või hoiad pilku peal?

Piret Hirv: Kapile on kogunenud hunnik raamatuid. Universum ja inimene. Teekond maailma ääreni. Araabia templid. Loomise päevikud. Orienditeekond. Naljaga võiks öelda, et hoian maailma loomisel pilku peal. Tajutaval ja tajumatul perspektiivil nii ajalises kui ruumilises mõistes on tugev tõmme. Sellel, mis jääb käehaardest väljapoole. Erilise asemel olen hakanud otsima pigem ühist.


  • Urmas Lüüs

    Urmas Lüüs is an Estonian artist who combines installations, performance, sound art, video, photography, and sculpture into one big breathing organism, where jewelry forms its heart. He is a lecturer at the Estonian Academy of Arts, mostly concentrating on topics of space, interdisciplinary approach, performing body, installation art, and technological theater connected with jewelry and metal art. Urmas is the Estonian representative of AJF’s Ambassadors program.

Similar Entries
Scroll to Top