Paper Bliss

The Jewelry of Janna Syvanoja

Paper artist extraordinaire Janna Syvanoja takes on the most overseen and humble materials to create gorgeous one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. Janna’s work also raises questions of recycling and the dilemma faced by artists of how to create beautiful things without getting caught up in the daunting materialism that usually surrounds the fashion industry and creative industries in general. Janna uses found paper, any paper, plain, old, new, or printed newspaper as well as natural materials such as roots, seeds, and horsehair to create flowing and graceful forms that result in bespoke pieces of beautiful jewelry.

Born and raised in Finland, Janna was educated as an interior designer but later evolved into an artist. Although paper is often seen as a fragile material she found that by building it up in layers it becomes strong--as if the paper returned to its original wooden state.  She first started with a desire to explore the unique qualities and the potential of paper as a material, creating different pieces like a screen room divider, amongst other objects which then evolved into jewelry. Making mostly brooches and necklaces she started selling the pieces in the markets to make some extra cash to support her studies, but much to her surprise the jewelry became very popular, and she began to get commissions from galleries. Although the jewelry still remains Janna’s most sought after pieces her work has evolved into larger works of art including sculptures and installations.

In the early 2000s recycling became of important in Finland, and it was almost imperative for artists and designers to create objects that would have a low impact in the environment. In a New York Times interview Janna said her biggest pleasure was to create, “something beautiful, valuable, from something that had been thrown away. Ecology is important to me.”

To create something of value out of something that otherwise would have gone straight to the rubbish bin is a noble accomplishment. Not only does it raise the question about recycling, but it also raises the question about value. Our Western world is exceptionally full of mass-produced clothing and fashion accessories. Fashionable yet disposable, because the goods come at such cheap prices from somewhere in the Far East most likely, it is easy to be lured by yet the newest trend again and again, replacing the one before, a never-ending cycle. Because of the internet and globalization, fashion trends and accessories have adopted a sort of global resemblance, thus when you find a beautiful unique handmade object is hugely valuable.

Working as an artist rather than a designer Janna cuts and folds paper repeatedly and relentlessly, and lets the design unfold intuitively, instead of sketching and thinking of a design before hand. The result: A piece of art. The shell-like shapes are contemporary with a natural feel to them.

“The process of making my recycled paper jewelry pieces, involves a slow, 'natural' technique. By curving each slice of paper around the steel wire, one by one, one after another, it is as if the piece grows into its shape by itself. This way the character of wood, paper's original material, is preserved in the piece— as is also the association to the whole organic world, the way it builds itself, being in constant change, traveling in time. Printed paper has also an additional reality, the information it contains. Now, one can only see separate words and letters that have been transformed into graphical patterns on the surface of the piece. The previous content of the material referred to communication between people—message and expression. A piece of jewelry is worn for the same purpose.”

Janna has managed to exploit the diversity of paper as an artistic medium from the delicate intimacy of paper jewelry to the dynamic impact of flowing sculpture. The necklaces she creates are not just mere jewelry but rather neck-pieces, although wearable, the pieces are irreplaceable and always unique from any other. Although she has been producing the paper jewelry for more than twenty years, Janna remains low-key; she does not have a website, and the pieces are sold exclusively through her exhibitions and in some galleries which carry her work in Europe and in New York City. The necklaces range from $500 to $2000 and are worth every penny. Janna plays an important role in placing the vocabulary of paper as a medium not only within the Finnish artistic expression but an overall influence—an inspiration for new materials usability within our contemporary world.

For more information about Janna Syvanoja, please contact her U.S. representative Charon Kransen, charon@charonkransenarts.com

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