For over a decade, Pinar Kaya De Biasio enjoyed a stable career as a psychologist, until a more creative path began to beckon. Evening classes in jewellery-making at Morley College gradually evolved into a full-time vocation, culminating in the launch of Shoreditch-based fine jewellery brand Pikaya Jewellery in 2023, notable for its ethical practices and sculptural, fluid pieces.
By pursuing jewellery-making, the Turkish born designer is flouting a long-standing family tradition; for generations, only the men in Pinar’s family trained as jewellers, believing workshops to be an unfit place for the so-called fairer sex.
Proving that women are not only capable of getting their hands dirty in the workshop environment but also excelling in it, Pinar has been chosen for Shine 2023, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual showcase of the most promising new talent in the jewellery and silversmithing industries. We recently spoke to her about her impressive career trajectory so far.
What first attracted you to a career as a maker, and how did you get started in the industry?
I come from a family of jewellers. Many of the men in my mother's family were traditional jewellers. We’ve always been the type of family that if someone hands one of us a piece of jewellery, a brooch for example, we take it in the back to see how it’s constructed, how it’s made, the craftsmanship. Or say if someone's entering the room, the first thing we focus on is the jewellery the person is wearing. So although I didn’t learn the craft directly from family members, we’ve always had this culture in our family.
Jewellery making was regarded as a man’s job. We were taught that women shouldn’t be working in dirty workshops and ruining our nails, so we weren’t encouraged to take up these skills from the men in our family; we were directed to other occupations. So initially, I studied psychology, and I worked as a psychologist for over a decade, but I always had this desire to be creative, and always loved making things with my hands. So at one point, I started taking some evening courses at Morley College. Makers will understand that if you're a maker and start making, there is no going back from there. So little by little, it really claimed my life!
First, I was a part time jeweller, part time psychologist, and now I’m probably a full time jeweller. The two professions have a little bit in common - for both you need to be a good listener, to be able to observe people and everything around you, and also to be patient. So I don’t feel I came to this craft completely empty handed - I was prepared, in a way.
Where are you based at the moment?
I'm renting my bench space from another jeweller Tomasz Donocik, and we are based in Shoreditch, in the heart of creative London, basically, just half an hour from Hatton Garden where most of the jewellery production in London happens. I'm sharing this workshop with three other wonderful jewellers and we have a little community here, which is really nice.
I closed my home workshop after lockdown. It was amazing to have a creative space at home, but after lockdown, once everyone started to return to offices, I wanted to return to workshop life. What I really love about sharing a workshop is that you can always learn skills from each other and inspire each other.
Can you tell us a bit about the collection you'll be debuting at Shine 2023?
I'll be exhibiting my In Flow Collection at Shine 2023. My In Flow pieces are fluid, sculptural, and tactile, and the inspiration for these fluid shapes came from liquid lipstick.
It all started with a happy accident. I dripped liquid lipstick onto a piece of paper, and found that I quite liked the shapes that were forming. I started experimenting with dripping different kinds of liquids. It started with liquid lipstick and then it moved on to nail polish, melted wax and paint. Then I started distorting the shapes and playing with the idea, using repetition or changing the scale. I made shapes five to ten times bigger and looked at how they interacted with each other. I used this as a basis to start drawing, and once I was happy with the shapes I created, I started making paper versions of the jewellery and trying them out on my body. Sometimes I would also make 3D versions of the pieces in soft clay. Finally, I’d carve the shapes in hard blue wax. I used the ancient jewellery-making technique of lost wax casting, and got the wax casted in recycled sterling silver.
I started this collection during the first few weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown in London, and interestingly back then, although it is unimaginable now, liquids in any form were seen as terrifying, and we were advised to keep away from them. So somehow, I turned fluids into very bold pieces of jewellery. We were all forced to stay in our houses, we were isolated, but my fluid shapes were trying to get out of the house and make connections with other people. So this is how the collection started. It was also a time when everyone was stockpiling and panic buying. So of course, I went through this phase as well, and when everyone else was buying bread makers, I bought a wax carving kit! I was still a psychologist at that time, working at a school, and since the schools had closed, I had all this extra time on my hands to teach myself wax carving. The whole collection evolved from there.
What have you learned from the process of planning and creating your collection?
I discovered while designing this collection that every piece in the collection needs to fit together harmoniously, they need to compliment each other whilst still being diverse. For example, a collection needs to have a showstopper statement piece, but also more commercial pieces that will be best sellers, too. Without both of these things, it’s not going to be a strong collection.
When designing this collection, I also played with scale a lot. If you make a piece that isn’t very noticeable ten times bigger, it can become a showstopper. So experimentation whilst making is essential, and it’s also important to learn from the failures as well. I really tried to keep these failed versions at my bench in front of me, to try to analyse what made them fail.
At the same time, it’s just as important to analyse the successes. Sometimes you make a piece, and instantly it becomes a big hit, and then you need to try to understand what made the piece so successful. So if I can identify that, I can try to replicate it for my next collections and pieces. It’s all about just letting yourself fail and experimenting.
What do you enjoy most about being a maker - for example, is the joy in the making itself, or in sharing the finished pieces with the world?
For me it’s making, and I also like workshop life. I remember when I was still a psychologist, I read an interview in the New York Times by Şule Gürbüz, a Turkish art historian who became an antique watch repairer. She was explaining in her interview how she made this change, and also how for her, the workshop was a place of solitude - you can work in a flow state, listen to music and read books. Back then, it sounded like a dream work environment for me, and it made a huge impact. Years later, I have created the same kind of work environment for myself, my version of it.
My making process is quite fluid, too. When I’m making, I let my hands, the tools or materials dictate to me which way to go. Sometimes you start a piece with a plan in your hand, but for example, when I’m carving a shape, I might go a few millimetres deeper, and the piece becomes completely different. So I really enjoy the freedom and the fluidity of the process itself.
Do you have a favourite piece in your collection?
My favourite piece in the collection is my And All That Jazz earrings. They are big statement earrings and made from recycled sterling silver, and they have freshwater pearls, which I love. Every freshwater pearl is different, so every pair is going to be slightly different. They are big earrings, but light enough to wear all day long and make a statement.
What I like most about them, they have a very fine matte satin finish, so when you’re holding the piece in your hand, it catches the light from every angle. So when you're turning it around, it almost looks like it is dancing. I’ve also made a pair for myself, and whenever I'm wearing them, I always receive compliments, and people ask me where I bought them, which is always a very nice thing to hear as a maker. These earrings gave me the habit of carrying my business cards with me everywhere.
What pieces did you find most challenging to make?
When I started making contemporary jewellery, my pieces were quite small and dainty, but the more I made, and the more I began to appreciate contemporary jewellery, the more I started to make bigger pieces. So that was the challenging part - this change, being more bold and making bolder pieces. I also made a large statement piece called the Happy Place Necklace. I started making it in brass, but then I switched to different materials like gold. Making a piece this big in gold itself was a big jump, and a big commitment for me.
What kind of person do you think is most attracted to your collection, and to your design style in general – do you have an ideal client in mind?
I feel my design style is simple, minimalistic, but also bold and eye-catching. Extreme opposites somehow exist together, which I feel is also part of my character. When you design, what’s inside of you comes out. People who are therefore attracted to my jewellery are usually quite confident, they’re not afraid to be themselves and also they’re not afraid to stand out.
Once the conversation starts with my clients, it usually turns out that they are either architects, artists or jewellery designers themselves, so they're coming from creative practices. I'm also trying to consider my impact of my making on the environment, so I'm only using recycled sterling silver and SMO (Single Mine Origin) gold, and I think the people who are drawn to my jewellery are the ones that can appreciate my efforts on ethical production processes as well. When I’m buying anything for myself, whether it's clothes or jewellery, I try to make ethical choices and to take care of it to make it last. So I think I expect the same from my customers, and I would love to think that they will keep my jeweller in their family for the generations to pass it down.
What’s next - what are your professional and creative goals for the next two years?
This year in April, I took part in the MAD About Jewellery exhibition in New York, and it was a once in a lifetime kind of experience for me. I really enjoyed being there. It started so many new conversations, so I would love to work towards making my brand more international. Also, this year, I will be exhibiting at Edinburgh for Elements: Festival of Jewellery.
Last year I was there and it was a wonderful experience for me, so I will be returning in October and I'm really looking forward to it. I have been collecting some stones from around the world during my trips. Creativity wise, this is one goal that I’ve set for myself - I want to learn more about the stones themselves, but also about stone setting, so I can start a unique collection using the stones. It's always been on my mind to include more stones in my collections, so hopefully I will achieve that this year.