Kuolmi: Coal is like a butterfly of the earth

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Marjeta Hribar is a jewelery designer from Zasavje who found her design expression in local material, coal. For several years now, pieces of jewelry have been created under her hands, which carry a long story of the past.
Mateja P. Kristanič was released from Marjeta via a video call.
Photos: Marjeta Hribar


You have chosen a very interesting slogan for your Kuolmi brand: “ Wear it, don’t burn it! ” (Don’t burn it, but wear it !). What's your story, where did the idea for coal jewelry come from?

“I have been designing jewelry for quite some time. I found that coal had no useful value so far. And because I come from an environment (op. Cit. From Zasavje), where I had contact with coal since early childhood, as a designer, it has become a very interesting material for me. However, when a designer connects with a certain material, he quickly finds out what else he could do with it. What attracted me to coal was the fact that his story was never told. And this story is very long, dating back to prehistoric times, when there were no human feet here, everything around was a primeval forest. Fossils formed from the roots of trees submerged in swamps. Due to its flammability, people have recognized it as one of the very useful raw materials. You could say that coal is like a butterfly, as it has gone through as many transformations as a butterfly has.

Even before the Industrial Revolution, Valvasor's descriptions were found, where he described coal as dragon's blood. It was also once used as a detergent, e.g. for brushing teeth, for healing… Coal therefore had many useful values ​​in the past, which have been considerably lost to this day. I connected them all and gave it added value in the form of jewelry.

Coal has the properties of stone and wood. It is light but solid as stone. When you think about this combination as a designer, a leap occurs in your head that this is one such material that you could actually work with. ”

Where did the name Kuolmi come from?

“When looking for a name for my brand, I wanted to start from everything. I had quite a few ideas, such as Black Gold, Dragon's Blood, but in the end the name came up on its own. People came to me and asked me, "Do you still have any of those hips?" And because each village has its own expression, and in our country coal is called kolm, I made a phonetic record and that's how the Kuolmi brand was created. ”

What is the metal you embrace coal made of?

“I basically started using old mining materials: stainless steel, rubber and coal. They are now joined by copper, silver and gold, so I am upgrading, and the bases are mostly made of stainless steel, medical steel, which is very friendly to wear. ”

Where is the coal from which it is made š naki t < strong>?

“I got my first coal from a lady who managed to get it from an otherwise closed mine. And since we all knew that this way of "supply" could not be a permanent practice, I had to look for another source.

So one fine day an elderly gentleman came to me who knew I was making jewelry out of coal. He took me to the local forest and showed me where the sites were still located, where coal is still right on the surface of the earth. And as some go into the woods for mushrooms, I go with a backpack into the woods for coal. It is very interesting that coal can be found easily, but people do not recognize it. ”

You’re very creative, you get involved in a lot of different art, fashion projects. A few years ago, we were able to spot the brand working with Alpina when it created coal boots. How did this collaboration come about?

“Projects usually take place in such a way that one project grows into another. And so this collaboration arose from the project, when in 2018 I made crowns for the Miss Slovenia pageant. And in connection with this competition, we at Alpina designed shoes, bullers, which I “decorated” with coal jewelry, and the muscles wore and represented them. I consider it a great honor to collaborate, as I was the first, lesser-known designer to work with them.

The shoes were fantastic, and because Alpina is a fairly international company, they traveled virtually all over the world.

Another project, which I am also very proud of, was created last year in collaboration with Mag. ak. statue Zoran Poznič. We made a statue of Miner Prometheus. It is an 11-meter statue that stands in Trbovlje and is the tallest statue in Europe. It is made of scrap iron brought from the tunnels of the mine. We were wondering what this coal miner would have. He is wearing a helmet with a laser, the beam of which illuminates the last existing entrance to the mine, he has a carbide in his hand, and when we reached the heart, we stopped at it. That was it. So I, the miners, made a heart for it. It is quite large, weighing about 25 kg. It is a very impressive project, a project that every designer really wants: to create something that will stay for a long time and you can give to your environment. ”

About a month ago, Prometheus was struck by lightning. Coal and lightning, however, are not exactly the combination one would want. The statue successfully withstood this blow, and the lightning will remain documented forever. Photo: Jean Komljen

Your brand is invited to participate in the presentation events to be held in January in Beverly Hills. Cool jewelry bi

was part of the Grammy Award nominees' program to be presented in January 2022. Can you tell us more about this Hollywood project?

“A lot is written about my jewelry and the very idea of ​​jewelry, ie the transformation of coal into jewelry, even abroad.

We recently made a rather long contribution with the New York Art Gallery, and based on this article, I received an invitation to join the Grammy Award nominee project. We thought about how and what and due to circumstances (op. Cit. Restrictions due to the crown) decided to make my products as part of the gift program for the nominees. The event will take place in January and I am very much looking forward to the project being realized. ”

Coal is fun, it is natural, different from anything we currently find on the market, and I think that one who is unique will be able to wear it beautifully.

What is the woman wearing your jewelry like? How would you describe it?

“This is definitely not a woman who would be boring. He is someone who knows how to come out of himself, who knows how to stand behind himself. Sometimes it’s calm, sometimes classic, and other times it can be quite wild. My women even carry within them the memory of old coal and of a family that was actually engaged in mining. Others, for example, associate coal with ecological principles, with an “edgy” style. Third parties just like to connect with nature and the energy that coal has - it is a natural stone that cleans very nicely. The fourth woman is a woman who likes black, and black fits everywhere.

Coal is fun, it is natural, different from anything we currently find on the market, and I think that one who is unique will be able to wear it beautifully.

It is also worn by men, as I have already made men's cufflinks.

Among other things, it is also about commemorative jewelry. My first clients were Slovenes living abroad, who wanted to carry a piece of their land all around. We often wonder what we would give to a stranger and then this jewelry can come into play again. It is a useful souvenir. ”

Once a designer connects to a particular material, they quickly find out what else they can do with it.

Where can we buy your jewelry?

“Each piece of my jewelry is unique and it is very good if you can see it live at least once, hold it in your hands and get an actual idea of ​​what you are buying.

Jewelry is featured on my website , with many posts on Facebook (KUOLMI handmade coal jewelry ) on Instagram ( KUOLMi ) , where I regularly present new pieces.

Otherwise, it can be physically seen and bought in Maribor, in the destination store ARTmijeMAR, in Zasavje it is in a museum, in the Wonderland, in tourist centers in Hrastnik, in Sevnica Castle, Rajheburg Castle, in Krško, in Bohinj, Rogaška Slatini… All links are actually listed on my website . ”

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