Friday, August 28, 2015



Every so often, I look over all of Ivaan's rings and wonder if I should make one for myself, as a reward for - well, I don't know what, exactly - and although I can find plenty rings that would make a nice reward, they don't often fit.  This is the exception.  It fits well, it's a wide enough band that it doesn't look skimpy on my finger and, best of all, it has a distinct, nautical style that I really love.  Perhaps there is a mould of it somewhere, but in the event I never find it, I am slowly making tiny adjustments to this one, so it's absolutely perfect.  Just in case I ever do decide that I deserve a deluxe reward.

Here's the another side of the ring.  If I show you any more, you'll want one, too. It's got calla lilies, a love knot and thick strands, making it a substantial ring.  I think it's quite a masterpiece.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Ivaan made a number of crosses, mostly Eastern Orthodox ones, and although I have some favourites among those, the one I love the most is this sterling silver non-denominational cross:
It's large - three and a half inches in length - heavy, and quite nautical in flavour.  As with most of Ivaan's pieces, it's "good both sides", so it's a matter of personal choice which way it's worn.  The row of holes down the centre make it look like a musical instrument.  The holes can have stones set in them, but my distinct preference is for them to be left open.
And here's a quick snapshot of the other side.  Sorry about the focus, but you get the general idea.  It would be excellent to wear when one is going sailing. Looks like it could ward off quite a few pirates.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


So, while we're on the subject of symbolic art, this is perhaps Ivaan's most famous tryzub.  The tryzub, or trident, is the national symbol of Ukraine.  The three points represent the Holy Trinity, so I guess it's more accurate to say the tryzub is the national symbol of Christian Ukraine.

I don't actually know if Ivaan made this for anyone before he made it for a young man named Kyrylo, but Kyrylo is the one with whom this tryzub has always been associated, and it is in honour of that Kyrylo that this tryzub is named.  Like most Stars of David, as mentioned  in my previous post,  most tryzubs look as though they had been stamped out of sheet metal.  That's because they generally had.  Again, a tryzub can look quite beautiful when rendered on paper or on textile but in metal it calls out to be made three dimensional.

The Kyrylo tryzub looks like bread dough rising, a very apt detail, because Ukrainians take their bread seriously.  It is also highly stylized, so many people, even Ukrainians, have to look at it more than once to realize what it is. I have heard - and I don't know whether it's true - that the word воля (Volya) can be seen in the tryzub.  It means liberty.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


The Mogen David, or Star of David, is a six-sided star consisting of one triangle superimposed on another.  It is an important symbol worn by many Jews.  Ivaan was interested in it on many levels, not the least of which was its shape.  From an engineering perspective, the triangle is the most stable of structures, and it is a shape that occurs in many of Ivaan's pieces.

Most Stars of David, however, are flat, as though they were stamped out of sheet metal.  Even the ones that  look as though they are composed of two intertwined triangles still have that flat appearance.  So the Star of David was pretty much calling for Ivaan to rescue it from mediocrity.  It is often beautifully rendered on paper or on textile, but it's something that needs to be three dimensional when made in metal.

So Ivaan modelled his Star of David on the shape of a chicken wishbone.  Not duplicated slavishly,  but capturing that sinuous shape.

This is the Star of David he made for me in 1998. As you can see, it is actually intertwined, not just an optical illusion.  He made it in silver first of all, to ensure I loved it, saying he would make me a gold one, but I totally preferred it in silver right from the start, and that's how it has come to be part of  this collection.  This one is an inch in diameter.  Ivaan also made a larger version, as well as a larger version with his signature beading, but I have always preferred the smaller size.  I particularly love it when someone wants to order one, not because they have any connection to Judaism, but because they just love it as a piece of art.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Ivaan made several silver walking cane handles, all of them different, but each in an elaborate Art Nouveau style.  This is the one he kept for himself.
I've been wanting to post this as part of 30 Pieces of Silver, but I knew it was going to be a horrible amount of work to polish it without removing the wooden cane.  And I didn't want to over-polish it, in which case I would not be able to take a photograph that captured the detail.   As it turned out, I need not have feared over-polishing it.  It was so hard to polish it even this much, I probably should have worn full body armour.

Contrary to popular belief, polishing does not involve sitting there with a little cloth and rubbing it a bit.  Jewellery polishing takes place on a wheel attached to a big industrial motor that spins around at considerable speed.  I felt like I was whitewater rafting, desperately trying not to lose control of my paddle.  Or motorcycling with Ivaan on the back of my bike, constantly shifting his weight. Grrrr.

And here's a close-up to show you what the inside of the cane handle looks like.  Like Ivaan's sterling silver thimbles, it's not a hundred percent practical to use, but who cares, when it's this beautiful?  When I'm old and grey (now for example) maybe I'll start using it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015



This is a sterling silver ring that Ivaan made for himself in 2001.  It's a very substantial ring, but it suited his hand perfectly and he often wore it on his right hand.  It attracted a lot of attention and people often asked for one just like his. Like so many of his rings, it has no discernible beginning or end.  It's just a thick vine wrapping around itself, and around his finger. And because it's so thick, there's plenty of scope for re-sizing.

The timing is interesting.  He made it between his first and second strokes. That would normally be a time when someone might not be thinking of making a ring for themselves, but just trying to keep up to date on the orders he had promised to clients.  But Ivaan never did the predictable. And I guess that's why he made himself a ring that was both simple and complicated at the same time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


It was only a matter of time before I added one of Ivaan's spoons to the 30 Pieces of Silver series.  It was a bit of a struggle to choose which one, but I realized I don't have to commit to only one spoon.  They are so varied.  This is an early one, 1979 to be exact, and it's got a fish-like quality to it.
I believe it's part of his AGO Egyptian collection, and I can carbon-date it because his name appears in capital letters on the reverse side.  Well, maybe I should post a picture of the reverse side.   There you go. You can see IVAAN engraved on the fishtail.
I likely don't have to tell you that Ivaan applied all those tiny beads on the handle and underside one at a time.  He had incredible focus and patience. Not a day goes by that I don't feel in awe of his talent and enriched by his presence in my life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Mary is a natural-born storyteller.  She's a civil servant, but she'd have been a successful comedian.  I love her stories.  Even better, they are delivered in her classic New York accent.  That always makes them seem even funnier.

Anyway, on with the story.  Mary and her first husband were divorcing. Toward the end of their marriage, Mary had bought her soon-to-be-former husband a heavy gold ID bracelet as a gift.  That was before she found out some of his faults.  After they had separated, they had to meet at the lawyer's office to complete some paperwork.  Though she was feeling very anxious, Mary went there looking her very best. She was wearing a beautiful new piece of jewellery, a ring by Ivaan, and she had that great feeling you have when you are feeling at the top of your game.

During the meeting, Mary's former husband asked her, "By the way, do you know whatever happened to my gold ID bracelet?"  Languidly, Mary lifted her right hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn.  "Haven't a clue", she replied, then, extending her arm outwards, she rested  her hand casually on her knee.

And on one finger of that hand was her spectacular new gold "magic" ring by Ivaan - made out of the recently melted and refined ID bracelet she'd once given him.

Here it is in pink wax.  ©1995 Ivaan Kotulsky

And here's the other side.

Now, this is a series about silver, so for your viewing pleasure I have made up the ring in pink wax, because I don't have a photo of Mary's gold ring, but every time I see her wearing it,  I have an attack of one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Invidia.  If you don't know what it means, go and look it up.

There's a happy ending to the story, because Mary subsequently met John and they have lived happily ever after.  As I so often say, living well is the best revenge.

Monday, August 10, 2015



Ivaan made this belt buckle for himself, originally, in bronze.  I've always loved it, and when I was thinking of a gift for our friend Joseph, who was about to officiate at our wedding, I asked Ivaan how he felt about making it in sterling silver and that I'd choose a special belt for it.  Ivaan agreed.  I was pretty sure Joseph would like it, but he has very particular tastes, so I decided that I'd nonchalantly show it to him, tell him it was a project Ivaan was working on, and gauge his reaction.  It was a relief when Joseph appeared to really admire it. Then there was the delicate little matter of figuring out what belt size Joseph wears.  It's not a question you can just blurt out to someone. So I found an excellent carved leather belt and bought two of them.  I figured I'd put the smaller one on Joseph's buckle and if it was too small, I'd have a back-up. As it happened, it was the right fit, so Ivaan got to put the larger size belt on his buckle.  Sometimes we'd all go out in the evening and Ivaan and Joseph would be wearing their matching belts.

I can't remember what the occasion was, but I think February 2005 was the tenth anniversary of my taking piano lessons with my poor beleaguered piano teacher, Andrew.  It felt like a milestone occasion, so I made Andrew the same belt buckle, also in sterling.  I put a black leather belt on it too.  Any time you are out and about and you see a man wearing a belt buckle like this, you will know that is someone who has played an enormous part in my life.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Ivaan originally made the Shipwreck bracelet in gold, in about 2000,  for someone who wanted to have her life's collection of gold and diamonds made into one jawdropping cuff bracelet.  It's a spectacularly hard bracelet to make in wax, because there is unlimited opportunity for disaster to occur, due to the complexity of the design.  But even making a wax is easier than trying to photograph this bracelet.  One day I'll try and take a better photo, and replace this one.  It really does look like some barnacle-encrusted piece of metal that was found on the ocean floor.  Here it is in silver, and I'll also post a photo of the gold and diamond version.  Eat your heart out.

Saturday, August 8, 2015



I've often told the story of Connie, a remarkable woman with whom I worked for several years.  Connie was what used to be called "well bred" and although that's a laughably quaint expression these days, it was definitely a factor in many of her life choices.  Connie was very well spoken, with a rich vocabulary and considerable erudition.  Had she not been from a certain stratum of society, in a particular era, it's possible Connie might have gone into the theatre. She had a flair for the dramatic, and easily commanded a room with her strong, handsome features and rich laugh. Connie had two daughters, Vanessa and Tanya, who inherited her good looks and huge personality.

Connie had always planned to buy bracelets by Ivaan for her daughters, and she often told a very funny story of the day she went to Ivaan's studio and found the door locked.  Ivaan's working hours were always extremely erratic, and Connie never did get to buy any bracelets, but she had a memorable afternoon in any event. After her death, Ivaan wanted very much to contact her daughters and give them each a piece of his jewellery, thus closing the loop on the bracelet story.

Shortly after Ivaan's death, I was able to contact Tanya, the younger daughter. She came to see an exhibition of Ivaan's work, saw his website and loved this ring. She directed her sister Vanessa to the website and, incredibly, Vanessa chose the exact same ring.  It's been known as the Connie Ring ever since.  It really reminds me of Connie: it's a highly unusual, feminine piece of architecture, very strong because the band connects with the top in multiple places.  I know Connie would consider her mission accomplished.  One day I'd like to have a photo of the hands of all the women who wear this ring.  Maybe I'll arrange it one day.