The Hidden, Wonderful

Emerging from thousands of years of constantly evolving ecosystems at Lake Ohrid, a new range of jewelry is unlocking the mysteries of its unique underwater world.

A fusion of art and science titled The Hidden, Wonderful,  the contemporary jewelry collection is inspired by Lake Ohrid’s endemic diatoms, microscopic algae species custom-created in this tiny corner of the Balkans.

Here, Ohrid SOS speaks with local artists Marta Pejoska and Bibi Klekachkoska about how, in collaboration with the Hydrobiological Institute Ohrid, they transformed jewels of nature into jewels of fashion.

Navicula Subviridula brosh
Brooch inspired by Navicula subviridula, part of The Hidden, Wonderful exhibition

How did diatoms become the creative inspiration for your jewelry? Why did this species interest you in particular?

We were familiar with the diatoms visually as a form and their presence in Lake Ohrid, but, at the end of last summer, we became interested to make something specific with them. First intrigued by their appearance, we started to study them more thoroughly. We wished to tell the story through our language — jewelry.

What were the most amazing things you learned about diatoms through this project?

Their forensic “work” 🙂 … The information that, on a planetary level (they live in both fresh and salt waters), they are credited for at least a quarter of the oxygen made by photosynthesis. Amazing is the fact that, based on diatoms, the age of a water-body can be calculated. Respectively, some of them have been in this location for quite some time.

How did your work change the way you look at Lake Ohrid and its ecosystems? 

Developing interest in the diatoms, we’ve learned many new things and facts about Lake Ohrid. Through the diatoms, we became more intimate with the lake. We got to love it more and our desire to fight for its protection grew even stronger.

What is your favorite creation from the diatoms and why?

There is no doubt about that: the two brooches inspired by Cyclotella. And why? That intimate feeling of delight, we are going to keep to ourselves 🙂

Cyclotella brosh
Marta and Bibi’s favorite diatom-design: Cyclotella 

What was the hardest aspect of completing The Hidden, Wonderful collection?

The most difficult was selection of the diatoms from almost 800 different kinds/species. At the same time, designing the jewelry based on their appearance, which nature had already crafted perfectly, was a very big challenge, as was the danger to fall into the trap of literal representation.

What was it like to cooperate with Zlatko Levkov, the international diatom expert? 

The collaboration with Prof. Levkov and his team as well as Ohrid’s Hydrobiological Institute was excellent. From Prof. Levkov, we got a stack of material and high-quality photos, without which our project would have been impossible. We are immensely grateful to him and his team for supporting this project with great enthusiasm. They are still at our disposal.

How did you maintain the balance between artistic expression and scientific authenticity?

First of all with a lot of research and reading on diatoms, and then, following our sense in what we know best: design. The concept was clearly defined — to design and to make a 3D representation of selected diatoms (from microscopic images) in order to help people to perceive and memorize them. In the process, we selected and exploited details which were interesting from a designer’s perspective, emphasizing the important structural aspects of particular diatoms. Our imagination emerged from the morphological characteristics of the examples we were processing. Because we had the roles of both designer and executor, we were granted more freedom and ease in whole process.

What are your expectations from this exhibition? What message would you like people to take from it? 

The project themed by diatoms, which resulted with an exhibition of modern jewelry at Ohrid Summer Festival, is our modest contribution to raising public awareness about the importance of our Lake Ohrid. This natural rarity, which is one of the oldest [lakes] in the world and a privilege that we have in our own “back yard”, is more than worth fighting for — for its protection and the appreciation it deserves. We do that in our own way — in our field of work. If nothing more, it is enough for the term “diatoms” to start pulsing in the collective mental map, with the hope that a certain percentage of people will grow interested in the species, and thereby in the entire ecosystem, which will result in an increased sense of care and belonging to the natural habitat in which we live.

Ana od Oh.Leto so Bibi i Marta
Bibi (c) and Marta (r) at Ohrid Summer Festival opening of The Hidden, Wonderful

Do you have plans to include other motifs from Lake Ohrid in your future work? 

This project doesn’t stop here. We have some ideas — how to develop it, and how it can continue to live. For us, the diatoms are a wide field for work and research, so, for the time being, we will hold on to them.

What does Lake Ohrid represent for you? How do you experience it? 

MARTA: Ohrid is my home, and Lake Ohrid the natural habitat in/with which I grew up, not just the lake, but also Mount Galichica and Mount Jablanica, which built my poetic childhood picture of the place I lived. I find feelings of tranquility and self-fulfillment right here. The more I learn and educate myself about the importance of this ecosystem, the more awakened is my feeling of concern and the question arises of whether I am contributing to the natural environment or doing the exact opposite with my everyday actions?! My opinion is that every individual should work on their individual consciousness primarily for the environment in which they live and work (both urban and natural, as a whole) and what is happening to the environment, its development and protection, especially today when the human factor plays a key role.

To unlock more hidden wonders, please visit Marta Pejoska’s Insta and Bibi Klekachkoska’s website

Main Photo: Ernst Haeckel – Kunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 4: Diatomeae (via Wikimedia Commons)

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