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I’ve worked with and shopped from Tanya Bagashka for a couple of years now, but I did not fathom the awe that I would learn from interviewing her.
It’s always so interesting when artists use just as much of their technical human skills and interests as they’re abstract ones. Not to mention, her beautiful macramé work which portrays hard craftsmanship paired with the intricacies of sacred geometry.
Meet Tanya Bagaska creator of Lilliane Elysian handmade jewelry.
Please tell us a little about yourself and your artistic background. Where are you from? Where are you now?
My artistic activities started at an early age. I did macramé when I was 8 years old in still-communist Bulgaria, in the late 1980s. Not to sound nostalgic about communism, but in the communist times, children were offered and encouraged to attend a variety of extracurricular courses and workshops free of charge, which I did. I started at the studio of Professor Zdravka Lissiyska, who, now, has taught Color Theory, Modern Fashion Design and Theory of Composition for 35 years and has published multiple books on the subject. I took classes for a couple of years doing mostly macramé wall hangings. While art was always an important part of my life, in my teens and twenties I was preoccupied with my academic career. I have a few degrees, but no formal art degree.
After I received my BA degrees in Political Science and Business Administration from the American University in Bulgaria, I got accepted by the University of Rochester Political Science Program. I moved to Rochester NY in 2002. After receiving my PhD, I moved to Houston and have been teaching political science at the Political Science Department of the University of Houston since 2008. In 2010, I started taking painting classes with Clemente Garcia at the Lassaulx and learned a lot, especially about color theory. Shortly thereafter I came across a few macramé jewelry pieces while on vacation in Bulgaria, and I thought, “I can do this!”
This inspired me to apply the macramé techniques I already knew to jewelry making. So the last few years I have been designing and making macramé jewelry and wall art. When I do macramé I feel like a fish in water. I guess learning something as a child gives one confidence, and most importantly, it relaxes me. It is the one thing I can always do (or most of the time). I can do it when I am exhausted, when I am sad, when I am sick… I was not surprised to find out recently that there is actually scientific evidence on the health benefits of crocheting and knitting, and by implication, macramé. Scientists have found that it can induce a relaxed state similar to the one experienced during yoga and meditation and can also reduce the heart rate and the level of the stress hormone cortisol. It has helped me achieve balance in my life, being a scientist and a teacher.
I enjoy both my occupations—the artistic one and the scientific one. I love doing research, figuring things out and analyzing data. When you enjoy what you do, it does not feel like a job.
What’s your creative process like? Do you like to sketch and plan or just wing it?
I almost never sketch. I rely on the images I see in my mind. If I sketch, it is mostly not to forget the images that come to me, but I do not do that very often, even though I probably should. I sometimes know exactly how the piece will look and make adjustments as I make it, but a lot of my pieces are free-style. I have an idea either about a design element, the color-scheme, or the overall form or look, and figure out the rest as I go. I love working free-style—it is exciting and there are often surprises, usually nice ones.
How long do most of your pieces take to complete?
Generally, micro-macrame is a time-consuming technique. I basically build the whole piece and make the pieces from scratch (I should say, waxed thread), for the most part. Smaller and simpler designs could take about an hour, but I work on some pieces for days. Some of the necklaces I make take over 20 hours of work.
What’s your studio or work-space like?
I have a studio at home. I am considering looking into venues that would allow me to communicate with other artists.
Did you always want to run your own business? Were you ever unsure?
I have been making macramé for a while, but I opened my business in the beginning of 2014. I named it Lilliane Elysian. Lilliane, after my mother, and I added Elysian because it rhymes and also has a nice meaning—heavenly, divine. According to Greek mythology, Elysium (or the Elysian fields) was the place in paradise for the heroes immortalized by the gods.
A friend of mine strongly encouraged me to open the business, which I appreciate. I am glad I did it. I love creating things and that is my favorite aspect of the process, but I also really enjoy the process of developing a strategy, marketing, and interacting with the customers at art shows. You learn a lot about people, the way their minds work…
When would you say you developed your design style?
I think I have a distinctive style I developed over the last couple of years–or rather, two main styles. I like elaborate, ornate pieces, combining multiple colors. But I also like minimalist pieces with simple beauty that are versatile. I guess given today’s hectic way of life, a lot of people like pieces that would not make you think too hard about how to match them with clothes and your look in general. I love statement pieces and will keep making them, but they can be harder to match.
What are your favorite art supplies? Are there any that intimidate you?
I do not think that there are any that intimidate me because I think I can master any technique or material if I put my mind to it. One just has to think about whether it is worthwhile from a strategic point of view. Of course, it is about the journey, about how much you enjoy the process, but I also try to think about how I manage my time and how my efforts today will affect my evolution as an artist.
Do you collect anything?
Antique pieces, including antique jewelry. I also occasionally buy art, usually when I travel in Europe. I like pieces that are unique and tell a story.
What makes you happiest in life?
To explore and learn. To travel the world. There is so much to discover!