The pieces of Sapi Szilágyi’s latest collection, BUDAI SMUKK, become wearable thoughts—the exceptional, vitreous enamel jewelry pieces were inspired by the songs of the band Ivan & The Parazol’s latest album, BUDAI POP. The photos of the collection, which debuted at the Budapest Jewelry Week, were taken in Kastner Budapest, but it was in the SAPI STUDIO where we immersed ourselves in the background story and the multi-layered meaning of the BUDAI SMUKK pieces. Here’s our report!
Wallpaper depicting giant palms and ferns, plants in ceramics by Anett Sáfrán, and a tiny open workshop in the corner. Some little distance away from from the noisy bustle of MOM Park, at 9 Csörsz Street, there is a small oasis: Sapi Szilágyi’s studio. The close-to-nature atmosphere of the shop is no coincidence, as this is also where Sapi draws her inspiration for her creations: the different branches, beetles, or even the beech fruit are all recurring elements of the pieces made for the SAPI Jewelry brand. As she put it, although the world built around her brand is crucial to her, besides creating wearables, it is also important that she breaks out of this frame sometimes and that nothing limits her creativity. Thus, sometimes experimenting with various techniques, driven by different thoughts, she creates conceptual jewelry. This is how the story of the BUDAI SMUKK collection also began.
“More like demigods”
Sapi has been interested in men’s jewelry for a long time, but she always had difficulty with whom to make it for. Because, as she pointed out, “the jewelry will belong to someone, and men’s jewelry cannot be men’s jewelry if they are not worn by a man.” Later, absorbed by the episodes of Budai Popcast, she eventually found her perfect subjects in the members of the band Ivan & The Parazol. Because, as the jewelry designer shared with us, a few years ago the band members had already suggested that she should make jewelry for them, which, however, did not become reality in the end. “The result would have been less complete back then, so I am glad that I found a way back to this project now that I am somewhat more mature,” said Sapi. So this time, it was she who contacted the band, and soon the collaboration began.
The starting point was the creation of jewelry pieces specifically tailored to the character of the boys, which slowly turned into a full collection.
“During our meeting, they had an idea which set my imagination alight: they highlighted how inspired they are by my work, as a jewel will remain a jewel even after five thousand years, but their songs may be long gone by then. This thought really planted a seed in me, and I decided to make jewelry inspired by their music, thus helping to preserve their songs,” she said.
So in addition to the band members’ jewelry, each of ten songs of Ivan & The Parazol’s newest album, Budai Pop, took shape in a jewel—something that we will get back to in detail soon.
After the band members had explained what kind of jewelry they would like to wear, Sapi wanted to get even deeper into their world. “It was inspiring to me that in their podcast they also talked about their mistakes, difficulties, and obstacles: this is what made me remember that they are also only humans. When I mentioned this to them, they jokingly said ‘more like demigods.‘ I grabbed this motif and started out along this line,” she recalled. After listening to several videos and small interviews, she bought a notebook in which she collected their quotes and various pictures of the band. Starting from the demigod motif, she began to associate archaic symbols with their music in an intuitive way.
Eyes, fire, hands, and the mouth also featured on the cover of Budai Pop: these symbols provided the basis of the Budai Smukk collection. To reinforce the archaic element, Sapi meant to use the colors of old jewelry (red, turquoise, and dark blue,) but these eventually were made complete with the featured colors of the Budai Pop album (pink, red, black, and white.) The chosen vitreous enamel technique, as we found out, was also inspired by Iván Vitáris the lead singer of Ivan & The Parazol, as it was specifically colorful jewelry that he had in mind for himself.
With the symbols and colors already chosen, for creating the final design of the jewelry, Sapi also tried to imagine how each piece would look on the stage. “The bass player, Sprinyó, wanted a seal ring, whose base became a diamond shape, which I then divided into four different colors. A fire-shaped medallion was made for Iván, with a mouth resembling that from the graphic of the Budai Pop album, enclosed in the flames. I associated an irregular star with the personality of the drummer, Simi. He was the easiest to make jewelry for as he was open to wearing earrings, necklaces, and rings as well. Finally, I made him a larger earring that moves to the rhythm of the drumming. Máté, the guitarist, however, threw me a curve ball: he wanted a simple hoop earring, so I tried to talk him into something that I could be more creative with. Finally, the four jewels came together nicely,” said Sapi. Because the members of the Ivan & The Parazol felt that the symbols matched with them really fit their personalities, a merch collection will also be made based on these pieces of jewelry, which Sapi plans to design in smaller sizes and for everyday use.
Why couldn’t a song become a jewelry?
“When I contacted the band, I didn’t know that their new album would consist only of songs in Hungarian. Since the songs are in my native language, I immediately registered their secondary meanings as well: I just felt that they were talking to me, and it blew me away. Around age thirty or above, you‘re already over a few break-ups, you‘re already interested somewhat in politics and the world’s events, what these songs are also about,” said Sapi, as we started to dissect the ten jewels shaped by the album‘s ten songs.
As the designer explained, a book of short stories that was inspired by the Budai Pop album also contributed to the idea of casting the songs into jewelry: “When the book was published, I started thinking, if a song can be transformed into a short story, why not also transform it into a jewel?” Then, just like the last time, she grabbed a notebook to immerse herself in the lyrics of Budai Pop. “I wanted to design all the jewels at once, so I grabbed a notebook and wrote the title of each song on a separate page, and then the thoughts and words that came to my mind about them, or that I thought were important,” she explained.
‘Mást vártam’ (I Expected Something Different—free translation)—the first song on the album is about disappointments and contemplation. For this, inspired by the Hungarian socialist era and a bit by The Informant series, Sapi envisioned a medal. The following song, ‘Játék’ (Game—free translation), was also clear to her, which she created in the form of a necklace resembling a board game. ‘Akkor gyere’ (Come Then—free translation) caused a great deal of thinking, and after listening to it several times, the song was transformed into a flame-like brooch resembling a strand of hair as a symbol of fire, power, and rebellion.
According to the band members, the guitar theme of the song ‘Tartozom még’ (I Still Owe—free translation) evokes the atmosphere of the iconic New York City club, Studio 54, so Sapi also went with this idea. Since the wall of the club was decorated by a huge moon and a sun, the jewelry designer also took these symbols as her main influence. “There is a great difference between the mood of the song and the text, because the music is disco-like, while the text is about breaking up. I wanted to display this duality, so I included this sinister moon in the jewelry,” she said.
The song ‘Ha változol’ (If You Change—free translation), as the Ivan & The Parazol put it, is in fact a song by the legendary 60s band, Illés, so the necklace created by Sapi also recalls the emblematic graphic from the Illések és pofonok album‘s cover. For the song ‘Van, aki úgy szeret’ (Some People Love You In a Way—free translation), Sapi made a pin that depicts a dreamy eye enclosed in a heart-shape: since the song evokes the sound of The Doors, the designer drew inspiration from the graphics in one of the band‘s poetry books.
In the case of ‘Mik ezek a hangok’ (What Are These Sounds—free translation), Sapi was inspired by the slightly darker atmosphere of the song and the lines “Fogd meg a kezem és magyarázd el nekem / Mik ezek a hangok a fejemben” (Take my hand and explain to me / What are these sounds in my head—free translation), so the song is embodied in a talisman shaping a hand, with the Budai Pop cover‘s emblematic mouth on top. The piece belonging to the song ‘Sötét’ (Dark—free translation) evokes a similar atmosphere, the special feature of which is that Sapi threaded the pearls of the necklace to the rhythm of the song, so for every pause in the music, there is a knot, and for every new sound, a pearl of a different color was placed.
Of all the songs on the album, ‘Fejezd be’ (Finish It—free translation) might have puzzled Sapi the most: “I had the idea for all of them, but I simply could not turn this song in a single shape. Finally, I asked for the help of Iván, who drew my attention to the political content of the song.” Thus, starting from the weathercock motif, emphasizing freedom, the song took the form of a pink bird with a wind direction arrow on its back. For the last lyrical song of Budai Pop, entitled ‘Milyen kár’ (What a Pity—free translation), Sapi searched for symbols that were beautiful, but still contained a doleful underlying meaning. To embody this last long, Sapi chose floral motifs that symbolize rejection, hopeless love, or sorrow.
Since it was also essential for Sapi to make the meaning and context behind the jewels visible to everyone, each of the pieces is made complete as part of a collage. In creating these, Péter Lakatos media designer assisted the jewelry designer. “I am glad that a masculine energy was involved in this part of the creative process as well,” pointed out Sapi, adding that although only a single piece was made of each jewel, it is time to set them free so that their story can be carried on by their new wearer. She would like to present the pieces of the BUDAI SMUKK collection together with their related collages, so these statement-jewelry, if not worn, can remain part of our everyday life in the form of artwork adorning our walls.
Photos: Dani Gaál