I grew up in a house by the Black Sea where my grandfather collected books, my father collected knives and my mother collected jewelry. When my parents and I left Odessa behind for good, my mother hid her jewels in a transistor radio that she entrusted to me, all of ten year's old, during the long train ride from Russia to Italy. I spent the fourth grade living in Ostia, a coastal town outside of Rome, in a dilapidated villa on the beach.
A year later we settled in Melbourne, Australia, in a seedy seaside neighborhood called St. Kilda. Then St. Kilda was populated with artists, local aborigines, junkies, holocaust survivors, intellectuals and émigrés. The streets were full of Eastern European delis, Austrian cake shops and second-hand bookstores. Old Jewish men congregated on corners during the day and prostitutes came out at night. Victorian mansions, Art Deco apartment buildings, palm trees and the beach made a surreal backdrop.
By 13 I was obsessed with fashion and was cutting school regularly to devour back issues of Vogue in the state library. When I did go to class I was more concerned about what I was going to wear than with studying. Instead of doing homework I spent hours drawing or sitting on my mother's bed going through her bag of jewelry - including the stuff we smuggled out of Russia - inspecting the pieces over and over. (Now that my mother has died, and those pieces are mine, I still love to do it.)
After I deferred from Uni (for the second time!) I left Australia and spent almost ten years living abroad, mostly throughout Europe and Japan. During my last big adventure I studied in a yeshiva in Israel, in a town called Tsfat, known for its artist colony and as the birthplace of Kabalah. It was there - in one of the most spiritual and least materialistic places on earth - that I realized I wanted to be a jewelry designer. Eventually I sought out two local jewelers who became my friends and informal mentors. Sitting at a jeweler's bench for the first time crystalized it for me. I knew I needed to go home and study jewelry seriously. Leaving that beautiful ancient city, where I lived in an old house with a view of Mount Meron, wasn't easy.
Back in Australia I began to study goldsmithing at Northern Melbourne Institute of Technology. I wanted to learn the technical aspects of making jewelry. I don't believe you can design something without an intimate understanding of how it's constructed. I completed my degree and began an apprenticeship that was cut short when I got the opportunity to move to New York.
My goal is to design and create beautiful jewelry that outlives trends. Nora Kogan is based in Brooklyn, New York, where I live and where all of my jewelry is made.
I can't imagine anything more gratifying than making something and finding an audience for it.