I have known Nevena for many years. When we were in high school she came back from spending a year in Algeria and summers in France. She told us stories about fashion, cuisine, discotheques, horse-back riding in Camargue, French boys, architecture and design and her adventurous travel journeys through Europe on her way to and from France. We were fascinated!
Her path took her later on to studying law in Dijon, getting married and moving to the US, working as a lawyer for the Attorney General of Texas. After the birth of her first daughter she changed her career path, taking up acting classes, painting and now – jewelry design with her company Nevena Benzt Jewelry. During one of our summer meetings over cocktails, I decided to ask her a few questions and tell her story.
Hallo Nevena! How did you start working with jewelry?
I first started when I was 12 years old. My cousin and I made jewelry from leather and semi-precious gems and sold it on the main street in our hometown of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria.
I rediscovered my passion for jewelry making 7 years ago and started designing sculptural leather cuffs.
Later, I moved on to fine jewelry design, as it gave me greater creative freedom.
Where do you get your inspiration for the designs?
Everywhere, but primarily in nature, in the decorative arts, and in ancient adornments.
I am particularly fascinated with the craftsmanship of the Thracians and the Romans, but also find a lot of inspiration in Byzantine jewelry.
I also design jewelry while collecting sea pebbles with my kids. You can find me doing sand drawings on the beach. I have created artworks from veggie peels while cooking dinner; or, I draw with a fork with the beet juice left after I eat my salad. I take many pictures in nature, which are often the basis for my artworks.
You were a lawyer first and then completely changed your career. Why?
They say that most people who don’t know what career to pursue, go to law school. I was one of those. I also value justice greatly and, like many, have a desire to better the world. The law achieves these through conflict, persuasion and force and within pre-established rules and framework. The arts can achieve the same, but in a more powerful, beautiful and peaceful way.
As an artist, I can break the rules – I can be me and can express my creativity through every imaginable channel.
I can reinvent myself daily, while remaining true to my core. I thrive on chaos. The law does not give this option.
You also paint and sing. How does it tie in with the jewelry?
All of these are creative pursuits. Each enriches me in a different way by sharpening my senses and shifting my perspective in ways that benefit the other. I switch between writing, painting, and singing, which gives me a sense of renewal. This in turn inspires and energizes me. I am not familiar with the notion of “creative block.”
Which one was your life changing experience – the exact point when you switched from a law career to one in the arts?
Having children changed my priorities and outlook on every aspect of life. After I had children, the future I had envisioned for myself professionally totally collapsed.
I wanted to give my children opportunities, experiences, and mostly my presence, which pushed me to fully reinvent myself. Initially, I felt this was a tremendous sacrifice.
In hindsight, I know this was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It was something that made me figure out who I was and how I wanted to live my life. I feel that I am in a very good place right now.
What are your ambitions with the jewelry, how do you plan to develop?
I would probably focus on less expensive designs. This would allow me reach a wider audience and offer a wider variety of designs.
I know Bulgaria still plays a big part in your life, how?
I try to go there at least part of every summer. I have the emotional need to reconnect with all the people and places that constitute a big part of my life.
There’s a certain peace and comfort that comes from being with the familiar, as well as an excitement to return and to rediscover it through a new set of eyes.
What would you advise women out there who have ideas but are may be too afraid to pursue them?
Ideas are not worth much unless they are acted upon. When we pursue a great idea, one that keeps coming to us for attention, we discharge the mental load that comes with it. This frees energy, opens space within us, while it also emboldens us. It also assures us that one day we won’t look back and say, “What if?”
We need to know what we value most and devote our energy to exactly that.
That may require us to redefine success. For me, the only failure would be to withhold love or creative energy and let fear suffocate my potential and limit my growth.
® Images by Nevena Bentz