by Dina Iglikova
Crafting Jewels and Life on Her Own Terms: A Candid Chat with Rasmina Gurbatova
Rasmina Gurbatova (CELA'9 Azerbaijan), after a decade at the World Bank, pivoted to pursue her passion for art and entrepreneurship, founding Resm in 2012. This unique jewelry brand, whose name means "drawing" or "picture" in Turkish and Arabic, reflects the rich heritage of Azerbaijan. Rasmina's talent shines through in each piece, which narrates Azerbaijan's history with distinctive patterns and decorations. In this conversation, an innovative jewelry artist reveals how she found an inspiring path by daring to listen within, aligning heritage symbols with personal creativity.
True beauty, in essence, should elicit happiness, serving as a pure and driving force that imparts meaning to our existence.
Rasmina, how would you describe yourself to strangers?

I would characterize myself as an individual capable of channeling my talents through various forms of expression. This succinct self-portrayal is one I often encounter and resonate with.

Do you like this description?

Fundamentally, yes. It acknowledges both my capabilities and limitations, highlighting areas where I excel.

Do you think the image you created matches how other people see you?

I believe there is alignment. My passion for what I do and my commitment to pursuing what genuinely fulfills me are aspects I cherish deeply.

Has it always been like that for you, following your heart?

No, no. Actually, not always. Pursuing my heart’s desires wasn’t always the path I followed. Initially, my actions were dictated more by external expectations than personal inclinations. A pivotal realization dawned upon me eventually—that our greatest achievements stem from our passions, transcending mere hobbies. Singing, for instance, remains a beloved hobby of mine. There was a moment when I contemplated elevating it beyond a pastime, yet I soon recognized that such a transition would alter its essence, leading me to preserve its status as a hobby. Nonetheless, I relish the time and freedom I have to engage in singing.

What about the jewelry business?

I like what I do. I like drawing. I also like business. I like creating pieces, creating something beautiful and unusual. And I'm pretty good at it. Despite a tendency towards self-criticism, I take pride in my work, crafting designs that resonate with others. This harmonious blend of personal satisfaction and public appreciation underpins my approach, proving to be a successful formula.
"Whether you want it or not, I'm a carrier of this culture. You feel it better, know it better, and understand it better. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. There is a lot of the unconscious in these processes. It just sits inside you."
Rasmina Gurbatova
CELA'9, Azerbaijan
Where did your interest in ornaments come from?

My fascination with ornaments can be traced back to a period of introspection and self-inquiry—pondering my identity, my cultural heritage, and the roles I embody. This journey of self-discovery gave rise to the brand, serving as a conduit for exploring these themes.

It's exciting because there is a decolonization trend in Kazakhstan. People have stopped being ashamed of certain things, including jewelry and old and traditional things. But for you, this happened much earlier. Who or what influenced this?

It was an inner process. Whether you want it or not, I'm a carrier of this culture. You feel it better, know it better, and understand it better. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. There is a lot of the unconscious in these processes. It just sits inside you. My interest wasn't sparked by external influences but stemmed from an innate connection to my culture. It's a profound, often subconscious, understanding and appreciation of one's roots. This isn't about a fervent "I love my country so much, and that's why..." but a more profound, intrinsic alignment with the cultural fabric of my existence. Through delving into the world of ornaments, I discovered the universal nature of these designs, their similarities across cultures, and the shared human experiences they represent. This exploration was driven by a love for culture, history, and humanity, narrowing down to a particular focus on Azerbaijani culture.

What do you think people were guided by when creating ornaments?

When considering the origins of ornamentation, symbolism stands paramount. These designs encapsulate the essence of people's lives, their values, and their interactions with the environment. They convey themes of love, protection, livelihood, and the elemental forces of nature, embodying the collective experience of a community.

It's evident that people were inspired by their hopes and the realities of their times. Initial designs were simple, depicting fundamental aspects of life—sustenance, shelter, protection, and the natural world. As societies evolved, so did the complexity and finesomeness of these ornaments, incorporating more elaborate and floral patterns, indicative of a yearning for beauty amidst the mundane.

What ornaments do you think will reflect our civilization in a hundred years?

Looking towards the future, in an age increasingly dominated by digitalization and automation, the essence of applied arts and manual craftsmanship faces challenges. Yet, even as artificial intelligence reshapes our creative landscapes, the enduring nature of symbolic motifs remains. These symbols, though evolving in form and medium, continue to bridge generations, carrying forward the legacy of our civilization into the next century, adapting yet retaining their core significance amidst the flux of technological advancement.
Your jewelry, is this craftsmanship?

Both yes and no. The creation of my jewelry stands at the intersection of artisanship and technology. As technological advancements permeate the realm of jewelry making, the reliance on traditional handcrafting techniques diminishes. Automated processes have become more prevalent, yet there remains a distinct segment—mid to high-end jewelry—where craftsmanship prevails, albeit to a certain extent. In the past, jewelers would meticulously craft each piece from inception to completion entirely by hand. Nowadays, the advent of 3D printing technologies has significantly reduced the necessity for manual labor, streamlining the production process while still preserving a degree of handcrafted refinement.

What is your attitude to such mass production?

The nature of the items produced dictates my perspective. While mass production caters to one market niche, handcrafted jewelry occupies a unique, more personalized space. I firmly believe that jewelry should not be exclusively accessible to the elite; however, my stance against counterfeit or insubstantial reproductions is resolute. The overly commercial aspect of direct printing and mass production does not align with my values. Taste, after all, is subjective—what appeals to some may not resonate with others. I hold that aesthetics and the inherent beauty of a piece are paramount.

You have a lot of different collections on your website. Which of them is the most memorable for you? Such interesting names. Kharybyulbyul. What is that?

"Kharybyulbyul" collection is inspired by a flower unique to Karabakh, around which a legend revolves—a tale of a shah’s daughter, wed to a man from beyond Karabakh, who pined for her native land. Her husband's attempt to quell her homesickness by cultivating a garden of various flowers, save for the Kharybyulbyul which could only flourish in Karabakh, speaks volumes of longing and connection to place.

Launched in 2016, the "Kharybyulbyul" collection embodies my fascination with the flower's aesthetic, integrating it into designs that resonate with cultural heritage and personal narratives. Among our offerings, the "Power of Flower" collection stands out, symbolizing feminine awareness and empowerment—a theme I am particularly fond of. Another noteworthy collection, "Wheels of History" pays homage to Azerbaijan, featuring symbols representative of the country’s diverse regions, each piece a testament to our rich cultural tapestry.
"My hope is for everyone who experiences CELA Academy, where the environment fosters a unique sense of awareness, to continue embracing self-reflection and understanding, even when they return to the mundanities of everyday life."
Rasmina Gurbatova
CELA'9, Azerbaijan
What is beauty to you?

To me, beauty transcends mere aesthetics; it is an emotion, a profound inner sensation that ignites joy and satisfaction. True beauty, in essence, should elicit happiness, serving as a pure and driving force that imparts meaning to our existence.

What was the last beautiful thing you saw that, as you said, really moved everything inside you?

The last encounter I had with beauty that genuinely stirred my soul occurred in Ismaili, a breathtaking region of Azerbaijan. During a ride on ATVs, we ascended to a spring where I beheld a mesmerizing sight: two twigs, one from a rosehip and the other from a dog rose, entwined in a natural harmony. This simple yet profound spectacle, set against the backdrop of the autumn sun's soft luminescence, captivated me. I found myself ensconced in tranquility, marveling at this natural beauty and savoring the moment.

What are you grateful for, Rasmina?

It's a sentiment I nurture deeply. I consider myself fortunate for the circumstances of my birth—the place, the attributes I was endowed with, and the opportunities that have come my way. My character, too, is something I hold in high esteem, for it carries many strengths. While I may not be fond of the label "creative people," there is an undeniable truth that those who create view the world through a different lens, one that I am grateful too.
Are you navigating the turbulent waters of a midlife crisis, or has that ship already sailed? Perhaps it's a storm that's yet to break on your horizon?

For me, the tempest hit at 38. It was then that I pondered the silence of a song within me, questioning why the melodies I adored remained unvoiced. The stage suddenly beckoned with an irresistible allure. In a moment of profound transformation, I plunged headfirst into the world of music, immersing myself with such fervor that the practicalities of life momentarily faded into the background. It was only later, amidst the euphoria of rediscovered passion, that I was reminded of the anchors holding me firm: responsibilities, a family, and a business that demanded steadfast commitment.

However, this journey allowed you to realize dreams that had long been dormant, correct?

Absolutely, without a doubt.

Are you presently engaged with a psychotherapist?

At this juncture, no, but there was a period fraught with difficulty when I found solace in therapy for an extended duration. It is indeed beneficial to seek the guidance of a therapist.

Did you find the experience beneficial?

I believe so. Given our upbringing in the post-Soviet sphere, particularly within the confines of a conservative society, the need for therapy is universal, considering the multifaceted layers of our upbringing. Therapy serves as a beacon, illuminating the path to self-discovery.

You completed your studies at CELA Academy in 2012, embarking on a new venture shortly before. What insights did CELA provide?

It reaffirmed my realization that pursuing one's passions, especially those that resonate with the soul, is paramount.

What message do you wish to convey to the CELA community?

My hope is for everyone who experiences CELA Academy, where the environment fosters a unique sense of awareness, to continue embracing self-reflection and understanding, even when they return to the mundanities of everyday life.