Once upon a time, Slovenia was a wild, wet forest.
It was a magical world, filled with wildlife, and no man ever stepped inside.
A wild jungle… Trees were bathing in the sun and wild animals were running around. New trees grew and old ones lay to rest. In this magical world, trees didn’t die – they transformed into a stone named coal.
Nowadays, artist digs it out and let these 20 million-year-old trees see the sunlight again. This is a story about stones that travel through time and want to do it with you!
KUOLMi is a local name for coal. Take it with you and make it your best friend.
The natural coal stone of Slovenia will share a memory of Slovenia no matter where you go. It’s called a butterfly of the earth. With many transformations plant matter became coal. And the creative touch shaped it into a unique piece of jewelry.
KUOLMi jewelry is handmade by a local artist Marjeta Hribar.
She picks, cuts and designs every single piece by hand.
Her message has an ecological note: Wear it, don’t burn it! The designer is well known for designing a crown of Miss Slovenia, coworking with the Alpina company, and promoting Slovenian heritage in new creative ways. Coal jewelry KUOLMi is made from stainless steel and hard coal, both displaying the hidden charm of “black gold”. Each item is unique and hand-made thanks to the material itself. There are no two identical rings or bracelets as every lump of hard coal is chopped from a bigger piece.
Wearing KUOLMi, you wear a piece of rock that has already existed 20 million years ago!
The KUOLMi brand participated in the selection for MISS SLOVENIA and designed unique crowns for the selected Miss Slovenia.
Designing a Heart of the Statue Prometheus- 11 m tall Statue in Slovenia
An 11-meter iron sculpture of Rudar – Prometheus already stands on Ostri vrh in Trbovlje; a memorial erected in memory of generations of miners. Prometheus’ headlight will shine across the valley to the mine shaft at Guida, where it will illuminate the mining coat of arms on the tower. However, a heart formed of coal will begin to be in the rhythm of the heartbeat for the first time at the opening, which we look forward to when the measures are released.
As part of the commemorative material dedicated to the statue, the designer also made book indexes and key chains Prometheus Heart, which are an original accessory and souvenir.
A heart embodies the heartiness of the people who live in this space and are represented by the statue.
Because we have lived from it until now, the heart is made of coal, and Prometheus-Miner, who looks to the future, will always carry it with him, even if it has changed its meaning and transformed into new forms. The Prometheus Heart project is in its final stages and we can say that it was a successfully designed and completed project that can be mentioned as a reference at both the local and national levels.
Who wears KUOLMi*
Miss Slovenia 2019
Miss Slovenia 2018, Lara Kalanj
Miss Eco Slovenia 2018, Tamara Fišter
Mr. Luka Dončič
Irene Ciabattini Bolla , model, Sardignia
Maja Požar, Professional visual artist, photographer, model, London
Embassy of Slovenia, London, GB
Embassy of Slovenia, Israel
Primoz Roglic, a pro cyclist riding for Team Jumbo – Visma
Peter Kauzer, Rio 2016, Silver medallist OG
David Bacali, fashion designer
Alpina, -Miss Buler shoes
Gregor Ceglaj- Dream man,
Embassy of Slovenia London, UK
Embassy of Slovenia in Lebanon, Israel, Russia, China
KUOLMi is a regular participant in fairs such as Internautica and Nautica Portorož, ArtEXPO Lj, AlpeAdria fair, MOS Celje, etc.
Dr. Magdalena Grmek and Dr. Kristina Pranjič wrote a study on the topic of the Social Impact of Art, through the KUOLMi example, is an internationally published newspaper, on the changes that only this material can cause for the local environment.
What kind of jewelry do we design
Handmade Natural soaps with coal
Special handmade objects
Hello Marjeta! What is KUOLMi jewelry, and how did you start working with coal?
Marjeta: KUOLMi jewelry is an eco-sustainable brand. Making handmade coal jewelry I share the eco-friendly message: “Wear it, don’t burn it!” Under the brand Kuolmi, the rock, coal is now even embedded in bottles, wall clocks, book indexes, tie pins, and adorn footwear. I am the granddaughter of a miner and the region that I come from was shaped by coal. Now I am breathing new life into the more than 10 million years old material, which
shaped the development of the region for more than two centuries. I feel at best in her workshop, where I only invite very few visitors. KUOLMI is the local name for coal- so I just used that.
As a designer I think, we need to aspire from who we are and what we know the best. For me – coal is home. “My emotional attachment to coal is focused on coal as the material we love and which in the past represented bread and heart”. For me, coal is above all something that is readily here, but I point to new qualities, look at different angles, and draw from them the best to connect the past and the future”. When I was little, I liked holding warm coal in my hands – coal meant home to me: “Everything about it was home to me, and my grandparents taught me that it was worthy of respect”.
We must not deny our past, but we can transform it. Instead of discovering new things, we can find additional value in what we already have, so I used it as my material to work with.
What are your earliest memories of doing art?
Marjeta: I think that art lives in us, and I must say that my early pieces came to life when I was a toddler. I guess my first earrings were made of cherries hanging from my ears. I still have my first earrings that I made from wire-
and I still remember the feeling of power of creation. It is still with me. To be able to manifest something gives you purpose. So I used my power to create something to share a message about life, about coal, and things that
surround us. Nothing is just bad or good- coal is bad for the environment, but it can be used in so many different ways. In the past, people used it as medicine, like soap, and claimed it “as dragon blood that was spilled on the
ground”. so, why do we know it as something bad?
Tell me more about the amazing 11-meter iron sculpture of “Rudar” – Prometheus?
Marjeta: The miner Prometheus, an eleven-meter-high monument in remembrance of more than 200 years of mining is now erected in Trbovlje, Slovenia to be officially revealed later this year. A monument to the generations of Zasavje people who worked hard to ensure the survival of families and the development of the region. This the largest commemorative sculpture in Slovenia is made by the sculptor Zoran Poznič and I. Prometheus became a
god of fire and a representation of human striving, the skills of civilization, such as writing, mathematics, agriculture, medicine, and science. He is seen as a representation of the quest for knowledge and revolutionary
defiance – but also of the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences. In Trbovlje, the impressive mining Prometheus sculpture will shine self-sufficient solar cells – illuminated from the inside. His headlight will shine across the valley to the entrance of the mine shaft, where it will illuminate the mining coat of arms on the tower.
I made the heart of the Prometheus – naturally of coal. For me, it’s personal satisfaction to be a part of this project. The more I thought about him, the more I wanted to embody the duality of this life in our ends. There was
always talk only of male heroes suffering underground. However, these heroes were only able to survive thanks to their wives. That is why this heart has two halves – which are connected and beat with the same rhythm.
I think the statue will appeal even to the younger generation: Prometheus will not need an explanation, because it skips time frames. Given that the basis of work is from the past, it is driven through the present, and with all the virtual technology, it connects all time frames. Everyone will look for the part of the story that is closest or most related to them.
It was quite a challenge, to design a monumental part from the material, that doesn’t last- into something, that needs to define weather and time. Just a few days ago, some photographer caught lightning that struck the monument in the storm. So coal heart must be protected even at times like this. Ti was untouched, so I guess the job was well done.
How did you start working on this?
Marjeta: When I was a toddler I lived in mining housing and my grandmother used to have a lot of coal. So I played with it, and it looked as a black diamond to me. So I used that to design jewelry, but things changed along the way. Using coal as a basic material was something that was needed in my region. We lost our identity when the mine was closed, but we still carried it in our hearts. By using it in another way, we can accept the past and use it now as a souvenir- such as soap KUOLMi – made with coal, jewelry, keychains, as a piece of Slovenia, that tourists can take with them.
What is your mission with KUOLMi?
Marjeta: I am also an advocate of cooperation and co-creates new projects with other like-minded entrepreneurs and companies that support a local and sustainable economy. In 2018- 20 I was working with the national contest
Miss Slovenia, creating the crowns, giving a special dark shine, to be worn by the winning beauty queen, and in cooperation with the Slovenian international footwear manufacturer, Alpina, I created coal-based jewelry to adorn a selection of new boots. I designed three crowns, with unusual natural materials from Slovenia.
What famous people wear KUOLMi?
Marjeta: Slovenia is quite famous for having fantastic sports. So, I can say that my jewelry and souvenirs are useful gifts for them. Mr. Luka Dončić has cufflinks KUOLMi in his possession, Olympic gold medalist in Cycling
Primož Roglič has it, Miss Slovenia 2018 and Miss Slovenia 2019 have crowns, KUOLMi jewelry is worn all over the world, from Japan to Alaska.
How much planning do you do before you jump into creating an artwork? If you do, what are you trying to solve at each stage of it?
Marjeta: As a designer, my creating process works 24-7. So My preparations start in the early morning, while brushing my teeth, and when I come to my working station- I am already ready to make a sketch or basic design lines. All my designs are the result of years of working experience, and I can see how much I have grown when I take my old designs in my hands.
What is a day of working like in your home studio?
Marjeta: A lot of people ask me, how is it that coal shines so brightly? Basically, it’s its natural glow, like stones glow when we wet them. So, I will bring it back. Coal is a very warm and interesting material. I use it all. Big pieces for statement pieces, dust for painting, and detailed jewelry. My work office is always black and smells like coal. It has its own smell, did you know?
I usually am working with several pieces at once, since coal needs time to be ready for designing. The first attempts at coal design were a failure, must say. I immediately realized that simple varnishing would not work. The material is alive, still breathing, and has the properties of wood and stone.
Finding the right way to prepare it so it could shine with the sun took me almost two years. I tried freezing and heating – everything possible to make
friends with coal. It can still surprise me today because each piece was created under slightly different conditions. Now I treat the coal with natural resins, which gives it the opportunity to one day go back to where it came from – to Mother Nature. This ecological way of designing is an important guideline for the vision of the future I stick to.
What motivates you as an artist? Is it curiosity, the search for beauty or meaning?
Marjeta: I can see beauty in everything. I think my inspiration comes from having a vision of a bright future when humankind can coexist with nature and can be respectful to each other. So my designs are pieces of that vision. Making things a little better- as much as I- a little human being can do.
In Zonemoda Journal was an article about me-Constructing New Signifiers with Aesthetic Intervention: Using Coal in Design, written by dr. Kristina Pranjić and dr. Magdalena Grmek where they discussed that Design is a form of visual arts an important social formation with a potential for restructuring the attitude and strategies that we have towards the material culture around us. So, using that- I think, we artists have an unmeasurable influence on the world. That gives me hope.
What is your most recent piece of art that you have enjoyed working on the most?
Marjeta: Right now I am playing with the idea of implementing coal into wedding rings. So first designs are already showing- still, a long way to go, but I think wedding rings with coal can be very beautiful.
Do you have a real-life situation that inspired your artwork?
Marjeta: Once an elderly lady came to visit me from Ljubljana, she came by train using a walker. She wanted to buy a coal ring in memory of her grandfather who was a miner. Another time a doorbell rang and there was a married couple from Germany who heard about my jewelry on the radio broadcast. Without knowing exactly who they were looking for, they found me with the help of neighbors who showed them where “the one with coal” lives,
because they wanted to take with them a piece of their birthplace. These stories are my work fuel, I must say.
What are you working on right now?
Marjeta: Right now, I am designing sculptures for our fantastic Olympic sports that are coming back from Tokyo, from the Olympic games. I am working on my new design, paintings, where I use coal as material. These months will be busy and happy.