The Mind of the Maker: Dunia Simunovic

image of jewelry designer and collector Dunia Simunovic
Hi Dunia! Can you share how your practice took shape, and what led to the work you do today? 
I think I was led to this work for two reasons. The first: I was born in Croatia, where I now realize we have a very strong gold charm tradition. Relatives and close family friends would give each other small, dainty charms, especially during the "small" childhood years when so many other gifts are outgrown. The charms usually have to do with the first letter of the child's name, or their zodiac sign, a lucky symbol or “just” a beautiful clustering of sparkly gemstones set in gold. I still have the charms I was given and wear them often.
The second reason is more recent: I studied architecture and wanted to be able to create my own little pieces of architecture that can be worn and loved in a timeless way.
Architectural theory is ultimately an obsession with what is pleasing for the body from an ergonomic point of view, as well as visually. After my studies, I carried on this obsession to jewelry that can be worn, slept in and enjoyed every day.  
rings in gold with emeralds designed and collected by Dunia Simunovic 
We wear your work and pieces you've collected, and are really taken by the tactile nature of your practice. Can you tell us more about how you approach jewelry as art on — and in relationship to — the body? 
In the "architecture world", there is a type of architecture called vernacular architecture (h/t to Olivia Tarricone for teaching me this term a long while ago. I think of this often). Vernacular architecture is created with local materials and serves local, immediate needs, leading to the creation of a local style. When I think about the jewelry I design or source being used by a body, and inspiring a soul, I think about how jewelry serves the human need for self adornment yet I also want to fulfill this need with simple, solid gold or silver.
For my own jewelry and my body's relationship with it, I personally love rings because I can look down at my hands and experience a moment of appreciation for ancient materials and their journey to my hands. I layer chain necklaces because I like a glimpse of them in the mirror though I tend to stay away from long chains because they catch them on things (doorknobs, etc.) and I have a curious, grabby toddler that loves shiny things. I also wear earrings I can sleep in so I don't have to think about taking them in and out each day. 
When I meet with folks locally in the Hudson Valley for try-on sessions, I do a mini interview to get a sense of what they feel they need and want as well as what would be practical for their lifestyle.  
Dunia Simunovic emerald and gold chains
If someone hasn't bought fine jewelry for themselves before, where do you think they should start in figuring out their taste or style? 
I would think about whether you want to start with a piece that is for "special occasions" or a piece you want to wear everyday, perhaps even in the shower and overnight. If you're able to buy the piece in silver first before the gold version, do that. Then you can really tell if you want to make the investment in gold.
If you're very confident with your affinity for a piece, or if it's a one of a kind vintage find that may come your way once in your lifetime, go for it!  
You handle antique pieces, vintage pieces, and new work that you've designed. What do you see as the greatest qualities in the older pieces, and how do you incorporate those into your design practice? 
I *love* to see how vintage jewelry wears over time. Vintage high karat gold takes on a patina that is nearly impossible to recreate. With my own designs, that are cast with recycled gold,
I like to leave them raw and unpolished so the luminous magic of the molten gold flowing is visible.
Dunia Simunovic
What is your favorite material or stone right now? 
I love solid, unpolished gold. It's an investment that can be worn or gifted or saved. For my own designs, I love 10 karat gold because this lower karat gold gives access to solid gold at an attainable price point, while the price of gold is at an all time high and expected to continue climbing. I also have a soft spot for simple and heavy 22 karat gold for rings because of the deep, soft, buttery yellow depths that take on their own patina and texture over time. 
You have a kid, we have a kid, and our kids are about the same age. What's something your daughter has done that has influenced your art? 
As a mother of a young little whirlwind of a child, I am torn between moments with her feeling fleeting and also knowing they will remain with me for my whole life. I think about this almost daily, while I try to balance time for my craft and time with her.
A few months ago, my daughter picked out tiny little flower hairclips that inspired me to carve a charm that's very similar. 
I wanted to lock this item in gold for her to wear when she gets older, and for myself now. 
I love crystalizing (in gold) these little moments of her early years where she gets completely and deeply obsessed with certain items. 
rings by Dunia Simunovic in gold and silver
Last Question: Favorite place in the Hudson Valley to see something unexpected? 
I love this question. When I think of a place I gravitate toward for a refreshing day, which for me always includes something unexpected, I think of Rose Hill Farm. It's usually a good mix of local folks that are open for a longer chat and curious to meet others and visiting folks that are delighted to find their way to the beautiful land and tap room. It’s where I like to spend my birthday. 
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