In Conversation: Mihanikî

We met with Sema Kentel, the founder of Mihanikî, at her atelier in Istanbul to talk about her eye-catching jewelry designs, muses, and future plans.

Sema Kentel, who began a new brand journey with her jewelry design in Seattle, brings the aesthetics of ancient times to modern life through Mihanikî. We listened to Mihanikî's story and chatted about the designer's personal journey.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your designs, and the story of Mihanikî?

I am from Eskişehir, my grandfather is indeed from Odunpazarı. I graduated from Boğaziçi University with a degree in Political Science and International Relations. After graduation, I started working in an advertising agency, where I could experience different sectors at the same time.Agencies are often referred to as the 'kitchen' of the business. After working for a few years, I moved to Seattle, USA.

While in Seattle, I had the chance to think about what made me happy, to question myself, and to try new things. I always wanted to make something real with my hands. But only after studying jewelry in different design studios, I had the opportunity to see that I really have a talent for it.

When I came back from Seattle to Istanbul, I continued my jewelry lessons and specialized in digital marketing. I was working full-time at an agency during the process of founding Mihanikî. I couldn't concentrate on both at the same time, so I quit my job at the agency and focused on Mihanikî for a while. After Mihanikî reached a certain level, we established our own agency, Digimetri, with my three partners.

You also have a digital agency. So, what are the difficulties you face or your sources of motivation or inspiration in this busy routine?

First of all, I must honestly say that my daily life is really intense. Planning my time has been my top priority. I can't deny that life can be very tiring sometimes, especially when a tiny baby joins me in my two full-time jobs.

But whenever I'm too busy, I get more passionate about creating something new. I think my biggest motivation has been my own activity lately. The busier I am, the more efficiently I use my time. Whenever I have the opportunity, I read about ancient Greek history, one of my favorite and most inspirational subjects. There is a new series that I have prepared specifically about muses. Of course, after Deniz was born, the "evil eye" fell into the heart of our lives. I have some drawings on this subject, but unfortunately, I haven't found the time to work on metal yet.

What kind of a design and production process do you have? Are there any points in the design process that you pay special attention to?

Everything starts with the design. Mihanikî is a brand that grows with its own designs. In the first years, everything started on the bench; now I draw a little more with paper and pencil (I can draw as much as I can understand, but it's still enough). Then I sit on the bench, work with the lost wax casting, or weld. Then the molds are taken, I try different things, and I decide which material to use.

Sometimes I ask myself, "Do I feel comfortable with it? Do I really love to wear it?" for months. To sum up, the most important point for me is whether the piece I created is a design that I would like to wear or not. I should get excited when I wear it, I have to like it when I see it on my hand or on my ear.

Mihanikî designs "jewelry inspired by the simplicity of antiquity." So if you were to describe your designs or your sense of aesthetics, how would you do that?

When I started Mihaniki, my designs were mostly inspired by the ancient times, especially Byzantine history, and that influence is still very strong. I am a political science graduate, but the elective Byzantine history courses I took while I was at university, especially Nevra Necipoğlu's excitement while teaching the course, still inspire me.

I also feel the presence of my favorite author, Ursula Le Guin, in the workshop. Designs are sometimes the result of a conscious process, research, and conceptual work. Sometimes it happens completely spontaneously, in a truly "mihanic" way, in an unplanned flow.

Mihaniki is also the biggest witness to my personal journey. As I change, the things I like and want to wear can also change. As a result, regardless of how much Mihaniki draws inspiration from the ancient period, it also proceeds based on my visual needs, life sections, and tastes.

The clearest example of this is that in 2018, when I was constantly traveling to Seattle for my partner's job, I thought too much about the concept of being "on the road," and the "Road" series came out that year.

Although my understanding of aesthetics has changed a little in recent years, it still has a simplicity and freedom that are both assertive and not exaggerated. I associate my creative style and process with feeling free; designing makes me feel free…

Let's talk about your future projects. What can you say about future projects, expectations, plans, and dreams?

There are definitely more semi-precious stones in my future productions, and again, lots of antiquity. I think I'm on a slightly different design path; there are at least ten different models waiting for me, and I think we are waiting for the right time to come together.

In recent years, I have felt stuck at home and in the workshop with the pandemic and pregnancy, so I hope to be abroad more, to take Mihanikî there, and to take the brand on a more international path. Developing partnerships with other designers and working together on multidisciplinary projects is also one of my dreams.

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