Tjaša and Peter Malalan: On the Same Wavelength
M: Tjaša, how did your love of jewellery develop?
T: I fought it so long that it was ridiculous. Looking back, I realise that this love has always been within me, I even took it for granted. Maybe that’s why I didn’t want to accept it. My attention has never been drawn to classic pieces of jewellery which are generally liked by numerous women, but then one day I noticed a mini ring with diamonds which I immediately knew I’d love to have. All of a sudden, I found more and more pieces that were simply made for me.
M: Could you say that your parents were also an important influence?
T: I could say that I always felt the pressure to participate in the tradition of making and selling jewellery, but my parents never wanted to influence my decisions. They told me several times that decisions I make are mine and mine alone.
My attention has never been drawn to classic pieces of jewellery which are generally liked by numerous women, but then one day I noticed a mini ring with diamonds which I immediately knew I’d love to have.
M: Peter, how was it for you, how do you remember your parents and the family company they had at Opicina near Trieste?
P: My father was a watchmaker and he dealt mainly with watch repairs, while the main focus was on the sales of watches and jewellery. I did not feel the pressure Tjaša did, and as a youngster I wanted to become an electrical engineer or a computer expert. Then, more to satisfy our curiosity than anything else, my parents took me to visit the school for goldsmiths in Piemonte and the minute we got there I said to myself: “Yes, I’d like to do this too.”
At 15, all three brothers went to study abroad – Darko to Switzerland for five years to study to be a watchmaker, me to Piemonte as a jeweller, and Milko to Tuscany where he studied to be an optician. We all learned to be independent and thus we were able to take over the running of the company after our parents retired. We called ourselves Team 49. Namely, in 1949 our father started running the company. There and then, with the jewellery-making knowledge I had acquired, I started encouraging the making of jewellery under the name of Malalan.
M: The move from Opicina to Ljubljana probably did not come all of a sudden. What was the period like for both of you when you decided to take that step?
P: For me it was very intense, especially work-wise, while for Tjaša it was slightly more stressful.
T: Yes, primarily due to the Slovenian language which I was used to in a different dialect, and also because of my friends. Dad started preparing all of us for Ljubljana by taking us there for ice cream and the scoops there were truly enormous... twice the size of those in Opicina! This way he wanted to make us see how great it was here, but the ice cream was way too creamy. I also remember the first Malalan store at 19 Mestni trg, where there was a small office and a watchmaking workshop in the basement.
Dad started preparing all of us for Ljubljana by taking us there for ice cream and the scoops there were truly enormous... twice the size of those in Opicina!
M: You now work together in the same company. What is working together like?
P: I’m truly thrilled when I see that Tjaša feels and understands the processes in the company and when we discover how many points we have in common. I take my inspiration and energy primarily from the fact that together we want to make something more.
M: How does the jewellery design work?
T: In this I try to be as independent as possible, yet I still like to ask Dad for his opinion. Due to his vast experience and knowledge I still see him as a mentor. Everything I know about jewellery came primarily from him, albeit very discreetly and slowly, and then it stuck in my head. Nevertheless, more and more often I notice that he doesn’t want to influence my work too much, he always lets me take the vision of the jewellery in my own direction. It does, however, happen frequently that I’m not completely certain and I need his opinion.
P: Well, this has changed very much recently... Tjaša became much more determined, she knows exactly what she wants and that is very important. Namely, jewellery design is a matter of subjective taste and when you become more confident about your work, you can co-create the end product together with the entire team.
M: Tjaša, which was your most important lesson in jewellery design?
T: I actually do have one! I remember that he always told me I should pay attention to volume and the creation of it.
P: Oh well, it might be true that I think a bit more about the depth of jewellery but I haven’t drawn anything in a really long time.
M: When was the last time you sat down to draw?
P: Hard to say, but I’m certainly not as conscientious as Tjaša. I always try to envision the designs comprehensively. Even when I was young, I always wanted to do 3D computerised drawing because I felt this was where future lay.
M: And where do you see the future today?
P: 3D printing will be improved but I think that human mind has to play a part in technology since it knows how to assemble the final product from several elements. It also has to be a person, when speaking about jewellery, who finishes it manually. Jewellery has a soul given to it by the person who makes it.
Due to his vast experience and knowledge I still see him as a mentor. Everything I know about jewellery came primarily from him, albeit very discreetly and slowly, and then it stuck in my head.
M: What is your business vision?
P: I have a philosophy based on a spoon, which was created one day at the table at lunch. When I picked up a dessert spoon, I quickly drew a parallel with what we do. This spoon can be made by anybody, but, produce the same quality spoon every day and then improve it – you see, that can’t be done by anybody. It is this precise persistence and the tendency for quality that are for me the goal of business success.
T: And this spoon, which is repeated from one lunch to another... it almost became our symbol.
M: This year, Tjaša had to face a longer absence of her parents in the company for the first time. How were the three weeks during which your parents were in South America?
T: Slightly stressful, but with a strong desire to prove myself. For the first couple of days I really felt the pressure but then I realised that I was ready and I got the feeling that...
P: You got this...?
T: No, more the feeling that I have a truly good, well-versed team backing me up and they are ready to help. That gave me additional self-confidence.
M:So you have already started planning your next vacation on the sailing boat, Peter?
P: Yes, once these trips were 'team building' for our family. Boat vacations are one of our family’s rituals.
M: Which sea-faring adventure do the two of you remember the most?
P: In Greece, we let Tjaša take the helm when we had the wind in our stern... and you know how it goes, if it turns your sail, you also lean to the side. Soon after I hear my wife: “Peetteerr!” and realise that we were actually totally on our side.
T: My brother Jure was lying on the deck and almost fell overboard!
M: Speaking about memories: we often hear that Malalan jewellery is timeless. Does it also connect to the slogan "We forge your dreams into eternity"?
T: We design our jewellery with the purpose that it can be worn often and its value lasts.
P: I think that this region has, partly due to history, slightly lost the authentic contact with family memories. And that is exactly what we want to bring back to life and preserve in the company.
M: Which piece of family jewellery holds most value for you two?
P: Each and every piece of jewellery from the family legacy brings out special feelings in me regardless of its material value. Jewellery reminds me of family and I think that’s most important.
T: Yes, I can only agree.
Each and every piece of jewellery from the family legacy brings out special feelings in me regardless of its material value. Jewellery reminds me of family and I think that’s most important.