The 32-year-old German, who graduated in 2006, had studied jewellery arts at Erfurt University and did an apprenticeship in gold- and silversmithing before moving to Norway to work as a goldsmith.
‘Doing 150 rings all the same bored me to pieces, and I knew I wanted to make more of my career than sitting on a bench,’ she said.
Torkos applied to the College from Norway after doing a lot of research to find the right place. ‘It sounded really interesting, the projects they did, and more conceptual than I had been used to.’
‘They were two very intense years. After the first year I was still quite confused – all of us were – but somehow at the beginning of the second year, we found we were taken in a new direction and everything became really focused.’
During her course Torkos took advantage of the College’s partnership projects with commercial companies, working and learning with luxury jeweller Theo Fennell.
‘In the beginning I was super-scared – this guy is really big,’ she said. ‘But I learned so much from it. I would go and see him and he would empty this great bucket of ideas over my head. He has such a knowledge when it comes to art, not just jewellery, and he was really open-minded, open to my suggestions and what I would like to look into,’ she said. Torkos is still in touch with Fennell, who takes a close interest in her work and exhibitions.
Torkos finished her two years with a collection of changeable and adaptable jewellery, which sparked a lot of interest and is a theme that has since taken off. ‘They're pieces that are interchangeable: that you can interact with, that the wearer can change what it does, how it looks, the colour and the function.’
She set up a studio with fellow graduating students and immediately had work exhibited internationally. She also began teaching and now works at the University of Hertfordshire and at City Lit, where she teaches a City and Guilds course as well as taking part in a project teaching jewellery making to disadvantaged women in London.
Two years after graduating Torkos switched studios to Walthamstow, where she has joined a group of silversmiths for ‘new influences’. Teaching supplies her bread and butter and designing fulfils her creative spirit. ‘The things I’m doing are very wearable but they are not super-commercial. I made a conscious decision to keep it non-commercial for the time being,’ she said. That said, the indefatigable Torkos is constantly busy with projects, shows and collaborations. She has exhibited her work both in solo shows and collections at the V&A in London, in Milan, Germany, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and Korea.
‘The RCA showed me there are so many different ways of working… It opens so many doors. If people know you come from the College they are immediately interested,’ she said. ‘It allowed me to find my own way. All of a sudden I felt quite free to work the way I wanted.’
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"The RCA showed me there are so many different ways of working… It opens so many doors. If people know you come from the College they are immediately interested. It allowed me to find my own way. All of a sudden I felt quite free to work the way I wanted."Karola Torkos
MA Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork & Jewellery, 2004–6