Slovenia is a small country, with just over two million people and a capital where it can be hard to find something to eat after midnight. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t home to businesses, artists and designers who can enjoy its sleepy charms while still engaging with the wider world. One of these is Olga Košica, a jeweller, artisan and artist who can be found working in the small studio she shares with Martina Obid Mlakar in Ljubljana's Old Town, designing, making and selling her pieces around Europe, in Asia, and elsewhere. Intrigued by her story, I got on my bicycle to learn more about how a small business, drawn from the hands and heart, could do all this. Along with some pictures of Olga’s work, here are some excerpts from our conversation
I started my career almost by chance. I took a short course in college, an introduction to jewellery, and was fascinated. From then on I wanted to learn more. I couldn’t do that in Slovenia, because there weren’t the schools, so I applied to study in London, at the Royal College of Art, and was lucky enough to be accepted, and I did my MA there.
Photo: Olga Košica
Photo: Olga Košica
I already had some basic knowledge, but at RCA they really encouraged me, and saw my potential. They also provided a lot of support, in terms of, say, technicians and equipment. I was there for two years, working every day, but it was wonderful, because there’s everything at your disposal. It’s a great school.
Photo: Mimi Antolović
Photo: Mimi Antolović
Back then I was rying many different things, and you can still see some of those pieces here in the store. A lot of them, like this necklace, were electroformed using wax, but – as you can see – this piece is falling apart, because I’ve loaned it out for so many fashion shows, photos shoots, and so on. I did a lot of electroformed pieces in London, which looked like coral, and also beetles, a lot of beetles, because when I start something it’s like a production line.
Photo: Rok Marinšek
Photo: Rok Marinšek
I work freelance. This is my workshop, so here I can handmake certain pieces. But when I work for Zlatarna Celje I just make the designs, not the physical pieces. I've been working with them for 14 years now. I did some gold collections, but mainly I worked on their silver line – LENCIA.
Photo: Olga Košica
Photo: Olga Košica
Another project I spend a lot of time on is 3-D printing, which I do along with the graphic designer Rok Marinšek for the Chinese designer Masha Ma, to be used as part of fashion show at Paris fashion week.. They’re made of polyamide, and they’re really fun. We started about 6 years ago, when in Maribor they’d just got a huge machine. It was very exact, the best for its time, and they wanted some designers to use it, to see what could be done.
Photo: Rok Marinšek
Photo: Matjaž Banič
We played around with it and produced some really interesting things. Some of those were taken to Paris by Andrej Skok, a Slovenian stylist who works with Masha Ma, and that’s how that collaboration started. We produce some of this here in Slovenia, but for certain pieces we send the files to i.materialise, a Belgian company.
Photo: Rok Marinšek
Photo: Rok Marinšek
I move between different projects and different ways of working. So sometimes I’m working on the computer, producing a file for 3-D printing, and with that you can go into incredible detail that wouldn’t be possible by hand. For example, I made some 3-D printed frozen flowers, and you can see the ice. But these aren’t real frozen flowers that were scanned, they were all designed. And then when you have the data of course you can change the size, stretch it, copy-paste it, move it around. In that way you can get a lot of different pieces out of one design element.
Photo: Mimi Antolović
Photo: Olga Košica
But then I also enjoy making the pieces myself, in the workshop, because that can be more spontaneous. Of course, people are surprised when they come to the workshop and they see the reality. Jewellery is very delicate, but the process of making it can be very brutal, and you need a lot of force to stretch metal, change its shape, or make some wire. Which is why this all used to be seen as men’s work.
You can see more of Olga Košica’s work on her website or, if you happen to be at the far end of Ljubljana’s Old Town, visit her workshop instead at Gornji trg 26.
We’re huge fans of the K67 kiosk, the modular unit that (as noted in our earlier feature):
was designed in 1966 by the then young Slovenian architect Saša Janez Mächtig (b. 1941, Ljubljana), a former student of Edvard Ravnikar, and put into mass production in various colours two years later. It was made of reinforced polyfibre, steel, and glass, and was intended as to be used as part of modular structures – as seen in some of these photographs – as well as for temporary events. While they stopped being produced shortly after Slovenian independence, many still remain in use around Eastern Europe, although more have disappeared, and others sit abandoned, waiting to be rediscovered by urban explorers.
Saša Janez Mächtig, the designer, in front of one of his many creations. Screenshot from the www.24ur.com report
While one of these little wonders sits in New York’s MoMA, another has is now touched down not far away in Times Square, as part of the NYC Design Pavillion, fulfilling one of its more traditional roles as an information centre. The event runs until May 22, and you can see a short video report on the K67, including an interview with the still vibrant Saša Janez Mächtig, here. The president of the Times Square Alliance, Tim Tompkins, can also be seen saying that the aim of the event was to present the best design from around the world, and joked that the K67 brought a little bit of Europe into the New World, a bit of beauty to a not-so-beautiful place, even a bit of socialism to the centre of capitalism.
K67s in the wild, courtesy of Google Image Search
You can learn more about the K67 in our earlier story, and add a little excitement to your time in Slovenia, and nearby, by then being to spot a design classic that really does deserve the title hidden gem.
All our stories on architecture in Slovenia can be found here
If you enjoy gin then what better way to turn your habit into a hobby than to explore the world beyond the big names, and if you’d like a good excuse to restock your liquor shelf with intriguing bottles and varied tastes then consider entering the world of Slovenian gin
To the ill-informed this might seem like a risky proposal – what would Slovenians know about gin? But this would be a mistake akin to dismissing Japanese whisky or Californian wine. More so, perhaps, as Slovenia not only has the climate and knowledge needed to produce the drink, but a long history of working with juniper berries, producing a native spirit known as brinjevec (sometimes brinavec).
Brina is the Slovenian name for the berry that gives gin, along with various other botanicals – each producer using their own selection – its distinctive taste, and here we’ll note that botanicals, distillation and restorative liqueurs are also all part of the country’s cultural heritage. And gin, if not quite in the DNA, is certainly in the bloodstream of a growing number of Slovenians.
We thus present part one of a brief guide to of the bigger names in domestic gin production, the ones you might find in good liquor stores and bars across the country, and soon, perhaps, abroad.
Berryshka, based in Dolenjske Toplice, is family firm that started in 1950 producing essential oils. While this remains the core business, the company has long applied its expertise in extraction and distillation to other products, including a range of spirits and fruit liqueurs, with drinks that are low in sugar, come with no artificial colours or additives, and are made using natural spring water. These liqueurs are based on natural flavours such as cherry, aronia, walnut, blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, and juniper – the berry that gives gin its distinctive taste. Berryshka juniper products currently include a brinjevec – marketed as brandy and sold in both original and oak-barrel aged varieties – and two gins. London Gin Berryshka follows the traditions of the most popular gin, with a neutral alcohol flavoured with juniper berries, angelica, iris, cinnamon, liquorice, cardamom, anise, cumin, lemon, and coriander, while the while the more distinctive BrinGin Berryshka has the alcohol provided by juniper distillate, producing a drink that can be savoured neat, or enjoyed with the usual mixers. You can find Berryshka’s liquers and chocolates in many stores, but for the full experience you’re welcome to visit the factory, which also produces handmade chocolates, an experience that could easily be combined with a trip to Novo mesto, or the nearby hot springs. Find out more the company’s website.
Brin Gin is the work of Erik Sarkič, a third-generation brinjevec producer who grew up with a deep background in junipers and distillation. The move to gin was thus natural one, opening up new markets for the family business, and arguably making better use of the berries, since a litre of brinjevec requires around 8 kg of them, while the same amount of gin gains it’s more subtle flavour from just 20 g. In his mission to dive deeper into the flavour profile of the juniper Berry Erik is supported by Matevž Kmet, a biochemist who works as a consultant for the firm and has the air of a mad scientist, or at least a man for whom the greater the challenge, the more exciting it is to consider. Together Erik and Matevž dream up new products and then work to make their dreams become reality. One of these, still in the experimental stage, includes an alcohol-free gin, for those who love the taste of a good G&T but want to maintain a clear head. Another is what’s intended to be the world’s best, and most expensive, gin – with production of this now completed, and the launch only waiting on the perfect bottle to be found. Finally, Erik and Matevž are also working on a product that will be made entirely of juniper, including a juniper wood bottle. You can keep up with the latest developments, and order a bottle online, here.
DTG (Dry Tergeste Gin) also takes its own approach to the classic spirit, and is yet another small producer showing that the Slovenian tradition of brinjevec means the country is well positioned to become home to a variety of boutique gin brands, all of which are worthy of a place on your shelf. The name refers to Tergeste, or Trst (or, you must, Trieste), and Martin Žužek Kres, an anthropologist by training who developed the drink, wants his products to reflect the history of the land. However, DTG doesn’t just have a story to tell, but also a product that distinguishes itself from other gins in a number of ways. For one, it avoids the use of grain alcohol to give the drink its kick, and instead relies on alcohol produced from the juniper berry, mixed with a unique coffee cherry brandy. Coffee cherries are the fruit that grow around and protect coffee beans, and contain both caffeine and antioxidants. Their use in gin doesn’t produce a coffee-flavoured drink, but does give an interesting taste that can be enjoyed neat, without ice, or with mixers. In a sign of how quickly the Slovenian gin scene is set to evolve, the company has three new products that are still in development, but which I was lucky enough to taste at a recent event, and these will add to the flagship drink’s flavour profile with the use of spruce, thyme, and wild mint. Look out for DTG in stores, or order a bottle online.
All the parts of this series can be found here
May 8, 2019
You might know of Klemen Slakonja from his international hit Putin Putout that rocked YouTube in 2016, and with 23 million views is perhaps the most successful Slovenian video on the platform to date.
Slakonja, originally from Brežice, started his impersonating career somewhere in high school, then studied at the Academy for Theatre Radio Film and Television, and fooled around on the local Radio Energy in Krško. In the late summer of 2007, he performed at the welcoming ceremony for a hammer thrower, Primož Kozmos, who was returning silver from the World Championship in Osaka. There, Slakonja was spotted by a national radio journalist, who notified Sašo Hribar, the main host of the popular Radio Ga-Ga Show, of the young talent.
Slakonja accepted the invitation and performed on the show several times side-by-side with the current Slovenian prime minister, Marjan Šarec. Below is an excerpt from his first appearance. The plot of this show was the funeral of Angela (one of the show's recurring characters):
In 2008 he landed his first job as a TV host, in a popular family Sunday afternoon show called NLP on RTV 1. In 2011 he hosted his first EMA show, which chooses the Slovenian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, and did so again in 2012 and 2016.
From 2013 to 2014 he hosted two of his own comedy shows for commercial TV stations, namely Zadetek v petek (Full on Friday) and Je bella cesta (Damn). Below is an example from one of these shows, in which he is impersonating Modrijani, a Slovenian oompah band, while the song talks about the uptight, obscenity free culture of the Slovenes, in which everyday words hint at sexuality.
2016 was the year of a big international breakthrough for Klemen Slakonja, when his Putin Putout YouTube video went viral, which was followed by much-viewed parodies featuring Angela Merkel and Donald Trump.
Also in 2016, Klemen Slakonja played himself as an aspiring serious actor turned popular entertainer due to public demand in a play Ubu the King, directed by Jernej Lorenci and produced by Slovenian National Theatre Drama.
In recent years, Klemen Slakonja has produced nearly 50 video parodies of local and international pop-singers, politicians and other public figures, so it’s not surprising that he last year decided to put them all on stage in the form of a concert. Three of his concerts in the main Gallus Hall of Cankar home were sold out. Then he organised a Slovenian tour, with three concerts that were to take place in Maribor, Ljubljana, and Portorož this spring, the last one scheduled in June. However, all of the concerts were cancelled due to illness and technical issues.
Although Klemen obviously needs some rest, we hoped he would at least appear during the Eurovision Song Contest later this month, announcing Slovenia’s “points” to Tel Aviv and perhaps cracking a joke or two while doing so. After all, he managed to post a rather raw but funny parody of this year’s Slovenian entry “Sebi” on his Facebook in March. The job went to Lea Sirk instead, who might not be able to hide her disappointment if Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl win.
You can see all of Klemen’s videos on his YouTube channel, here.
STA, 6 May 2019 - A team that also featured five Slovenian researchers has published a ground-breaking cell differentiation paper that can potentially help revolutionise personalised regenerative medicine, Slovenia's Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) has reported.
Contributing to the paper, published in the journal Molecular Cell, were London-based researchers Miha Modic and Jernej Ule, Gregor Rot of the University of Zurich, Tjaša Lepko from the Helmholtz Centre in Munich and Boris Roglej of IJS.
The researchers described the regulatory network explaining the starting events leading to an effective differentiation of stem cells and the development of an embryo. The findings are considered groundbreaking for the understanding of cell differentiation processes.
The researchers were examining the molecular mechanism of the differentiation of pluripotent cells, which differ from adult stem cells in that they are capable of differentiation into any cell of the human body.
Induced pluripotent cells can then reprogramme any cell of a person's body into induced stem cells. These can in turn be differentiated into all cell types, for instance also the patient's own beta cells that produce insulin, meaning they have the potential to revolutionise personalised regenerative medicine.
A complex series of studies allowed the researchers to discover in what way paraspeckles, irregularly shaped compartments of the cell that do not exist in the nuclei of pluripotent cells, are formed during the differentiation of stem cells and what role is played by RNA (Ribonucleic acid)-networks and RNA-binding proteins.
According to IJS, paraspeckles are the new "rising stars" in the field of cellular biology that can potentially help explain a number of conditions in the human body but are poorly researched.
Along with the utility for regenerative drugs, the understanding of these regulatory networks could also shed new light on various conditions, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
The paper, titled Cross-Regulation between TDP-43 and Paraspeckles Promotes Pluripotency-Differentiation Transition, can be read here (PDF).
A total of 77 teams competed in the 2018-2019 Textron Aviation/Raytheon Missile Systems/AIAA Foundation Student Design/Build/Fly (DBF) Competition, held April 11-14, at the Tucson International Modelplex Park Association (TIMPA) Airfield, Tucson, Arizona. Fifty-six teams were from within the United States, while 21 came from abroad, including the winning team – from the University of Ljubljana. In second place was the ream from Georgia Tech, while third place was taken by Austria's FH Joanneum of Applied Sciences.
The team of 17 students from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering took part in it under the mentorship of Dr. Viktor Šajn, and was led by the engineering student Timotej Hofbauer. The group chose to build the aircraft entirely from composites with the help from sponsors Pipistrel, Akrapovič, and Zavod404.
Speaking about the project, and quoted on the University’s website, Hofbauer said: “We have been building the aircraft for more than half a year and committed more than 2000 hours of work to it. We succeeded in building an incredibly fast and light composite aircraft that can reach speeds of over 100 km/h and is capable of flying at the competitive speed for more than 10 minutes. The aircraft, ready to fly, weighs approximately 9 kg, of which 35 % constitute the batteries alone. It can carry 18 “bombs” and has a wing span of 2.5 meters.”
As noted in the related press release from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation, “the DBF competition encourages and recognises excellence in aerospace engineering skills at the undergraduate and graduate levels by challenging teams to design and fabricate a radio-controlled aircraft conforming to strict guidelines, submit a written report about the aircraft's design, and fly their aircraft over a defined course while carrying a payload and landing it without damage. This year, the design simulated a multi-purpose aircraft to support carrier operations.”
More photos from this year’s event can be seen here, while the following video (from 2018) gives a flavour of the event.
STA, 5 April 2019 - The University of Maribor and the company SAB-LS signed a contract in Maribor on Friday, April 5, on the launch of the first Slovenian nanosatellite into orbit. Trisat is to fly into space on a light European Vega rocket that is to be launched from French Guiana in August.
Trisat has been developed at the Maribor Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in cooperation with the Slovenian company Skylabs.
According to the chancellor of the Maribor university, Zdravko Kačič, the launch of the nanosatellite will be an important step in the internationalisation of the Slovenian space industry and a recognition for its technology.
"It is a proof that a student project can develop into an important project for the Slovenian industry and environment," he said.
"Nanosatellites are an important segment in the present-day space industry, because they can bring new technology into space in a cost-efficient and quick way. The new technology can thus be evaluated much quicker and cheaper, which reduces financial risks in this field," he said.
Trisat, weighing only 4.4 kilos, is capable of taking multispectral images of Earth in short-wave infrared spectrum with a camera unlike any other in space at the moment.
It will be deployed at the altitude of 500 kilometres in a Sun-synchronous orbit by the Vega rocket launched by Arianespace, a company developing launch solutions for the European Space Agency (ESA).
The rocket will carry some 50 satellites, including another Slovenian satellite that is larger than Trisat, called Nemo HD, which has been developed by Vesolje-SI, the Slovenian centre of excellence for space sciences and technologies.
The company SAB-LS will act as Arianespace's subcontractor for deploying nanosatellites as part of the ESA's programme Small Spacecraft Mission Service.
The signing of the contract, on Aptril 5, was also attended by Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, who said the move set the course for the development of Slovenian technology and proved that Slovenia was an important partner in space technology and thus also of the ESA.
Slovenia became an associate member of the ESA at the end of 2016.
The head of the Trisat project, Iztok Kramberger, stressed that Trisat, whose lifespan has been estimated at six years, was almost entirely a product of Slovenian know-how. It has been developed and manufactured in Slovenia, except for the solar panels, he noted.
You can learn more about the project here
STA, 5 April 2019 - Physicist Jure Žalohar has combined a number of seismic studies to come up with a new way to potentially predict earthquakes in the future. His theory suggests earthquakes are not coincidental but are caused by synchronised processes in the Earth's crust.
Žalohar's theory was introduced in his book The Omega-Theory: A New Physics of Earthquakes, which was released in May 2018.
It is based on a number of studies conducted by seismology, geophysics, and maths experts in the past two decades and could prove effective if put into practice through an IT system.
Seismology or the study of earthquakes tried to forecast earthquakes in the 20th century by taking into account various precursors, such as animal behaviour, regional transformations of topography, changes in the speed of primary and secondary seismic waves, or radon gas emissions.
These efforts were only partially successful, with many studies focusing on possible causes for earthquakes, but none of them coming up with the exact way of predicting them.
In 1997, journal Science published an article saying that earthquakes could not be forecast. The bold claim did not discourage scientists from continuing their research.
They succeeded in developing two theories; the theory of the Earth's tectonic plate movement and the theory of the epicentre mechanism. The majority of earthquakes occur at or near the boundaries between tectonic plates.
Žalohar's Omega theory, which could be described as a rotation theory of earthquakes, is based on the already established phenomenon of the plates' splits tending to be parallel and intersecting.
According to Žalohar, the plates are "enormous omega cells", experiencing earthquake sequences stemming from parallel splits, with the famous golden ratio determining the number of those splits. Earthquakes are thus connected between themselves and affected by the Earth's rotation.
The Omega theory suggests that earth tremors are not coincidental but a result of "highly synchronised processes" in the Earth's crust, which indicates they could be predicted.
The software programme T-Tecto was created on the basis of the theory, currently providing only one model of earthquake forecasting which includes a 64-day prediction.
An IT centre that could build on that and further develop the method would require additional funding and special training for monitoring personnel, said Žalohar.
The ability to forecast earthquakes would also entail potential ethical issues in case it was not confined to authorised organisations.
All our stories about earthwuakes and Slovenia can be found here
Regular readers of Mladina, the left-leaning review whose editorials we summarise each weekend (along with those of the right-leaning Demokracija, and – on occasion – Reporter) may have noticed the arresting advertisements that appear on page 3, and yet which don’t seem to promote any company or product.
Theme Ecological Disasters. Author: Studio Marketing; Petja Montanez, Matej Kodrič
Theme: Genetic engineering. Author: Studio 360, Agencija Tovarna vizij, Vladan Srdić, Dragan Arrigler
Theme: Greed. Author: AV Studio
Theme: AIDS. Author: Studio Marketing; Janez Čadež, Radovan Arnold, Jerneja Trbuha Kukec
Theme: Greed. Author: SOZD
The page, known as Proglas and edited by Viva Videnovic for almost two decades, has been a feature of the magazine since 1997. It was introduced to provide a platform for Slovenian creatives to use the tools of their trade to engage in social commentary, enabling them to demonstrate their ingenuity and wit to a degree that’s not always possible with regular advertising.
Theme: Extremism. Author: Yin + Young
Theme: EU. Author: New Moment Ljubljana
Theme: Loneliness. Author: Pristop
Theme: Child abuse. Author: Mediamix; Toni Tomašek, Miha Bevc, Aleksandar Jordačevič
Theme: Success. Author: Yin + Young
In exchange for working pro bono, Mladina gives the contributors total freedom to create whatever they want, as long as it addresses that month’s theme. These have included all the pressing or passing social issues of the day, such as AIDS, mental health, over-consumption, social media, feminism, genetic engineering, economic imperialism, ecological catastrophes, fascism, tourism, sexual harassment, the precariat and so on.
"Enjoy drinking water" Theme: Water. Author: Blaž Razpotnik
(How much a space the size of a page of Mladina - 291mm x 215mmwould cost in Ljubljana). Theme: Apartments. Author: Pristop
Theme: Greed. Author: Studio 360, VladanSrdić
"Star Wars" Theme: War. Author: Yin + Young, Domen Husu, Samo Muhič, Marin Bulog, Jure Ljubeljšek
What you see in this story are thus just a few of the more than 1,000 works that have been published over the years. If you’d like to see more of Proglas, and what the Slovenian advertising industry is capable of when allowed to do what it wants, then follow the related page on Facebook, or see the whole archive on Mladina.
STA, 30 March 2019 - The University of Maribor (Univerza v Mariboru) will launch a centre for smart cities and communities, a platform linking researchers, the corporate sector and local communities who strive to develop and adopt high-tech solutions for more effective urban management and thus higher quality of life.
"University's fragmented knowledge about urban issues will be integrated and given new content," explained the university's representatives.
They believe that the new platform could also assist city administrations and companies which are developing smart city devices and services, pushing the university to the forefront of the future sustainable development of cities, especially in east Slovenia.
Stressing that smart urban management has become a societal challenge already acknowledged by many developed cities, the university pointed out that the smart city concept included all key aspects of managing a city.
These include security, transport management, logistics, sustainable spatial planning, water and energy supply, post-office services, waste management and local food supply.
STA, 22 March 2019 - Slovenia's top science and research institution, the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), will mark its 70th anniversary over the course of the coming week, having started with an open day last Saturday, March 23. Between Monday and Friday, top researchers from across the globe will speak in Ljubljana about their work at the cutting edge of science.
Perhaps the top event of the coming week will be a talk by top robotics expert Vilay Kumar, the dean of Penn Engineering, a graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.
Taking place as part of the main ceremony marking the IJS's 70th anniversary on Wednesday, Kumar's talk about flying robots will be "very interesting visually," IJS head Jadran Lenarčič has told the STA.
The anniversary week will start with an open day tomorrow, allowing the public to take one of several tours of the institute's laboratories.
On Monday, a day after the actual birthday of the late Jožef Stefan (1835-1893), considered one of the top Slovenian scientists, the 27th annual Jožef Stefan Days will officially open.
Zdenka Badovinac, the director of Modern Galerija, will deliver a talk ahead of the opening of an exhibition titled Irwin: NSK Guards and Processions.
The next day, Bart De Moor of KU Leuven will talk about the role of new technologies and data science in biology in the future, while Rosario Rizzuto, a rector at the University of Padua, will talk about calcium signalling in cells.
After the main ceremony on Wednesday, Thursday will feature a talk by Jean-Claude André, the inventor of 3D printing, while the Jožef Stefan Days will wrap up with a talk by Geoff Webb of Monash University, a top data scientist.
The institute will also name the winner of an annual competition for young researchers. This year, the winner will get between EUR 300,000 and 350,000 to set up their own lab.