Taste of C-U offers thrill of adventure

Iwona Narolewska left Poland at the age of 19 and wanted to study languages. For seven years she lived in London, where she started creating her own jewelry.

In her years in London, she also traveled around Europe by train. She moved to Chicago in 2005 and now travels around for art shows, mainly to promote her own jewelry collections.

Before she settled in Chicago, she also lived in Japan for four months.

She has a small studio in her home.

“I made all this jewelry by myself. It’s hard sometimes because I also need to take care of my children,” Narolewska said.

Narolewska has a 6-year-old son, who will start going to school in the fall, and a 4-year-old daughter. Being a single parent is difficult, she said.

Because her mom retired a few years ago, she asked her mom to move to Chicago to help her take care of her children.

Narolewska established Atira Jewelry six years ago, and it has since become her full-time job. She also works with three other designers from other places. Narolewska originally made jewelry with amber. Now she uses silver and bronze more as media.

Not only does she work at her home studio, but she also works with other people, too.

She attends the street art center to take jewelry classes. She’s been taking different classes in jewelry design and learning different techniques.

“I love trying new things, too. Learning more different skills and techniques diversifies my works,” she said. “One time I was playing with other chemical mediums, I got a brown spot in my forehead. It took weeks to disappear.”

Narolewska is also interested in studying psychology, especially in human services.

Coming to Champaign for events like art shows and the Taste of C-U has become a regular route for her. This is the second time she has come to Taste of C-U.

“I love traveling. The different culture and places inspire me,” she said. She pointed to a ring and bangle made with stiff metal wire and topped with white beads of different shapes.

“These two pieces always remind me of my days in Japan. The beads represent the cherry blossoms. The trees were beautiful.”

Joanne Keeney, a retired art teacher from Chicago, came to Champaign for a wedding this weekend and bought a pair of the sliver earrings of leaf shapes. It’s Keeney’s first time coming to Taste of C-U and it’s been a joy for her to discover different art.

“I love stuff you can’t find anywhere else,” Keeney said. “(Narolewska is) a pleasure to find. Her jewelry is fabulous. Also coming from Chicago, this is local to me.”

In the display, she puts her silver jewelry on wood plates to stress the metal property of the products.

Gosia Konwerska, a friend of Narolweska, helped sell her products Sunday.

“I met her last year in August’s Art Festival in Champaign,” Konwerska said. “I was her customer. But we became friends because we are both from Poland.”

Konwerska also said she tried to convince Narolewska to move to Champaign.

“I would love to move here,” Narolewska said. “Chicago sometimes is a little too much for me. Champaign is a peaceful town, and the people are very nice.”