Exclusive Interview with Jordan Jelev

the Labelmaker

Sofia, Bulgaria, https://thelabelmaker.eu

Jordan Jelev’s wine labels first made appearance on Packaging of the World way back in 2008. Over the past 8 years, we have seen really amazing wine labels – from truly elegant calligraphy to really intricate typography, all of these beautifully crafted wine labels coming from the man who is nicknamed “the Labelmaker“.

Hi Jordan, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
I’m 41 now with great family and many friends, my design experience started long time ago in my childhood years.

I have a great affinity to letters & typography. The love for letters brought me where now I am. Remembering the time when my father surprised me with an automatic pen with different kind of nibs which I don’t use it now but I kept it safe in one of my drawers. It helped me a lot because it opened my mind to calligraphy which totally influenced my life and work. In fact calligraphy is my vital link with the roots of tradition and crafts. What I understood in all these years was that I wanted to be a craftsman, I have never dreamed of running a luxury office and managing different creatives around me etc. All I always wanted to have was time, a peaceful time for every idea and every detail I have in my head.

Another very important event in my life happened in my high school years, I graduated from my hometown’s High School of Maths and we used to have 4 hours every week studying Programming and Computer technologies. That was the time when I entered the Digital world. In these years, I learned to understand computers and how they work. This help me a lot in my future professional experience because ever since that moment my intuition and my knowledge started to work together till now. Today I ironically describe myself as a “special blend” between tradition and modernity.

Nowadays, I am fully dedicated to wine label design and calligraphy and the fusion of both. I am looking forward to new experiments, new ideas and horizons in these two fields. I do this since 1998 and I’ll be happy if I could do this all my life.

You have been creating beautiful wine labels for more than 15 years, what is your main motivation to create them?
What really motivates me is the idea of what we leave to the next generations. This is about responsibility and this is one of the most important questions everyone should ask themselves. No matter if it is a commissioned work or free one, I always try to get the best result. This liberates me and my creativity, every time I start a new project, I try to do it the best way – the way which turns my work into inspiration for the next generations. This is what motivates me the most.

Are there any works that you are most proud of or the most challenging in your designing career? What are the challenges?
There are many examples in my work that I am really proud of.

I like the Z of Zelanos, the two faces of F2F, the running Stallion, the gold coin and ornaments of Bulgarian Treasure, the tree of Staro Oryahovo, the AK rose, Dragomir Reserve etc.- there are plenty of them and I will surely miss a lot of labels I loved. For me every new label is a challenge because I always try to think different. A friend of mine always says when we have a bottle of wine together saying “How could that be? You have done so many and different labels and they always look really different and you are only one single person?!”

Well, I never had the chance to find the right answer to this question, but maybe the most challenging thing is to think and to be different without leaving your true self behind. I guess this must be the essence but apart from it I like playing with papers, different hot-foils and print processes. I like my endless experiments with different diecuts – like in Gaetan label. I like using simple bottles with extraordinary labels. Lately, I also experimented with wax stamps and maybe that will be my next passion!

All these are really challenging no matter how experienced & skillful you are, there is always room for more.

Outside of design, what sorts of things inspire and influence your work?
Architecture, Crafts, Interior designs, Armors, Museums, Heraldry – in fact everything related to Science, Arts and Culture.

It doesn’t need to be something visible, something you could touch – a thought or music work perfect too for me.

And I always admire personal life hacks – they always make me laugh and think at the same time because things around us are simple and sometimes we just don’t realize how ordinary everything is. This reflects on my work and the way I create my projects.

How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?
Success is not an imaginary matter. For me this is a personal emotion and state, I feel successful in the moments of happiness with my family, in my thoughts and at work. In fact, happiness is the key to everything and it is more valuable and important than success.

To continue my thoughts and your question, what makes you a successful individual? The reaction of people around you regarding your results and achievements or your personal feeling about it? I guess what really matters is how you feel, this could change what others feel and think about you.

And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in packaging / wine label design?
First – know yourself! Second – know yourself very well. Third – build a foundation to start from. The more solid and complex,- the better. This is about family, character, relationships, knowledge, science and education.

Many young designers try to be very contemporary, trying to set new trends. Before doing this, one should first look in the past to see what was before, study it, understand it and finally use it as a foundation. Wine label designers are time travelers, one day you should be extremely modern and minimal, the next day you play with runes and prehistorical charcoal drawings. This is very wide range, widest in fact. And if you want to move safely between historical layers, you must know a lot.

Jordan Jelev is the owner and creative director of the Labelmaker in Bulgaria. 100% focused on wine, spirits and beer sectors and winner of multiple design awards, it has earned a reputation for its excellent detailing and creativity. You can visit the website at http://www.thelabelmaker.eu/. You can also connect with him over at his Facebook or Twitter page.