On the day that she made her first ring, Tanja Kovacevic cried. It was a simple ring and a significant moment – it came with the realisation that she could carve out her own path by making precious jewellery for people, working with little pieces of silver and gold that would become a part of their lives in the most intimate way. Since her first ring five years ago, Tanja has made hundreds more, building her jewellery label Petite Grand from the ground up with a small team who make each piece by hand in their Surry Hills studio. We spent a cool afternoon with Tanja, learning how she balances her life and work, drinking rose tea and playing with her adorable dog Max.
As the owner of a small business you wear many hats, how do you manage your time well and find the balance in it all?
I wasn’t so good at this when I first started the business. There were many late nights spent combing through findings, packing orders, going through financials and every other task that comes with running a new business. I came to a point where I really considered how I was going to always strive for a life balance, I felt that it should be one of the benefits for me of running my own business, that I actually get to have control of that. It’s not easy though, as any business owner would tell you. Over the years I became much better, now I am really diligent about everybody including myself leaving work on time and having proper lunch breaks away from the bench and desk. It makes me so much better at work, so much more productive, when I feel that I have this choice in the way of doing things. That’s the thing about handmade jewellery as well, it’s a labour of love, you really can’t rush it when you’re making it by hand, which is why I love my work so much.
I love when the weather is bad and I have to hang everything on the clothes airer inside, it makes the house smell incredible. There is something about the act of hanging out my clothes and linen, it’s slow and tactile and I have always loved it.
What do you like to do in your downtime at home?
I love cooking. I want and need to cook because it relaxes me. When I get home after work I immediately head to the kitchen and think about cooking, it’s how I unwind from the day. Then I will spend time pottering around the house and watering the hundred plants I own (you can never have enough plants).
I also actually love doing Laundry, it’s my favourite ‘chore’. I use Tangent Care – I love when the weather is bad and I have to hang everything on the clothes airer inside, it makes the house smell incredible. There is something about the act of hanging out my clothes and linen, it’s slow and tactile and I have always loved it. My collection of IN BED linen colours is growing so I enjoy trying new pairings and combinations with each wash cycle.
Can you tell us about a recent experience that left an impression on you?
I recently visited the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale to see the Vile Bodies exhibition – I had been before to the gallery but this time I did a tour with the exhibition and I just loved it. To be absorbing all that information about the artists while viewing their works just left me in a doubled state of awe after the exhibition.
What do you love about the area in which you live?
I recently moved to Erskineville after spending over ten years in Elizabeth Bay. I love this neighbourhood. There’s a huge park across the road for Max and I can walk to a really diverse group of cafes and restaurants. People in Erskineville are always leaving boxes of books on the side of the road for some reason – which is really great, I’ve picked up some good ones.
What is your morning routine?
When I wake up in the morning my dog Max is almost always awake and waiting for me. He rolls over onto his belly for a scratch and play. I get up, carry him down the steep steps and into the kitchen. I hop in the shower then make myself a cup of coffee and always have a bowl of muesli with greek yoghurt. When I’m ready to leave the house I walk with Max across the road to the park for a quick run around and then we head into the jewellery studio in Surry Hills.
Night time routine?
The minute I am tired I moisturise with a Dr Spiller cream, brush my teeth, wash my face and carry Max up the stairs into my bedroom. I put on an Aesop hand cream before collapsing into an immediate deep sleep.
And fairy lights, wherever I have lived I have always had fairy lights somewhere in the house, they make me happy.
You have a lot of pieces in your home that you have pulled off the street or found in vintage shops – can you tell us about some of the items in your home that bring you joy?
So many great pieces have come into my life, like this dresser table I keep my jewellery on, I found it on the side of the road years ago, this house is kind of too small for it but I just can’t get rid of it. I recently purchased a leather chair from Worn Store and I love the Tom Dixon cake stand I got for my birthday last year. I also really like having lots of candles in the house, I alternate between burning candles or using my oil burner. And fairy lights, wherever I have lived I have always had fairy lights somewhere in the house, they make me happy.
Three things you couldn’t live without?
Friends, Max and the dark chocolate, hazelnut and spelt cookie from Bread & Circus.
What are you looking forward to this year?
The wedding of some friends in Les Herbiers, France this June.