I’d like to invite you to join me on a journey through the ideas that created my latest collection of jewellery “Bella Figura”.
This collection of jewellery is very special to me because it is about appreciating the little things that are often over looked. A lot of jewellery is about status and vanity. This collection of jewellery is the antithesis of that vulgarity. I wanted it to be pure and humble. I wanted it to be affordable and full of love. I wanted it to be different and special.
To me, the whole point of being alive is to create something that only exists because you were here. Something that wouldn’t exist if you’d never been born. The ultimate compliment is if what you do inspires others to search for the special gifts inside them that they can share too. My challenge was to find something that would inspire me to create a beautiful collection of jewellery that was passionate, humble and full of love. Something that celebrated the lives of those who came before me.
Expensive jewellery is made to express wealth rather than love and this is a huge turn off for me. I wondered if perhaps rather than try to raise the standards of jewellery, I should try to make it more humble, more genuine. I started to explore the idea of making jewellery that was unrefined. Being refined to me has a sense of being controlled by social norms and that was exactly what I wanted to challenge. I looked at lots of unrefined items and lots of naïve art. I wanted the idea of the collection to be unrefined and pure but I wanted the pieces themselves to be crafted to a very high standard. I asked myself what is the most humble thing that is available to everyone. Potatoes. Rice. Noodles. Pasta. Pasta stood out to me as something that came in lots of different forms, many of which are similar to the forms raw jewellery materials start from. Sheet. Tube. Wire.
I started to do some research into pasta and I found that each shape had a different story behind it. I discovered that many of the shapes had been designed by women and that recipes and techniques had been passed down over generations from mother to daughter, just as jewellery is. I remembered making jewellery with my mother as a very young child from pasta and I thought this could be a real challenge to make a refined version of something that people think of as ordinary.
Something else that appealed to me about using pasta as a starting point is that I love the Italian attitude to life and beauty. I remember the first time I visited Italy. I really struggled to understand why the buildings were left to rot. Many buildings looked to me as if they had been neglected. However, after being in the country for a few days, it dawned on me that the buildings were not neglected, that they were aging and there was no attempt to conceal their age. Age is not something that Italian culture rejects, it is something they embrace and are proud of. They make it a part of life that is to be celebrated, not hidden. It’s something that you see in the buildings and also in their families, bringing people of all ages together to interact. It enhances the lives of individuals and the wider community. Italian culture has something they call Bella Figura. It’s an attitude to life that you should make the best of what you have. You should dress smartly, respect yourself and others and make the world a better place for being in it. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or what you look like, beauty is something that comes from being yourself and being the best version of you that you can be.
I found a fantastic book during my reseach called The Geometry of Pasta. The Geometry of Pasta pairs over 100 authentic recipes from acclaimed chef Jacob Kenedy with award-winning designer Caz Hildebrand's stunning black-and-white designs to reveal the science, culture, and philosophy behind spectacular pasta dishes from throughout Italian history.
The pages are laid out beautifully with illustrations and short descriptions of the stories behind each pasta shape, when it was invented and, if known, the reason that inspired its creation.
Most of shapes of pasta have been invented by women and sharing their skills connects them to their children and grandchildren.
In addition to books on pasta and the history of pasta I came across other people who have also used forms of pasta as a start for inspiring incredible pieces of art and architecture. One of the books I loved was written by an architect called George L. Legrande. The book is a called Pasta by Design.
Legrande has compiled and profiled 92 different kinds of pasta, classifying them into types using the science of ‘phylogeny’ (the study of relatedness among natural forms). Opening the book is a pasta family tree, revealing unexpected relationships between pasta shapes, their usage and common DNA. Each subsequent spread is devoted to a single pasta, and features a short text that explains the food’s geographical origin, its process of manufacture as well as its etymology – alongside suggestions for minute-perfect preparation. Next the pasta shape is rendered as both a mathematical equation and a line diagram that displays every distinctive scrunch, ridge and crimp with loving precision.
Using the same techniques he explains in this book, he is the designer of Henderson Waves, a 1000 foot long bridge in Singapore designed with a single mathmatical equation.
I felt inspired by my research to make a really beautiful collection of jewellery. Once I had created some sketches of the ideas I wanted to make I started to explore how to make those shapes using different techniques by hand. The forms of the collection, Mafaldine, are painstakingly formed by individual strikes that indent the edge while keeping the rest of the surface flat and smooth. The way the light ripples on the surface of these alternating curves is really beautiful. They take hours to polish because the indentations make it much more complicated.
Mafaldine pasta was created to celebrate the birthday of an Italian princess, Princess Mafalda of Savoy. Other pieces in this collection include Maltagliati, which means badly cut and were originally the shapes left over from cutting other pasta designs. The pieces in the Maltagliati collection have irregular shapes that are layered on top of each other with different textures.
Ditali and ditalini, from the latin word meaning thimble, are short tubes of pasta the same dimensions long as they are wide. They look terrific combined in different shades of gold and silver.
I hope Bella Figura brings a real love for life to those who wear it.