A beautiful melding of art, costume and functionality are all at work here with this range of jewellery by Rome-based, Maria Cristina Bellucci.
But what I think is most astounding is that they are all made from coloured pencils. Yep. Coloured pencils. How amazing are they?
Having studied stage design at the Rome Academy of Fine Arts and jewellery art techniques at the San Giacomo School of Ornamental Arts in Rome; taken a microflaming masterclass with Master Giovanni Corvaja at Le Arti Orafe in Lucca and an Intensive course, Alchimia in Florence, Maria’s creative background is as varied as the many exhibitions in which she has featured.
Intrigued, I wanted to find out more. Here she tells me how she started and what inspires her. And a big thanks to Maria for answering in English! (I’ve done only minor edits to keep her voice true).
Tell me about your background – where are you from?
I was born in a village in the north of Rome. I spent a happy childhood free to explore nature with friends. I’ve loved art since I was a child, I spent a lot of time looking at art books and drawing. After my study in classics I decided to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome where I studied stage design.
What made you go into jewellery design?
Initially I was only interested in art; I wanted to be a painter. [But] I needed to explore different jobs – I worked as a restorer, an illustrator, a background designer for cartoons. [I also worked] in decorating costumes and accessories for stage use. It was a very interesting period for using very different materials. It was for fantasy costumes rather than historical reconstruction. I worked with great costume designers like Danilo Donati and to see them work has been an experience that gave me a lot.
But in all these situations I needed more; I didn’t feel completely satisfied. So I decided to find something else and I found contemporary jewellery.
I see you are based in Rome – does the city influence the way you work? If so, how?
Rome has given me a lot. I’ve found the historical beauty of the city very full of beauty. In the meantime I needed to make contemporary art and I visited a lot of ancient places in the city. I did a course in medieval art history at the University and visited medieval sites around Italy.
I’ve had the possibility to meet my country through its past; it’s important to know the past if you want to do something new. Rome is a place where I’ve met many interesting people [who have given] me a lot.
Tell me more about the ‘Intensive course, Alchimia’ you did in Florence? How has that helped with your designing today?
I studied the classical goldsmith’s technique. I wanted to follow a course at Alchimia to expand my technical knowledge in the specific field of contemporary jewellery and I have now reached this goal. I also [learnt] a different method of working and have started working with epoxy resin.
You’ve been a freelance designer since 1999 – was it hard to go out on your own?
Sure it was hard but it was my way. Now I understand that hard things may be better than easy things, we have the possibility to learn more than with the easy ones. Now I’m happy to try very different experiences.
Tell me about your different designs – do you work with the material first or an idea?
In my last work, I began with an interest in a particular material. Common materials are interesting for me because they are so banal but beautiful. So it’s interesting for me to make them more interesting. It’s not important to impress with a particular technique. I’m not interested in technique; I’m interested in an idea.
At the moment, I’m working with a different method – I begin with an idea and I’m looking at how to express this idea. So it’s necessary first do research, followed by a visual search and finally a study on the material appropriate to create a jewel that expresses the original idea.
Your jewellery made from coloured pencils looks amazing – it’s hard to believe such a basic, simple thing like a coloured pencil could be turned into jewellery. Tell me where this idea came from and how you made it come to life?
At the time I was working a lot with silver and experimenting with different materials. I was looking for something without a clear idea and no expectations. I worked beginning with an attraction to a material. I began using only one cut colored pencil and silver. Then I added the coloured pencils with hexagonal shapes and found that the surface with wood and colors inside was interesting, so I began to use it with different shapes. For me, it’s a work like [any of the] others but I see that people are very interested in the idea. I realised that the idea to [take] something out of its context produces an amazing effect.
What’s been a career highlight to date?
I hope the career highlight will be in the future. Up until now I’ve been happy to get international work. I want to follow myself and keep getting better. This is all that I want.
Have there been any challenges you’ve faced so far? Tell me about them.
My first desire was to be free and independent and to be able to take care of myself. Then I was able to devote [myself] full-time to this beautiful work, so I could [continue] with researching.
Now the challenge is to balance work and life.
Can you give us an insight into a typical day of Maria Cristina Bellucci?
I usually begin my day with the alarm clock ringing to wake up at the right time to get my daughter to school. Then I get back home and work until 4 p.m when I have to go to school again to pick up my daughter. Then I have free time to stay with her and friends. So I usually work from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, when the work is very intense. I need to work again after 4 p.m and sometimes in the weekend. I spend a lot of time at my computer in addition to working on jewellery. In the evening I stay with my family, we eat together and relax after dinner. Twice a week in the evening I have my wonderful tai chi practice. I get a lot of strength from it. With practice the body changes, developing suppleness and great strength, and the mind becomes more open.
Who or what motivates you?
Curiosity – curiosity to know unknown things, people and places. Life is a research in which you can choose your street to go ahead. The interesting [part] of the job is you always need to get new skills.
What things, people, places are inspiring you at the moment?
Nature is great. I need to be with nature – every day I must be outside in my garden taking care of it. Spirituality is very important. I’m interested in [understanding] human beings. I’m also interested in philosophy.
Do you have light bulb moments or do ideas form over time?
Both. The idea usually arrives like a bolt. This produces a state of happiness and excitement. Then I need to elaborate the idea with manual work and add other ideas to it. What I try to do is enter in a state of grace, like a meditation, so I need to stay in peace with my mind open and relaxed. To obtain that situation I need to do what I want and follow my inspiration.