Paola Mirai


Written by Hatti Whitman
Photos and illustrations by Paola Mirai
14 Monday 14th November 2011

You worked as a art director before you became a jewellery designer - why did you decide it was time for a change? 

The change happened gradually. I felt less passion for what I was doing and I wanted a new channel for my creativity. So, after 23 years as an Art Director, I decided to start a new path of research where I could explore a new ideal of contemporary beauty influenced by complementary cultural systems - the East and the West; masculine and feminine; spirit and matter; light and shadow. 

What is Orotrasparente?

Orotrasparente is my philosopher’s gold: a pure matter, perfectly transparent, that took me five years to discover. It's a magical secret mixture, the result of much experimentation and research to create an extremely lightweight material that appears to be made of light.

It was a difficult journey to a nearly impossible goal, requiring all my energy, curiosity, confidence, stubbornness, courage and hope. The process of making an idea come true is always hard; you don’t know whether you will succeed or not, you must completely devote yourself to creativity and experimentation, while also accepting mistakes.

Since all your designs are handmade, how long does it take you to complete a piece of jewellery? 

Most of the time is used for designing. Creating jewels with an aesthetic value requires lengthy experimentation in order to be able to interpret the present, past and the future in an exclusive and original way across contemporary design methods and old handicraft techniques. But to reply your question...I usually take about four weeks when someone commissions a piece of jewellery from me.

You describe your designs as ‘inspired by mythology, archaic symbols and symbiosis within complementary cultural systems.' What would you say has had the most influence on your work? 

I have studied myths for many years and wanted a new way to express them. Rather than theoretical judgement, I want to contemplate the imagery of myths. They are stories about divine beings, the struggles of heroes, descents to the underworld. Nowadays we are out of touch with the spiritual world because of our scientific spirit. But how to reconnect? In this intriguing question I find my search for inspiration.

We really like the way your 'Cirkùita' range incorporates materials from old technological devices. What inspired you to recyle 'dead' objects in this way? 

The advent of the technological era has changed every aspect of our lives and created connections between everyone in the world! But what I really love is to open devices and look at what's inside. The idea of Cirkùita is quite simple: the traditional 'gem' is replaced with a zero-cost technological component with great symbolic value. I disassemble 'epic' old devices like Apple computers, cameras, keyboards etc. in order to recycle icons of our information era.

The result is Cirkùita: a series of jewels where every element has a new function and can be appreciated for its aesthetic value, which was previously hidden and denied. Usually, electric waste is taken to dumps, but I am my friends’ dump.

You've run a number of collaborative workshops for young designers. How important do you think it is for established designers such as yourself to help those who are just starting out?

I usually have some students from the Politecnico di Milano training in my laboratory. They all work together, testing different materials and combining the use of ancient handcraft production techniques with totally innovative methods.

This team is called 'Desartigian', and we have regular workshops where artisans and designers experiment with new visions. For example during this year’s Milan Triennale, I held a workshop with some students where people could bring their old technological objects and have a jewel created for them. The owners of the most interesting objects had the jewel created immediately and went home with it. It was an amazing experience for all of us!

Would you describe yourself more as an artist or as a jewellery designer?

I am a craft designer. These handmade designs have been conceived through direct control of the whole production process (from the original concept down to communication and distribution) and I have aimed throughout at developing new solutions for small batch productions.

What's next for Paola Mirai?

Go around the world doing workshops with my jewellery!

For more information on Paola's work visit her website. To buy her products visit her shopify page.

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