We had the good fortune of connecting with Maddalena Bearzi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maddalena, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
One of my favorite quotes is by author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” I believe this statement to be true. I think wildlife offers endless possibility for creativity. More nature-inspired pieces I make, more designs I came out with. At times, I find difficult to keep up with my own ideas while sitting at the jewelry bench. Just need longer days…
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In addition of being a jewelry maker, I am a marine biologist and an environmentalist. There has always been a strong connection between my jewelry designs and my work spent studying animals in the wild. All my handmade pieces are inspired by nature and each piece tells its own, unique and wilderness-inspired story. I think this, in addition of hand-crafting one of a kind pieces that are truly my own, is probably what sets my jewelry apart from others.
I am a scientist by training (I hold a Ph.D. in Biology and work as President of the research and environmental NGO Ocean Conservation Society) and I began to pursue my passion for jewelry craftsmanship only later in life. I briefly studied metalsmithing at the University of California, Los Angeles and learned different techniques from a couple of well-recognized master silversmiths. Everything else, I taught myself by reading, experimenting, and making mistakes.
My jewelry tends to draw from my experience in other artistic media. I started making jewelry by joining sustainable textiles with reclaimed metals and stones to reveal distinctive and texturized pieces. These textile designs are still parts of my collections but I have expanded my work to include one of a kind, organic-looking metal jewelry.
Was it easy? Yes, because it was – and still is – a gratifying experience. I started making pieces just for fun and to distract myself from my scientific work. This jewelry hobby slowly became a real business but I never lost my initial enthusiasm for it. Of course, things get a little overwhelming at times because I always try to balance my jewelry business with my other two parallel “careers”: marine biology and writing. At the end, however, things work out fine.
One lesson that I have learned is that, at times, accidents can produce the best one of a kind designs. Some of the jewelry pieces closer to my heart have been partially the result of a mistake that I made during the production phase. Metal tends to comes alive when you “play with fire” and the results can be completely unexpected. And remember that at the end, you are the only one to know that you made a mistake!
I think it’s important that clients are aware of the story beyond my jewelry work, the time involved in creating each piece and what makes it one of a kind and sustainable. I don’t follow any particular style because styles come and go. I try to make some good designs that are not commanded by fashion.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would take my best friend for a day out at sea. I would show her/him how I study wild dolphins and whales from a research boat. With my nonprofit Ocean Conservation Society, I have been doing marine mammal studies with my research team off Los Angeles for over two decades, and now we run one of the longest investigations on these animals existing worldwide. For lunch break, we would probably stop in one of the LA port fish markets for a (sustainably caught) fish sandwich; then, we would head back to the Marina del Rey harbor, enjoying an unusual view of the city from the water. In my opinion, this represents a quite unique experience for anyone looking for something out of the ordinary to do in this area!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Above all, my husband (and best friend) Charlie: a generous, supportive, intelligent and all-round great man.
Other: https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/tag/maddalena-bearzi/ https://medium.com/@mbearzi_author