Liana Pattihis interviewed by Marietta Kontogianni

Published: 02.10.2017
Liana Pattihis Liana Pattihis
Marietta Kontogianni
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Her designs evolve through a dialogue between her source inspiration and the creative potential of the enamel. The versatility of the material is what attracts her the most as it gives an organic feel to her work. Her response to the way in which the materials fuse together is intuitive and impromptu. The inquisitive attention, tactile approach and numerous juxtapositions, provoke a sense of preciousness in her jewellery that is understated and enigmatic.

Ελληνική έκδοση - Greek version      View / hide description

Liana Pattihis, Orange Bloom, Brooch, 2017. Various silver chains, enamel, stainless steel. 12 x 9.5cm.
From series: Chained Interpretations an ongoing study. Image: Random from social media. Photo credit: Liana Pattihis

Liana Pattihis from Cyprus, based in London, is an established and internationally renowned contemporary jewelry artist specializing in enameling on the chain.
In 2016 she won both the 1st prize at Gioielli in Fermento at Torre Fornello in Italy and the JOYA Barcelona Contemporary Jewelry Art Fair award.
Liana Pattihis participates again this year in the forthcoming JOYA (5-7/10/2017), this time as a guest artist and a member of the jury.
In this interview, she talks about her awards, her enameling technique, and the series of jewelry she will show in JOYA, but also about her role as a juror. 

Liana Pattihis, Emilia, Brooch, 2016. Silver ball chain, silver trace chain, enamel and stainless steel. 10 x 7 cm. 
From series: Chained Interpretations.
Awarded at: 
Gioielli In ...Fermento 2016, Inspired by the Vineyards of the Emilia Romagna region in Italy.

You are an awarded artist.  In 2016 you had been granted both the 1st prize at Gioielli in Fermento at Torre Fornello and the JOYA Barcelona award. What do these awards mean to you and what is your next goal?
It has been a very rewarding year indeed and I am very humbled, as there are so many talented artists out there with great work and similar goals and aspirations.
Winning these awards means a lot to me. It gives me the encouragement to carry on with my creative journey. Winning an award, however, comes with a huge amount of responsibility and expectations attached to it. My goal has been and always will be to keep on creating and improving, regardless of whether my work is awarded at the end of the day or not.

What elements must a jeweller’s work have in order to be worthy of being awarded in international contests? What elements will you be looking for in the work of the artists as a member of the jury of the forthcoming edition of JOYA?
A writer, before starting his next book, first of all, must have a story to tell. This story must have a beginning, a middle and an end with an original, imaginative and thought to provoke content to captivate his audience. In the same way, a jeweller through his work tells a story, which similarly has to be original, thought-provoking and captivating to its audience. These will be the main elements I will be looking for when judging.

Liana Pattihis, ILEX01, Brooch, 2017, Various silver chains, enamel, stainless steel, 14.5 x 8 cm.

What is the theme for your next collection at Joya? I‘ve seen a brooch called ILEX 01” that is outstanding!
The theme of my new collection at Joya will be a continuation of the study into nature through images found on social media with an emphasis on wooded areas landscapes and trees. Ilex 01 is the first in this series and the inspiration for the subsequent pieces in the collection.

What does Ilex 01 mean and what will be the name of this new series of jewelry?
Ilex (aquifolium) is simply the scientific name of the plant, known commonly as holly, which inspired the piece! 01 signifies the first piece in the series with this name. The new pieces created for Joya will be part of last year’s ongoing project ‘Chained Interpretations

Liana Pattihis, Symbiosis, Brooch, 2016. Silver cable chain, silver light trace chain, enamel, stainless steel, 11 x 7 cm. 
From series: Chained Interpretations. Image: Amy Tavern, photo credit: Liana Pattihis

Why do you search photos of nature on social media to get inspired from? Why not use your own photos?
I somehow find it more challenging to use shared posts. An image of a landscape might be interesting as it is from a place that I haven’t visited or experienced before.
I have a great love for photography as an art form and way of expression and I find it fascinating to explore the relationship between the person who took the photograph and the image they post. I always try to find images that are firstly interesting to me.
I then try to find the element in the composition that attracted the person who took the image and working with that notion, I try to successfully interpret and recreate their point of view, their interest emotion or passion in a piece of my jewellery.
Jewellery designer Amy Tavern, for instance, posted an image taken in California of some plant formation. I was instantly attracted to the rich texture and pattern which inspired the creation of the brooch ‘Symbiosis’. Another image Amy posted on a cloudy day in Penland North Carolina, inspired the necklace ‘Carolina’. I was instantly drawn to the beautiful colours and dramatic cloudy landscape depicted in the image, which I tried to convey in the necklace.

Liana Pattihis, Carolina, Necklace, 2016. Various silver chains and enamel, 88cm.
From series: Chained Interpretations. Image: Amy Tavern. Photo Credit: Liana Pattihis.

Your favorite material to work with, that you used in the new series as well, is the mass production chains which you transform into artistic jewelry using the enameling technique. You even use chains to create flowers and trees which naturally have more soft textures. Does this contradiction I observe, play a significant role in your work?
My work is full of contradictions and juxtapositions which is what makes it interesting to me. The unpredictability of the material and how it reacts in the kiln fascinates me.

I read in your statement on your website a review of your work written by Caroline Broadhead, (Jewelry, Textile, Furniture 3 dimensional objects artist, and Course Leader of BA Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins)  :
The processes Liana uses in making her jewellery are ones of building and burying. Layer upon layer of enamel slowly obscures the foundation of silver or gold chains, forming a vitreous crust that is raw, crackly and uneven…The natural quality of the surface gives a feel of a much earlier age, yet buried under the enamel are anonymous, potentially unattractive, chains of this age of mass production…

How do these chains inspire you? 
My fascination with mass-produced chains started in the final year at University when I was told that one could only use enamels as decoration on a solid piece of metal and that enameling was not possible on a movable base. I saw this as a huge and amazing challenge and spent the next six weeks trying to find ways of adhering the enamel onto chains, using the most unconventional fixing agents and techniques.
The first successful pieces of enameling on a movable base were developed, creating the series Unearthed, where the chains were somehow transformed by the process, from very commercial shiny modern chains, into unearthed pieces of old jewelry. In the subsequent series Hidden Treasure, I hand knitted and looped the chains to see how much treasure (silver chain) I could bury under the enamel, creating necklaces using 6m of chain with a final length of around 1m, ‘trapping’ and ‘confining’ the chains under the enamel.

What does this creative process of “building and burying” symbolize?
This act of ‘building up’ the layers of enamel and simultaneously ‘burying’ the chain, the treasure underneath it, has been the focus of my work. I am always fascinated with the fusing process when I enamel and even find it fulfilling and therapeutic. I find this especially when I am using a shapeless piece of knitted chain and I strive, through the process of building up the layers of enamel, to give it shape and substance, whilst at the same time burying the chain with the enamel to add strength to the newly formed piece. For me, this process symbolizes a metamorphosis from something commercial and mass produced to something precious and unique, the transformation from a weak, shapeless, non-entity to a new solid creation.

Liana Pattihis, Vintage Ring G7-14, 2015. Gold plated vintage ring and bee's wax church candle.
From the series: Offerings – Τάματα. Photo Credit: Liana Pattihis

I’ve seen that you used this same creative process in your series called Offerings, inspired by the ritual of ‘offered’ jewellery by the faithful in the Greek Orthodox Church which you showed during Athens Jewelry Week 2017. This time though, you used vintage rings instead of chains, like the various rings hanging on chains in front of the icons, buried under layers of beeswax church candle.
What was this work about?
Researching into the ‘offered’ jewellery by the faithful to particular saints in the Greek Orthodox Church, I was instantly drawn to the various rings hanging on chains in front of the icons. What attracted me the most was that these rings of varying size and value have no materialistic connotation anymore. By becoming an ‘offering’ to the Church, they instantly lose all materialistic value and function converting them into mere adornments suspended onto the icon. A gold bejeweled ring for instance, when it is ‘offered’ to the Church, is as valuable as a cheap metal band or a fake children’s ring.
At the same time wax ‘offerings’ also exist, as do candles of various sizes (Lampades in Greek). All offerings are accepted and acknowledged by the Church as equal pledges of faith and devotion and love.
Using the humble church candle as the main material, this body of work identifies and presently overcomes the ephemeral quality of wax. With reference to the Hidden Treasure series mentioned earlier, where the ‘treasure’ is hidden under the enamel, in this case, vintage rings, varying in shape and size are covered with a layer of beeswax church candle. The wax encases the rings protectively, granting the wearer only glimpses, though overall obscuring ‘the treasure beneath’, which is their true identity.
The rings acquire an almost uniform appearance with the addition of a sealant which adds wearability, however ephemeral. The wearer is able to witness the changes in colour, shape, and pattern that progresses slowly, to the evolving identity of the newly formed rings.

Liana Pattihis-Jeemin Jamie Chung, Change Collaboration, Brooch, 2017. Silver ball chain, oxidized brass, enamel, pigment, and nickel.
Photo Credit: Liana Pattihis.

In AJW you showed also a panorama of your work at the Change Joya Barcelona exhibition together with Jeemin Jamie Chung, winner of JOYA Barcelona 2015. Among the works was a piece of jewelry, a brooch, created by both of you. How was it to collaborate with an artist of a different artistic and cultural background who uses a totally different creative process than yours?
My collaboration with Jamie was quite challenging but also very exciting at the same time. Firstly, we live on two different continents, so everything we discussed on facetime about the design and making of the piece, had to be executed precisely, down to the minutest detail, to avoid errors that couldn’t be rectified. Another challenge was finding the right balance so that the final piece worked as a whole and not as two unrelated entities stuck together. I feel that we managed to achieve that, notwithstanding all the obstacles we encountered. There was, however, a complete understanding and respect for each other's work. Jamie and I have a very similar work ethic and approach, which contributed in making this collaboration a success.

I read in an older interview of yours in Klimt02: “I do like to see the way people interact with my pieces”.  Do you remember a reaction of someone seeing or wearing your jewelry that surprised you?
I remember assisting Caroline Broadhead in my final year at University at the opening of an exhibition she was curating, where I was introduced to Deganit Stern Schocken. Deganit is a well-known jewelry designer and the then Head of Shenkar College in Israel. She asked me about the necklace I was wearing and what material it was made of. When I told her it was enamel on a chain, she was amazed and said, but you cannot enamel chain. No one does enameling on the chain and called some of the people she was with to come and see it. I was truly surprised by her reaction!

You’ve been working in the contemporary jewelry field for almost a decade. What is the one most important lesson you have learned over all these years?
To face each rejection with the determination to do better, rather than an excuse to feel sorry for me. 

What are your plans regarding your work after JOYA?
My plan is to continue searching for interesting and inspiring things to keep my creativity flowing! I have always had interesting projects materializing after my participation at Joya Barcelona every year and I am sure this year will be no exception. On another note, I have also been asked on numerous occasions about giving weekend workshops and seminars which I will most likely consider as a new challenge in the New Year.

About the Interviewee

Liana Pattihis was born in Cyprus and has been living in London since 1980. Initially trained as an Interior Designer, she attended Jewellery Design at Middlesex University under the leadership of Caroline Broadhead graduating with First Class Honours in 2007. 
Liana has developed her own unique method of sifting and fusing enamel on a movable base. Her work comprises mainly brooches and necklaces made out of silver and gold chain alone, or chain attached to a copper mesh base which is then enamelled. Her designs cannot be pre-conceived; each unique piece is allowed to create itself.

About the author

Marietta Kontogianni is a Greek journalist based in Athens.
In April 2016 she founded JEWELRYbox Magazine on Facebook that aims to network with the people involved in the jewelry world. She has been working as a journalist for more than 20 years in newspapers, magazines and TV channels. Meanwhile, she had been creating fashion beaded jewelry herself. When the newspaper she was working for since 1995 bankrupted, she decided to found the bilingual (Greek-English) FB magazine
JEWELRYbox to keep on working as a journalist and to express her passion for jewelry.
Up to now, she interviewed almost all of the prominent artists that showed their works in Athens and attended all the lectures given by the renowned artists/ gallerists, curators in Athens since 2016.
Moreover, her
JEWELRYbox Magazine was a media sponsor of both Greek jewelry platforms: A Jewel Made in Greece 2017 and Athens Jewelry Week 2017. Her future plan is to have a website built dedicated mainly to the Greek jewelry world.