Lucia Antonelli interviewed by Patina Gallery

Interview  /  Artists   BehindTheScenes
Published: 13.03.2018
Lucia Antoneli Lucia Antoneli
Patina Gallery
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Lucia Antonelli. Necklace: Baroque Pearl, 2017. Baroque freshwater pearl with antique French brass beads with black enamel and antique button.. 45.72 cm collar with 22.9 inch tassels. Photo by: Patina Gallery. Lucia Antonelli
Necklace: Baroque Pearl, 2017
Baroque freshwater pearl with antique French brass beads with black enamel and antique button.
45.72 cm collar with 22.9 inch tassels
Photo by: Patina Gallery
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Northern California jewelry artist Lucia Antonelli presents Boogie Woogie Beauty in May at Patina Gallery. The exhibition continues the Season of the Soul, Patina’s tribute to the distinct four seasons of the raw beauty of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Few makers can create pieces that are equal parts keepsake and ornament, yet that is described Antonelli’s pieces that range from braided strands, vibrant beadwork and feathery tassels. For this collection, she makes liberal use of light and colorful Bakelite. She paused in her studio recently for a conversation about her work and new collection.
What will open visitors’ eyes when they first see your collection at Patina?
I think collectors will definitely be responding first to color, and then to the wild Bakelite shapes. Since most of my jewelry is in the nature tones, using these colorful components inspired me to enter into uncharted territory, and, perhaps revisit a very early time in my career when I had little money and utilized whatever fun things I could find at a thrift store, like Cracker Jacks charms and old colorful buttons. I have used some Bakelite in my early days, but it was too expensive and difficult to find.

How did work emerge for you creatively?
As a “panacea” for the lack of vibrant color in my work, I became an oil painter four years ago. I had a life-threatening illness that pushed me to fulfil a lifelong dream of painting. My whole world changed. I am now faced with a profound need to create on both plains. How do I do this when there are not enough hours in a day?
Earlier this year, after 40-plus years as a maker, Ivan Barnett of Patina Gallery approached me with the notion of doing a color show with Bakelite, incorporating the tiny antique French metal seed beads that are the foundation of all on my work. I am extremely grateful that I received this push from Patina Gallery to think outside of my comfort zone. I knew I needed to unstick myself from habits … nothing like a huge kick to shift gears.
So, with determination and intention, Bakelite started to just flow into my life, added to a few pieces I had left over from the old days.

Describe your creative process that leads to the interplay of materials, textures and colors?
Once I started, I began breathing, eating, sleeping, dreaming Bakelite shapes and colors. It is a rich and fun material that lends itself perfectly with the tiny seed beads. Pure ecstasy for me! The shapes and colors of the components dictate the shape of the necklace. I have some say in the direction, but I will usually just start and see where these wondrous materials take me.

Why does the idea of handmade move you?
I have been using my hands since I could hold a crayon. I don't think about using my hands, I just naturally have a deep and abiding desire to create. My Italian immigrant father was a carpenter and made things all the time when I was a child. I learned to hammer and paint and create from him. I have carpenter hands and definitely not girly hands. Creating with my hands is like breathing to me. To be me, I must use my hands – the best gift I could have received from the universe.

When and why did you start making jewelry?
I graduated from FIT in New York as an apparel design major. But I hated sewing. I loved drawing, but it never occurred to me to change my major to fashion illustration. Had I done that, I would not be a jewelry designer today.
So I began the search to find the right creative outlet to make my living. I explored many avenues until I went to work in bead store in Santa Monica. I fell in love with the "boundaryless" energy of beads – infinite combinations and possibilities. I was smitten with beads and still am.

As a maker, how do you feel or respond when you see someone wearing your jewelry?
So many people that I know who have my jewelry constantly tell me how often people come up to them with excitement as they fawn over what the person is wearing. And the wearer has expressed to me their joy in the piece whenever they wear it.  People have actually cried with joy. This makes it all worth it and makes my heart sing. It is wonderful to make a living through my art, but the calling to create has a much higher purpose. Joy is never tiring. It is a necessity.

What as a young artist ignited your creativity?
The most important aspect of my creativity, whether it be creating a necklace, painting, cooking or refinishing a piece of furniture, is that I love beauty and need it to feel complete as a human being. And I must share it with the world.
I have been making jewelry for 43 years. When I first started, I used all manner of found objects that I searched for at thrift stores and flea markets. I had very little money, so necessity was the mother of invention, as they say. I had fun seeing where the broken, unwanted parts would take me. My budget was $.50 per piece – old buttons, old beads, broken pendants and old plastic … and, of course, Bakelite.
I made a number of pieces with Bakelite and they sold. Then I moved on in other directions. All of my pieces are one of a kind, so boredom never sets in. As the years progressed and my work evolved and became better known, the demand required materials that ended up being earthier in nature – semi-precious stones, pearls, antique tribal components, all of which were very understated, muted and earthy in their color tones. Not everyone wanted color. Most people responded to the somewhat safer tones.

Describe the journey from then to now.
It is said that it is the journey, and not the destination that matters most. This is what creating this collection has been for me. Now that my collection is complete, what I know for certain is that being completely present in the process and embracing the spirit of colorful fun has been the path to melting away my fear. It is a metaphor for life. The universe is magic and it cares not who I am or what I do. It simply provides the playground for me to take the joy of living and transform it into something that touches the human spirit.

About the Interviewee

A graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Lucia Antonelli describes the fashion career that followed graduation as stressful, unsatisfying and brief. Finding the expression of her creativity and love for beauty has become a life journey. It is a journey that has taken her through several careers, including newspaper illustration, designing handbags, weaving and stained glass work. Then she discovered beads. The artist from northern California begins a piece with antique beads of many varieties. Most essential to the character of her work, though, are the cut brass, and sometimes steel beads, found almost exclusively in evening bags from the late nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries.