Conversations with an Artist: Maddalena Bearzi
Maddalena Bearzi is a Los Angeles-based jewelry designer, scientist and author. She has a Ph.D. in Biology and is president of the research and environmental non-profit Ocean Conservation Society. We love that in Maddalena’s jewelry, you can see the influences of her work in the natural environment and which comes through in her use of environmentally-friendly practices. Her jewelry is organic, earthy, elegant and with that right bit of edge. And named in Italian, a direct reference to her heritage.
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
There wasn’t a specific moment—I was really young when I started sketching animals on a piece of paper. My creativity found expression, first in drawings, and later on, in writing, photography, and jewelry making.
What themes do you pursue in your art?
Every jewelry piece that I make is connected to nature and my life as a scientist. My background as a marine biologist plays a huge role in my creative process, and each of my jewelry pieces tells its own, unique, nature-inspired story. I think it’s important to always tell a story; it doesn’t matter if you write an article or a book, take a picture or make a piece of jewelry.
Tell us about what influences the direction for your jewelry collection.
Water, Earth, Air and Planets are the main themes of my collections. Within each collection, one can find a necklace inspired by the shape of a millipede or a ring that reminds of a far-away planet. I find sources of creativity and directions for my jewelry collections everywhere around me. I don’t need to go out at sea and study whales with my research boat to let my imagination go wild. I can find inspiration in the leaf of a succulent plant in my house.
How has your work developed over time?
I began handcrafting pieces for friends and relatives by joining sustainable textiles with unique elements such as upcycled metals, small stones, and vintage charms collected in different parts of the world. These textile-based creations led me to a focus on one-of-a-kind, metal jewelry handmade in silver, and gold, but also in bronze, brass and copper.
My jewelry changes and evolves all the time because I like to explore new methods and materials. Next year, I might be working on something completely different…
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
Without a doubt, my imagination.
Do you collect anything?
I like to collect rocks and other natural objects that grab my attention during my journeys, or when I walk my dog Genghis; but I don’t keep everything I find. One of my collections, for instance, was inspired by the pebbles that I gathered on a remote shore of Patagonia. I incorporated those pebbles in my designs.
Recently, I found the abandoned nest of a hummingbird in my garden. While observing the materials that the hummingbird “recycled” to make the nest, I found one of my hair… or at least, I like to think it was my hair! Now, I am obsessed in making “nest-inspired” jewelry.
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
A humpback whale swimming near her calf and guiding its movements during one of my research trips in California. I spent over 25 years in the company of wild dolphins and whales but I am always astonished by observing these animals and the many similarities they have with our own species.
What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey?
Follow your dreams, be passionate and work hard. Also, be original and stay true to yourself.
1. Anellide Occhio Solcato Necklace/Bracelet (plays off the design influence of the anellide or segmented earthworm in Italian) using Japanese silk and featuring a large brass ring (or bangle) and brass accents 2. Pelagia Necklace (meaning of the sea and inspired by jellyfish of the Pelagiidae family) featuring Japanese cotton, reclaimed metal chain, bronze and brass 3. Anellide Sorridente Necklace (plays off the design influence of the earthworm adding the sorridente which is smile in Italian) using Japanese silk and featuring a brass curve and accents 4. Bruchini Earrings (inspired by tiny caterpillars, the meaning in Italian) made with Japanese cotton, bronze chains and silver and gold accents 5. Marea Bronzea Earrings (the impression of the tide, its meaning in Italian) in brass 6. Onda Earrings (inspired by the energy of the wave, its meaning in Italian) in brass 7. Terra Ring (inspired by a golden patch of earth) made from partially oxidized brass 8. Maroso (inspired by the breaking wave, its meaning in Italian) Cuff in brass
Come explore Maddalena's unusual combinations of organic and nature-inspired beauties! And if you're interested in her research, visit the Ocean Conservation Society website.
If you'd like more information about her jewelry, we're happy to chat or email.
See you soon,
Bonnie & Jeffrey