Twenty -four-year old jewelry designer Madina Visconti di Modrone, who is following in her mother’s footsteps, has created a line for the the brand Osanna e Madina Visconti di Modrone by combining her sense of style with her love for nature. She associates nature with her childhood and with the recollection of the time spent in her garden, in Grazzano Visconti, near Piacenza, where she used to revel in the different varieties of flowers and plants. A ring she always wears – made from a stone she picked up in the garden- is a reminder of those happy years which are also reflected in her early creations of ivy flower and feather headbands, a harmonious synthesis of present, past and future.
How did you develop a passion for jewels?
My mother has undoubtedly influenced me. My jewels are made using the lost-wax casting technique, which requires making original model from wax for each piece of jewelry. I grew up watching my mother create wax models in our living room in the evening, a movie playing on the TV. I would sit beside here and would play at creating small objects, which she would sometimes mould.
What inspired your first collection?
My garden in Grazzano has always been a source of inspiration. I still collect leaves, flowers and branches from the garden and reproduce them in silver and bronze. Even the colours of the enamel reflect the colours in the garden.
Your jewels are the results of laborious craftsmanship, how exactly are they made and what is your role in the process?
Lost-wax casting is the jewelry manufacturing technique “par excellence”. It is also the most ancient method, dating back to several thousand years before Christ. It is still the most widely used method. As I was saying before, every piece of jewelry is originally created as a wax model. The first stage of the process involves pouring liquid metal into a mould. The casting mould is created using a wax model that is melted away to leave a hollow chamber in the middle of the mould. Once the metal is cooled it can be carefully removed from the wax mould. Then refining is required, which includes filing and cleaning the piece of jewelry in order to smooth rough edges or irregular surfaces. The final stage of the process involves finishing and painting.
Is such a laborious method still worth it? Is there a future for craftsmanship in Italy, or is it gradually disappearing?
There is no doubt that these handmade pieces of jewelry are much more valuable than mass-produced items. Unfortunately, craftsmanship is disappearing and, as far as my personal experience goes, I have often had to change craftsman, goldsmith or foundry because they were no longer in business. Unfortunately excellent craftsmanship is not safeguarded by the state. It is only by working side by side with these craftsmen that I have become aware of all the difficulties they are facing.
Your work is perfectly in line with the increasingly widespread trend, in Italy, towards less ostentatious jewelry. What is your opinion in this regard?
I agree. I design jewels that can be worn every day. Our creations tread the very thin line existing between fine and fashion jewelry but are different from both. We sometimes receive special requests and, on such occasions, we use gold or silver and even “pietre dure”.
Last autumn, in New York City, you presented a collection in collaboration with Tomas Maier, Bottega Veneta’s designer. Why?
Yes, true. We met in Milan a few years ago. Bottega Veneta already had a selection of my creations in their store in Miami. When they opened their new Thomas Meier flagship store in New York City they asked me to create a new earring design to be sold exclusively in their Madison Avenue store.
To what extent was this collaboration with a famous designer important for your brand image? Do you think this kind of collaboration might be beneficial to less known brands?
It has been extremely important for us. Cooperation is always beneficial to small brands like mine and, it goes without saying, the more so if it involves collaboration with high profile designers.
Are you going to enter into other collaborations?
Yes. As a matter of fact, I already have started to collaborate with Del Toro, Yoox and John Barret Salon.
Del Toro is a Miami-based footwear and accessories brand. Its creative director and co-founder is a very clever person. This is a great opportunity for our brand to enter the U.S. market, where our product is not yet very well known. We have just presented a collection of pasta-shaped jewels that can be also applied on shoes.
I also designed an exclusive collection for Yoox last Christmas. Their market is much wider than ours. I designed two pieces -a bracelet and a belt. I took inspiration from two drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, which are part of the Atlantic Code collection preserved in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. It was a very ambitious project, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I found it extremely challenging.
Today, particularly in Italy, it is very difficult for young people who have new ideas to carve out a career for themselves and many have to go abroad. What helped you and what do you advise young people to do?
My willpower helped me a lot. In addition, I must admit that having the opportunity to travel extensively and to live in both London and Paris has helped me become aware that things are changing quickly in today’s fast-paced world. I almost ran the risk of being trapped in slow motion. Travelling nourishes creativity. Everything I see can be transformed into a source of inspiration for a new piece of jewelry.