Inspired by natural objects that are not typically considered beautiful, like lichen, roots and fungi, Italian-born designer-maker Roberta Pederzoli captures the imperfection of nature in her jewellery pieces, bestowing them with a fairy-tale-like elegance. Her latest fine jewellery collection, Enchanted Wood, is a triumph of juxtapositions that combines realism with fantasy, inspired by imagery from Scottish landscapes with the maker’s self-professed Italian sensibility. Roberta’s Enchanted Wood collection is currently featured in Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual exhibition of new and upcoming talent.
“I like playing with texture, I like playing with colours, spreading the colour in uneven ways to mirror the imperfection of nature - which for me, is actually its beauty,” Roberta said in a recent interview with the Goldsmiths’ Centre, her voice teeming with passion. Rather than presenting a false, or idealised version of nature, Roberta’s jewellery aims to reproduce the spontaneous textures and colours that she has encountered in the Scottish wilderness, highlighting aspects of the landscape that might otherwise be overlooked.
“I particularly like putting polished areas next to rough areas, creating contrast. The technique I use when finishing my pieces, actually makes the piece realistic from one side, and from the other, like a fairy-tale object from an enchanted wood. I also might spread different nuances of colour, in gold, or black, by oxidizing the jewellery to create a particular kind of aesthetic.”
Although she has called Scotland her home for almost twenty-five years - drawing inspiration for her striking jewellery from walks through its ancient woodland - Roberta is assured that her Italian roots cannot be extracted from her artistry. She believes that all life experiences inform one’s creative process:
“I believe that the background of each person leaves an imprint on their work. I’m Italian, I’m inspired by the Scottish landscape, and I think my jewellery is a combination of an Italian aesthetic, combined with a Scottish inspiration. I think anyone who is an artist, who is creating, doesn’t live in a vacuum. They are a product of their background, experiences and cultural beliefs. Everyone starting with the same object of inspiration comes out with a different result."
Creativity is something that Roberta has come to consider as innate and instinctive, dredged from the periphery of the consciousness. Her theory is reinforced by the calling she felt towards the jewellery industry a few years ago:
“I was on holiday, playing in the park with my daughter, making necklaces and little crowns with daisies. I was really enjoying it, but I was very, very tired, and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make jewellery. I think when we are really in tune with ourselves, that can happen. When you’re asleep, you can subconsciously have these realisations.”
Another memory that Roberta considers evidence of an early, yet-to-be-realised interest in metal, was of playing with a broken thermometer as a child. She adds a quick disclaimer, “I wouldn’t recommend it!”, before recounting the story;
“When the thermometer broke, I was secretly pleased and played with the lithosphere of mercury, joining it together and then separating it. I think that when we’re young, we probably know what we want to do, but we don’t always realise until later on.”
While she did not realise her natural affinity for metal work until well into adulthood, Roberta doesn’t regret the time it took to get her there:
“It’s important to be in tune with yourself. I don’t regret how long it took for me to have this realisation, because I believe what I learned during my life before becoming a jewellery maker and designer is actually helping my career now, and helped me to become the person that I am today.”
When developing a new collection, Roberta’s creative process usually begins with long walks in the forests and parks of Scotland, immersing herself in nature:
“I go for walks and I observe. It's actually very mindful, that moment of inspiration, because you're completely focused in the present,” she explains. This is followed by the collecting of natural objects, taking photos, and a period of research, which she highlights as her favourite stage of all; “I love making but I think in particular, I like the initial stage, the research, when I’m just looking at things, exploring things.”
A crucial point in the development of one of Roberta’s collections is the creation of a single, statement piece, which often acts as the blueprint for the smaller pieces to follow. For Enchanted Wood, this took the form of two large necklaces. “My main piece is done at the beginning, usually a necklace - I love making big necklaces. I plan my collection around this central piece, so I might make some earrings or smaller necklaces, rings, everything is an extension of the main piece that I created in the first stage.”
These central pieces may be worked on for weeks, if not months, by the Italian maker, constantly being improved upon, and made more intricate. “I never stop creating or designing, revisiting my design just to add some technical elements which are maybe more precise. The design process is continuous, it never stops, so sometimes I will have a piece that I made several months ago, and I’ll keep slightly changing it, adapting it.”
One of the reasons for this continual adjustment is a firm belief that each piece should be as comfortable to wear as possible; “I think jewellery needs to be comfortable. When I'm making a bigger necklace, I not only wear it, I ask several people to wear it and do daily life activities, because I think every piece of jewellery needs to be comfortable.”
During her time as a student studying a HND in Jewellery at Glasgow Kelvin College, Roberta took this a step further, developing a design for a necklace that was “almost indistinguishable from the clothing underneath”. This concept earned her a commendation in the Fashion Jewellery category at The Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council 2013 awards. In 2021, she would be recognised yet again at the awards, taking home Bronze for a medal espousing an environmentalist message about the threat of land erosion.
“I really enjoyed the process of making the medal because they are an extremely symbolic means of communication, the research stage was a huge part of the piece and was fantastic, really interesting.”
As well as medal-making, Roberta is looking to continue exploring new areas in the future, such as developing a new precious metal collection and looking into the world of contemporary wedding jewellery.
From a flash of realisation that came to her one day whilst crafting daisy chains with her daughter in the park, Roberta has developed phenomenally as a maker, forming a signature style that is thematically rich and skillfully realised.
“I think it is a privilege to be a jewellery designer and maker, because jewellery is a very symbolic means of communication. We express a lot of things through jewellery - power, status. When we get married, we mark that with a ring. A piece of jewellery can be a very, very symbolic object. It's a beautiful feeling when you make a piece for a client, and you can see they are happy. It's a beautiful thing to be part of this process.”