SPIRIT 2 necklace of sterling silver, copper; hollow construction, black and stained patina on sterling, heat patina on copper, 76.2 centimeters long chain, round sterling bead 1.9 x 4.4 centimeters in diameter. Photograph by Emanuela Aureli.
Emanuela Aureli

Spatial Recognition




She gets wrapped up for hours in process, and says she has to remind herself of the famous quotation that “the painting is never finished, but once it’s done, it’s done: it’s not fun anymore,” as she flings something invisible away over her shoulder.

“My work is big,” says Emanuela Aureli, widening her eyes for emphasis. This ironically comes from a small, fine-boned woman with raven hair who tends to dart around her Santa Fe studio like a dragonfly, pulling out pieces of jewelry or demonstrating how she uses calipers to measure metal wire thicknesses, something her Italian grandfather taught her. Aureli’s pieces are powerful, hollow construction making them almost weightless. When you wear something big, Aureli explains, “it’ll make you aware of yourself, aware of your body, but not in an egotistical way. Once you wear something big, you move around differently.” She has come to believe that modern life mostly desensitizes our physical selves, making the experience of the body nearly obsolete. Her Shard Rings, for example, in the latest incarnation of sterling on one side sandwiched with copper imbedded with random sterling dots on the other, have a boxy bottom with a flames-like top rising alarmingly high up above the hand. She has made Shard Rings for a long time, evolving them as she goes: “I’m branching out and changing things because I don’t really like to repeat myself,” Aureli says. To wear such a declarative ring, she says, “You have to learn to gauge your gestures. My daughter is learning to drive, and she has to learn to gauge how much room she has when she is parking the car. It’s a spatial relationship.” The idea is to help, or aid, the wearer to have a different self-perception, a sensory consciousness about how your hands, or your body, interact with the world.

Human hands are almost always in motion. Aureli’s own hands rise and fall like winged things as she talks. She recalls moving from Oakland, California, (see Ornament, Vol. 22, No. 2, 1998) with her family (she is now divorced) to Santa Fe in 2000 without having to think twice about it. “I was here in 1982, traveling through, and I felt a connection with the southwest.” The landscape for her is “very simple, very straightforward. I’ve always been attracted to the desert, meaning long expanses where you can look out,” she says, sliding her hand away from her through the air. “When I was seven or eight years old, I used to draw what I thought were cliffs, in an ochre color. About ten years ago I realized I had been drawing a mesa, or a desert.”





Leslie Clark is a freelance writer and editor based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was enthralled to get the opportunity to interview jewelrymaker Emanuela Aureli, who last spoke with Chiori Santiago for Ornament in 1998 (Vol. 22, No. 2). Clark describes Aureli as warm and spontaneous, with a passion for talking about her art. “Aureli stands in a unique place in the history of jewelry craft,” Clark says. “She trained in the centuries-old European guild system in Italy, which you see reflected in her exceptional technical mastery of her work, and in her aesthetic sensibility. Yet by temperament she was—and still is—attracted to the ideals of the 1960s counter-culture movement about self-expression and freedom.”



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Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show


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