The curiously eclectic Maggio sisters
This month's interview is with the Maggio sisters – Margherita and Emilia, the design duo behind ShopCurious’ own range of handmade and hand painted jewellery. The eclectic mix of their backgrounds and experience is reflected in the variety of their work: They find and recycle old bits and pieces, they use naturally occurring materials such as stones, shells, twigs and feathers - and they employ their skills in the areas of fine art and expert craftsmanship to create highly original and unique accessories.
Margherita, who has a PhD in microbiology and a background in natural science, has been making jewellery from objects she's ‘found’ for over 10 years. She specialises in hand-painted jewellery, which she shows at art galleries in Palermo and Rome. Emilia, a linguist, artist and art historian, has a past as a fashion textiles designer for an Italian company selling to Versace and Moschino in the late eighties. She freelances as an Italian language consultant, art history lecturer and figurative artist in London and has co-produced Margherita's most recent collections.
The sisters started making things as a hobby. Emilia explains that “When Margherita and I were still at college we used to organize our own crafts fairs and sold our work (jewellery, decorated bottles, gifts) to friends and relatives. When I moved to England, in my twenties, I studied graphics as well as art history and found that one interest fed the other. I started to work on commissions for textile patterns, illustration and cartoons, so when my sister asked me to paint the fumetti (pop-art inspired) collection I was more than keen to help!
As Margherita is a scientist, she’s naturally curious and enjoys experimenting and finding solutions. Emilia says, “All children are curious, then, sadly, we teach them that to be an adult means you have to take things for granted: life becomes boring, this is reflected in the way people look, and in turn, this is the message we communicate to others.” She adds that, “Reality is very interesting and extremely varied, so it’s a shame that this isn’t reflected in the way that most people dress. I see crowds of fashion victims wearing the same mass-produced clothes and accessories (no matter how unsuitable or uncomfortable) and not liking them at by the time the next season comes around. It’s so nice when you are able to wear something different, unique…something that means something to you!”
Margherita agrees that her ideal customer is someone who doesn't conform, who appreciates handiwork and who likes quirky pieces that are slightly different from the mainstream. Emilia adds, “Ok, there are trends, this is how history naturally develops. But trends are there to be interpreted, and my ideal customer is someone who does exactly that.”
As for making their designs, Margherita starts with an idea and then puts it aside for a while. She then revisits the original idea later, according to her mood, memories, or other ideas that inspire her during the development process – of course, she does have deadlines too! Her favoured materials are all types of wood and shells that she picks up on holiday - natural materials in general, but also plastic, depending on the look she wants to give to the collection. She also uses metal, semi-precious stones and paints on wood and shells, often combining this with decoupage.
Emilia explains that for some collections they use a lot of recycled materials, “This isn’t just to be ‘ethical’, although this is very important at this time in history - it’s also quite exciting when you see broken, nasty and useless pieces turned into a beautiful creation – it’s like Cinderella going to the ball!
In fact, the shapes and properties of things that seem only fit for the bin sometimes suggest the most fantastic ideas. Real pearls or semi-precious stones are beautiful as they are and it would be pointless to decorate them so intricately, as opposed to worthless plastic beads that can be transformed into little paintings - providing great satisfaction to the artist, as well as the wearer.”
Margherita’s inspiration comes from her own experiences, as well as research using books, photographs and the internet. She’s always collecting materials for future use – especially when she travels on holiday. Emilia, who prefers to collect visual art, is impressed with the way that Margherita knows the names of all the different stones, shells, types of wood and coral she finds, as well as the properties of each item.
Margherita loves fleamarkets like Brick Lane in London, but also places of natural interest: beaches, mountains - especially North Africa, Essaourira, Morocco, and Sidi-bu-Said, Tunisia; Provence (Arles, Camargue), Sardinian beaches. One day she’d like to have a house in one of the Æolian Islands, Stromboli or Alicudi.. For Emilia it’s Paris, the Latin Quarter; Rome, Piazza del Campidoglio “and the little lanes and stairs and gardens around there”; Brighton, the Lanes; Palermo, Villa Trabia; then Erice, Syracuse, Venice, Madrid, Seville. In London, it’s Hampstead and the National Gallery.
I expected nothing less than an eclectic list of places – but so many, I’m exhausted just thinking about all that travel. As for whom they’d like to sit next to at dinner, that’s much more straightforward – Margherita would sit next to anyone, even someone she hasn’t met before, so long as they share similar interests and Emilia would like to sit next to one of her friends – Suzy, or Roddy. It’s okay Emilia, we’ll let you sit between them if you like, so long as you don’t dash off back to Rome too soon, as we’ve plans for more ShopCurious collections.