Interview: Couture Jewelry Designer Giampiero Bodino

A tantalizing display at this year's Salon Art + Design hints at the mastermind's vision

Even before entering the full-floor grandeur of The Salon Art + Design at NYC’s Armory, guests of the design fair could set foot into a wooden jewelry box of a room populated with the works of Giampiero Bodino. Bodino’s namesake brand, a part of the Richemont family where he has been a creative director for decades, features precious metal and gemstone pieces crafted with the utmost imagination. Visibile is the passion and confidence one would expect from an Italian jewelry designer, but there’s also an elegant whimsy pervading the handmade works. Chokers glow proudly, a bracelet mimics the patterns of a coral reef, watches unlike any other tick away—encrusted in ethically sourced wonders. Every stone looks as if its heart is an LED, and yet there’s no such modification. The electric energy of Bodino’s one-of-a-kind masterpieces stem from nature itself. During The Salon, we spoke with Bodino in an attempt to grasp his process. With fervor, he guided us through some of his pieces, as well.

Does your process begin with a design that you source stones for, or a stone that inspires a design?

It goes exactly in both ways. Or, I fall upon a beautiful set of stones. They tell you want to do. You see them and they say, “Ah, I am here, you know what I can do. Choose me.” It happens by magic. You see the stones and immediately react and you know what you have to do with them. Or, I draw and design something—especially the graphic pieces—and then I find the stones to fit into or ask my supplier to cut stones to fit into it.

When you produce such a small amount of pieces a year, how do you commit to a design? How do you know that’s the design you want to work on?

I think I have an idea. The day you decide to do it, you just do it. It’s true that we can never know how long it will take to do a piece. We are talking about one-of-a-kind pieces or those that are made solely in special ateliers, with committed, superb and accurate handwork.

For example, there is a ring which is not shown here but it is a special setting. We were expecting it for a big presentation in Paris last year. We couldn’t get it because it wasn’t ready yet. Time is luxury. It’s part of the process.

Can you talk to me about your watches?

Here there are three because they represent our world, which is a combination between something graphic and architectural, and something which is more natural, and something purely inspired by nature. We use a very good quartz movement from the group, that they use for the couture jewelry pieces.

The colors in your work really captivate. What colors move you? How do you determine colors?

I’ve always been seduced by certain color combinations. It’s easy to do a white, all-diamond piece. I honestly prefer color, it gives more emotion. With color combinations, sometimes you have them in your mind. Sometimes it is something you’ve seen—a piece of fabric, yellow and pink. Something not done yet. The colors in one of my pieces were inspired by a piece of decoration, a vase from the tradition in Sicily. It has green, orange and blue. Looking at those very rustic colors, I knew I could do something.

There are also combinations that I like by default, for instance green and purple and black. I like very much pink and orange. This was inspired by a plant. This isn’t a story that I prepared for talking to press. It’s what happened. I see things and recognize they’ll look beautiful as jewels and I do it.

You’re also a painter. Do your artistic worlds ever collide?

No. I keep them totally separate because they are two very different parts of me. I don’t usually like artists that carry over themes from their art. I don’t usually like jewelry made by artists. Picasso and even recent artists, they took straight translation from their art. That’s not for me.

Images courtesy of Giampiero Bodino