Ana Katarina, designer of jewelry brand Eco Gioielli, ("eco" is short for ecology and "gioielli" is Italian for jewelry) comes from an artistic family. Her father is an architect and her mother a painter, making her entry into the field of design imminent. Iqbal Al Sanea met with the talented – and oh so friendly – designer to learn more about her.
I met with Ana Katarina during the second week of Ramadan at Bait Badra. It was scorching hot, and I had absolutely no energy to put my interview face on. If only someone had told me that I was going to meet the most genuine person ever, I would have jumped out of bed and sped right to her door.
Ana Katarina, a humanitarian, a jewelry designer, a photographer, a single mother of three, recently moved from Boston to Istanbul, and is currently staying in Kuwait. Her truly unique jewelry has been showcased at local exhibitions like Pretty Little Things and White Expo, but Ana is determined to find a wider niche for her market: courageous and independent women.
Talk us about your background…
I went to Tufts University, and School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I double majored in International Relations and Photography. As a jewelry designer, I’m self-taught. I went to the local jeweler and working with him, I learned about the jewelry production process, waxes, molds and settings. I was raised with an architect father, through whom I learned engineering principles. As a woman I understand how our body moves through space and the rhythm of our lives. Our jewelry should be a part of our lifestyle and the jewelry ergonomic. I think that’s my biggest asset as a woman designer.
Tell us about how you first entered the jewelry industry.
I worked for two jewelry companies as a buyer, from 1999-2009, I moved from from being a buyer to custom designing pieces. I already had a background in design, but I wasn’t trained as a designer.
On March 5, 2007 I decided to quit. I came home to start my own jewelry company. Six weeks later I went to New York and was signed by the showroom Fragments. In May I embarked on a guerilla marketing effort to California toting my small collection of 15 pieces. By the end of the week the collection had been sold to 17 stores. It happened really quickly.
I started my own jewelry company because at the time, the jewelry available to women made them look dated. The same seven or eight designers were being represented in stores. This lack of variety made women look like one another. My mother raised me to believe if every woman is wearing black, you should wear electric blue. This was the impetus for the collection. I sat down with some gold pieces and I started designing.
Hana Al Humaidi was my custom design inspiration. She trusted her pieces to me to be redesigned. We continued our relationship as client and designer, through which a beautiful friendship grew. It is through Hana I was able to redesign pieces for her family and friends as well.
Now that you’ve mentioned custom design, can you give us insight on how this works with Eco Gioielli?
I love doing custom design work, as it is an intimate conversation between the woman and myself. As we speak about her life, her children, her aspirations, who and what she is, we develop her custom design piece. We are co-creating the piece together.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m inspired by the natural world: Organic shapes, leaves, waves, ocean hitting the rocks and back in ripples. I am inspired by Rumi and his writing of the pure oe conceptualized by Ishq. The Ishq series blends Persian calligraphy and mammoth bone. On the back of each piece there is an eye. This secret is a women’s protection. It has calligraphy. If you turn it over, you’ll see a design because I think everyone needs a secret.
You use only Canadian diamonds and fair trade materials. Why is this exactly?
I was a war correspondent and I’m still politically active. I use recycled gold as an alternative to buying new gold. The gold mining industry is harmful to the environment and to the local indigenous populations living around the mines. The run off of cyanide, used to extract the ore from the rock, pollutes the environment and caused birth defects. We really do have enough gold used pieces; we don’t need to add new gold. I work with one company out of the States for recycled grain. I also work with Mammoth bone, I will not work with ivory. I cannot contribute to the killing of a beautiful animal for its tusks. It’s absolutely wrong.
What differentiates your jewelry from other jewelry designers?
When I design, I want pieces for women to be worn in many different ways. When jewelry becomes useful, you can play with it and be creative with it. It’s not just putting on pearls. My pieces are understated. I only design one-of-a-kind pieces.
How would you describe your personal sense of style?
It depends on who I am that morning. I like bold pieces that are understated. I like pieces that are heavy and have weight. I wear my good jewelry everyday. I designed this piece with rose gold with diamonds. It’s heavy, but comfortable. It feels nice on the hand. I also designed this piece for myself, because as a mother, I’m gesturing and using my hand all the time. It goes through my lifestyle. I’ve yoga-ed with it, I’ve biked with it, and I’ve worn it to a ball. I just love this piece. The pieces I have to wear has to have meaning, it has to be inspired by some sort of personal story.
After starting your business in the US, why have you chosen Kuwait as a destination now?
Lots of reasons! One of course is my partner and good friend Hana Al-Humaidhi. Kuwait is an interesting little oasis. I keep telling people that roses keep coming in front of me and blossoming. I keep meeting rose after rose of the most wonderfully inspiring women. It’s becoming more and more exciting artistically. This small and growing community is able to be far more Avant-garde with their work They don’t have a lot of ego in the work they’re doing. The art that’s coming out is a lot fresher. Intellectually, I just started to get a feel of the culture. As a single mother, it’s an amazing place to raise daughters.
Your clients are from all over the world. What are they like?
Some women have incredible energy and what they all have in common is their strength and courage.They are women who have their own unique style and are not afraid to show it. Their style is playful and I find most of the women I deal with are not addicted to brands.
Have you ever designed jewelry for men?
I love designing jewelry for men I had been wanting to create a piece inspired by Mondrian.I love his paintings. I love his work but had never thought I’d meet a man who would be confident enough to allow me to design a piece based on Mondrian paintings, I convinced a client, who had previously commissioned a ring, to allow me to design this piece! It’s manly and the rose gold matched the color of his skin. He loved it.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a cuff collection, huge cuffs, from different material with rings.I’m very much inspired by JAR jewelry. I’m not a very feminine girl. I love the concept of using carved gold or stone. I’ve been playing with some designs that are inspired by the Levant region. I'm figuring out how I’d do that. I’d like to design 10 of each and that’s it, just a small collection.
What are your future plans?
I’m dying to go to Oman and Jordan I want to explore the antique markets, find magnificent pieces and inspirations.
What have you learned after years of designing?
What I have learned is that you have to be constantly sitting in a place of creation. The word I “can’t” does not exist. There is nothing you can’t achieve. It is a limitation you’re putting on yourself.
For more information visit www.AnaKatarina.com