“Watch out for the small things” is Ena Macana’s leitmotiv. The Argentine-born jewelry designer has a sensibility and creativity that goes beyond borders, which she channels through the creation of accessories full of symbolism. Her interest in exploring society in a critical way through her work, fits perfectly with her talent for finding beauty in unexpected places. Limited edition items, unique pieces and workshops were you’re able to create your own jewel are some of the secrets of her atelier.
Hello Ena! Tell us how did you enter the world of jewelry. After studying design and haute couture, what attracted you to this field?
Hola Metal! I studied industrial design, but before that I studied haute couture while I was still at high school, I thought I would study fashion… Anyway, when I finished industrial design I had the opportunity of working in a jewelry company which helped me accessories as a meeting point between product design and fashion. I see the accessory as the main thing, an ideal object to communicate concepts.
Conventional is not a word we can use to define your work. Do you create accessories as timeless items or as something to periodically renew?
I´m not sure I like the constant update of goods. If everything was constantly updated, maybe nothing would make sense in itself or have any value at all. This is an issue frequently raised in fashion. It is true that accessories update a look and can add quality through details, but that’s not mandatory for me. But of course, it will always need to fit the look, I wouldn't be working in fashion otherwise!
My best designs try to settle a statement that fits the values of the person, more than its look. It might also depend on each specific item as well as on its customer. Some customers carry the gold machine gun cross (10 cm large) all the time and it fits them perfectly within an infinity of looks because, in the end, it's always about the person who's wearing it. To me that's the most important, know yourself and be yourself.
Does your background in industrial design give you a more rational mind when working?
I do have a conceptual approach when I create. For me, working on an idea is vital. I always start doing a deep research, I’m curious about many things and fields, and once I've reached the idea (which most of the time was already out there) I then start developing the style and collection itself. I have many working methods, depending on each project and the context where I want to communicate it.
In the China Collection, the starting point was the media debate related to the production in China. I remixed contents both pro and against China, so I tried to create an iconic discourse from Chinese toys re-produced in Spain, which gave place to very simple figures such as the machine gun necklace, up to more complex compositions like the machine gun crucifix. I think it was a very representative analogy of the discourses that mass media has about China, from something very simple to something more absurd and contradictory.
However, in the Post-Vintage collection for instance, it was pretty different. The goal was to create in the context of post-industrialization and post-consumption. So I did not want to work in scale and mass production, but from the trashed, the discarded and what is singular. It was focused on people seen as individuals, not as part of a series. So it was a huge collection of unique items constantly updated in different series.
One of the unique things about your work, as you were saying, is that you use sociocultural concepts in each collection.
The starting point is always the concept, so it is definitely possible that social and cultural topics are my motivation to create. Without a concept or and idea there’s nothing, no content nor shape. I am very attracted to people and their discourses, what they mean in each moment and context, and I just kind of make a remix of that.
In your opinion, is it possible to find something valuable among old stuff? And is it possible to adapt it to jewelry?
Yes, I believe we create the present from the past, I don’t think there´s anything radically new that is not already out there. In Post-Vintage, the fact that the components of the accessories had had a previous life gives the design a very particular finish. The surface shows the pass of time and there is a beauty in the fact that there was work done by the time, trough he use of this previous owner.
I´m not sure everything is adaptable to jewelry, but the interesting thing is that jewels don’t have a function in practical terms, so all their power is based on their capability of symbolizing. That’s the best function: to symbolize, and signify.
Do you find beauty everywhere? I’m thinking, for example, about the use of guns and weapons, so frequent in your work.
Actually, the machine gun cross is one of the pieces with more visibility, and as an icon, a machine gun is full of connotations. My intention wasn't to promote violence at all. Instead I wanted to focus on the concept of “watching out for the small things”, because there’s always something beyond what you see at first sight. We can understand reality in the details, not in the huge speech but in its fault. At first sight, I want people to see a crucifix, but when you come closer you understand it's not just a cross but a machine gun cross, what gives you a total different reading. Once you experience that, things can be understood at once in a minimum of two different ways, and for me is an absolutely fantastic phenomena.
My challenge here was to give people the power to experience two points of view at the same time, and last but not least, to create a discourse and provoke a debate.
Custom design is one of your working areas. How does it work? Can you widen your creative horizon through it?
Co-creativity was a way of working with the customer. All of a sudden, our customers recognized in the Post-Vintage collection objects that were very familiar to them, which they might even have in their grandparents' home. This way, they were able to create new pieces for themselves and become the main character.
Co-creativity gave me the chance of working for Tourism in Barcelona, and not only in the production of goods. We developed co-creativity workshops with groups of people that came to Barcelona to get inspired, so they didn't want to just buy a product, but to create it themselves. It was great fun and so much more rewarding for them. It became an experience more than a simple phenomenon of consumption, and this was amazing for us.
Do you have any ring or necklace that’s always with you?
My ring “nothing', which is a very little gold chain you can barely see. It was meant to be something for people who want to buy nothing; that is to say, they actually want something but something which isn't noticed. I wear it even when I go swimming! Besides, I always take with me my airplane brooch that I attached to my Tiffany´s heart necklace, especially when I fly to Germany, my lovely second home.
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