Perhaps it’s the captivating way in which she designs jewels from her own personal world, intimately connected to the soul, or maybe it's how she accomplishes to reinforce women's and men's innate power. Joanne Burke, who lives in Testaccio –an out-of-the-way neighborhood in Rome with some quirky sights and amazing old characters around–, creates jewelry from her atelier, an unexpected hidden sanctuary, which echoes a peaceful and dreamy aura. Orchids, frescos, surrealism, hidden languages, floaty silks, creatures of the deep, baroque, rituals, whimsical places and much more…Get immersed in the extraordinary world of delicious mystery and exquisite craft of this English artist. 
Ciao Joanne! How did a girl from London end up in the chaotic capital of Italy?
It’s a long story… I left London for the US because I was working on projects there, and I had made a lot of dear friends that had turned into my creative family. I lived in Portland for 7 years. I was starting a new phase of my artistic life and needed to travel and be closer to family in Europe. I wanted to be in an old city again. I’m also together with a Roman artist, so it made sense to finally live in the same place.
Tell me something that you like about Rome.
I love that in Rome you can find a trash can built inside the remains of an old column, that they use this amazing crazy ancient stuff in a not so precious way. In England, something like this would have a rope around it in order not to touch it! There’s just so much here. They give a use to something really precious. Why shouldn’t we be using all of this? Of course we should take care and be respectful, but I think we should use this beauty around us and when it falls apart and dies it’s time for something new to grow in its place.
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I know you’ve always studied dance history. Why? What level of importance has had dance in your life?
I love to dance, even though I haven’t done so lately. I enjoy watching people dance, whatever their style. I think it’s the most mysterious language. The history of early modern dance and theatre is really inspiring in terms of language and communication. Antonin Artuad’s book The Theatre and Its Double is my favorite book ever on this topic. I feel connected to the idea of using the rules –or lack thereof– of dance to everything.
When did you decide you wanted to become a jeweler? Was it a clear decision?
I’ve always wanted to make my own jewels, I was just waiting for the right moment to go into it. I've been collecting antique ethnic jewelry for years but then I started wondering why I was wearing other people's symbology and beliefs, when I have such a world of my own. I’m not interested in pretty jewelry. I like a jewel that has a soul of its own or a power of some kind. At first, I made one or two rings just for myself –a penis, a stem of eyes and a hermaphrodite– and then people started to ask if they could also buy them. I didn’t really want to design jewels with the idea of other people, trends or collections in mind. They are more like little sculptures to me. So, I just make the jewels as I feel, and then if people connect with the idea or feeling behind a particular piece then they’re also welcome to request it.
You seem to embrace the past world aesthetics more than present or future innovations, in terms of creation. What do you find captivating about those?
I am really in love with the old as much as I am with the new, and I don’t make things with the idea of recreating past aesthetics because actually I don’t believe in that. I love new aesthetics and innovations, depending on why they exist, and to me, what I make looks as modern as anything else. It’s really hard to define what looks old and what looks new because everything is so tangled nowadays. The minimal modern style looks so ancient and old to me! The things I make just come from some place more personal as opposed to trying to be fashionable or trendy.
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Which jewelry-making techniques do you follow? And the materials?
I work in a very primitive way because I like the challenge of trying to figure out how to make it work. I also honestly have no idea how to make jewels in the traditional sense. I am still learning, really. I’m working with coral and shell at the moment for some new works...
Wilted lady flower pieces, sun moon face rings, boob drops, stem of eyes, nipple hoops, hoops with fruit that can be removed, the siren and penis angel rings, the emotional turkey pendant… Could you tell me a bit about these inspiring names included in your collection?
The wilted lady flower is a representation of the most sensitive women (and men) of the world, who are in tune with nature and their surroundings. They feel things maybe a little more intensely than most and can often be misdiagnosed as being sad, weak or crazy, but are in fact in possession of such a power. I have a lot of beautiful lady friends like this who I treasure, so I’ve made it with them in mind. The siren ring, I made to commemorate learning to swim when I first moved to Italy. It's a combination of my cat and I, who came with me from the US, both combined as a fish. I made the emotional turkey around Christmas after seeing a brilliant glass piece in Vienna... it made sense to call her emotional, since she was born with two heads during Turkey season.
It is clear that you reinforce the powerful feminine world in almost all your projects: the protective fertility symbols, the intrinsic power of women.
I just love women and love to be a woman. But I love men and I think I’d love to be a man too! I’m into reinforcing the power of all worlds. Reinforcing the power of the feminine world also reinforces the power of the masculine. Discovering our inner powers and training them in the best way, learning which parts of ourselves need tuning and which parts to unleash is a never-ending discovery that keeps me fascinated – in myself and in other people. Creative fertility or my lack of creative fertility. I think I use these symbols in some way to reinforce certain aspects of myself, to remind me, to keep on…
Where do you take inspiration from?
From women, men, magic, power, animals, ugliness, humor.
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It looks like you are keen on the different ways of communication and languages, hidden worlds, secret symbolism… Is it true that the most essential, precious things sometimes are not so obvious?
Of course, the best most beautiful things are not there for us to see with boring eyes. You have to discover them. The most fun is discovering people. When I was younger I believed I could notice things about people nobody else around me could, and that I was put on Earth to detect things that other people didn’t know how to, that I was hyper sensitive in some way.
Can you explain me a bit about the video presented in the International Film Festival Rotterdam, a dreamy meditation on the work Aqua Viva by Clarice Lispector, in which you collaborated? 
I met Cynthia Madansky at the American Academy Halloween party here in Rome. We had both just moved here. She was at the door with her amazing wild silver hair and I was dressed as a hermaphrodite. We were drawn to each other’s energy so we started talking. We then kept bumping into each other and we just made a really special friendship. We share the same ideas about movement and language so we wanted to work on something together as soon as we met. It was natural we would make this kind of film together about language and movement using the work of Aqua Viva, which Cynthia introduced me to, as our narration. All of Cynthia’s films to me are really so beautiful, so it was a really special experience to work together.
Could you mention one of your favourite fabrics, colour, and music that you lately have in mind?
I like natural fabrics like linen, silk, embroidery... The fabrics of kings and queens, peasants and animals. Also, all the colours of the world, but white is my colour forever. There are always colour periods too. I’m in a red phase this year. I think I share the same favorite colours of Queen Elizabeth I: white, red gold and black.
And I love all music really, but the German avant-garde singer Dagmar Krause is really special. She looks fragile but she’s a super power. She has this incredible apocalyptic destructive voice and then in the next minute she's like an angel. I like her dualities.
What do like to do most in Rome, when you are not working?
My favorite thing in the whole world is to go every morning to the café close to my home, drink a coffee and watch the world go by. Spy on the characters there, write in my book, read. Dinner with friends, museum missions to research particular things... And kissing the cat.
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