1 Gemma, how and when did you get started making jewellery? Were you self-taught or did you learn from someone?
I have loved creating things by myself since I was a child. I live in a very creative family that has always encouraged me to follow my passions.
When I was a child I loved to draw and paint, growing up I started selling hand painted t-shirts and I started a sort of brand, at the same time I was making my own jewelry, not to sell it but just for me, copying sometimes jewelry that I was seeing around the shops to create my own ones.
I graduated in architecture and for sure the studies at university were really important for me both from the creative and practical point of view.
At the second year I attended a course of interior design for which we had to design a collection of 5 jewels inspired by one important architecture. As I said, I was already making jewellery but not really thinking about the design or the materials. The course was the occasion to study this topic, to know more about jewelry making and to try different materials. I was already interested by rough materials and we created a collection in steel and concrete.
From that time I started focusing on jewelry.
I am self taught, jewelry courses were really expensive so I finished my studies at the university and at the same time I was trying to grow my small activity. It was hard sometimes, but I always found the motivation to keep on working.
One turning point was in 2015 when I was in London for work and I found in Brick Lane the first shop that wanted to sell my jewels.
So I’d say that Sub is born more or less 6-7 years ago.
2 What inspires your collections? What are you trying to achieve with your products?
My first inspiration has been Alexander Calder, I discovered him when I was really young at an exhibition in Paris and years after when i started making jewels he came back to my mind.
Of course, seen my studies, I am inspired by architecture, art and sculpture but also nature, anatomy and ancient jewelry design. My goal with my jewels is to create designs that can make every outfit special.
I am always focusing on jewels I would wear and I trust my eye. I want to create designs that even if very showy they never lose in elegance, delicacy and comfort.
3 Why the name SUB Jewels?
As I said before, I was starting something but I didn’t really know what I was doing at the beginning. But I needed a name and I didn’t want it to be too self referential. When my dad, that is an architect as well, was younger he did a logo and a series of graphics for a diving school that at the end weren’t used so I said to myself ‘why not?’ . Also I thought that SUB was a great prefix that could group all the different things I was doing ( SUB t-shirts SUB jewels SUB graphics ) for this reason at the beginning I was SUB gemmalonardi, when jewelry became the main topic the name changed in SUB jewels.
4 Love the material choice of aluminum — love how it's recyclable, super lightweight, and doesn't oxidise! How did you first begin creating with aluminum and why did you choose it?
Also in this case it was a coincidence at the beginning. While I was working for a course at the university I had the occasion to meet a friend of my dad that has a window company. He had lot of scrap pieces in aluminium and I started working with them, still the Alma earrings are made with those pieces. At the beginning I was using also copper that I had from another friend that was making gutters.
But I loved that aluminium could be wear everywhere, even in the water, without ruining and it was also perfect for making my biggest earrings and necklaces being so light. Now I am also working with silver and brass but I will always keep on working with aluminium as well.
5 You create at home and all your pieces are made by you, correct? Can you please show us around your workspace (in pictures or videos)?
I make everything by myself from the design to the final product. I have my working space at home but i like to work wherever I can, I don’t use big machines so I can easily move my working space where I want. Of course, the main studio remains at my home in Verona! But when I was in London, for example, I was working in the parks, I travel a lot so I alway try to find new situations where I can make jewels and I really like to move my laboratory everywhere I want! Other jewelry makers are really impressed by this ahah.
6 What's the best part about working for yourself, and what is the worst?
I love and hate at the same time that I depend totally by myself. I am the first (and the toughest) judge of myself. I love that I can work at my times and where I want. Also you need your time to be creative and productive, some days I couldn’t create anything good some others I could do everything I need to in a day. Of course it isn’t always easy, sometimes you feel bad or that you don’t really like what you are creating and that your work could lead to nothing. Creating a small business by myself doesn’t give me the job security of working in a studio or something similar, but I feel that perseverance is the key in this process. I would never change! I love to create and to see people wearing my jewels. When you create something completely with your hands and it is appreciated by others the satisfaction and the human connection you reach is amazing.
7 I was particularly drawn to your brand because I sense the enormous amount of respect for the craft in each piece. On average, how many stages does each piece go through? Can you walk us through some of the main steps (with photos and videos would be great too!)?
I’m glad you felt this.
Today we live in a very fast world and we can have everything we see in a snap of fingers. I feel that in this world what has more value is time, and this is the difference when you buy something handmade instead of industrial pieces. You are not only buying a jewel, you are buying hours of trials, of thinking and of creating of an artisan. You are buying also the time of the creation. Also I want people to see that the pieces are handmade, the small ‘imperfections’ for someone are an added value. Every piece is different from the other and for this reason it is unique.
For what regards the stages of my work, It depends on the pieces sometimes the direction and the creation is really fast for other jewels it takes lot of time.
The stages of creation depend also to the material I am using. For the aluminium I would identify 3 main phases : there is of course the research, the design part (that is the longest and takes lot of tentatives) than the creation that usually starts forming the shapes cutting and folding the materials, then I usually work with the hammer to make the texture I want on the jewels, I slit the shape and fold it again when needed (for the curved earrings for example ) then I slit it again with files or abrasive paper, then I glue the base, prepare the packaging and I am ready!
9 You stay in Verona — please tell us more about your hometown! What do you love and is there anything that you would change about it?
Wow I love Italy and I love so much my city. Verona is not so known abroad ( except for Romeo and Juliet ) but it is a really beautiful city to live in! Also it is in the middle between Milano and Venice so very easy to move around. We have a beautiful historical city center, we are near to the mountains and to the lake. The only thing that could be better is that being quite a small city there are not so many art events or exhibitions but this is also changing in recent years!
10 I would also love to find out more about you. How do you relax? Do you have any routines or habits that you do at work that creates a more comfortable environment for you to work in?
I have a quite low concentration so I need my time to have things done. I love to wake up and have my coffe ( I DRINK LOT OF COFFE AS EVERY ITALIAN), talk with my sisters, go out with friends, walk around the city by myself listening music. Making jewels relaxes me most of the time as well. I love to make my jewels at night in my working space at home maybe while I am watching a movie.
But the best thing for me is drawing and painting, this makes me completely isolate from what I have around and it’s something that I always try to do when I have some time.
11 What are some important values to you, and what do you define as a successful career?
I want to make jewels suitable for every kind of women and men, I am working on this to be more inclusive and heterogeneous. I want people to feel self confident also thanks to my jewels. I want to respect the environment for what I can with my brand reducing plastic and using recyclable materials. I would like my brand to grow more and more in my hands and my customers to appreciate my work every collection more. I want to create a community around SUB and I want my brand to be the occasion to connect people. I would like to collaborate with other fashion brands and stylists to create and grow together. I want to never stop learning new things and being inspired by what surrounds me. In future I hope to say that it wasn’t a lost of time investing in SUB.