Ornella Casazza interviews Marzia Banci

Ornella Casazza interviews Marzia Banci

When did you realise that architecture and jewellery would be the cornerstones of your creativity?
As a child. I was just 5 years old when a voice within gave me a task I have striven to carry out all my life. The voice told me to become an architect and a goldsmith. I therefore frequented the schools and places that enabled me to fulfil this mandate. I’m still working on this. I have been trying to investigate the structure of artifacts and nature.

Where did you live your childhood and adolescence?
I was born in 1957 in Pergola (Pesaro). I spent the first five years of my life in a country house at San Vito, on a hill in the Marches. From one of its terraces I could see the hilly expanse endlessly changing with the seasons – the wheat, the oak trees, hail- and snowstorms, the action of light and wind.
The horizon is curved in the hills, light pierces the clouds and illuminates ‘pieces of land’. The wind makes light shift, and I was spellbound. This is what gave me vital energy and led me to where I am now. Everything was marvellous, changeable, beautiful. Although I was only a child I felt love for that place, and for every tree, hen, cow. I felt I was in a ‘terrestrial garden’.
A bowl of fresh milk was an ocean of goodness (I can still smell it as I speak). Although this may sound exaggerated today, it is indeed what I perceived. I was a happy child. I can’t ignore such an intense state of mind.
After more than 30 years, when I had to fill the absence of those hills by giving it a shape, I designed a necklace called Infinity. I go back to that place, everything is inside that infinity that is eternal to me. I’m not landless; in fact, all the land is also mine.
When I was six, my family moved to the seaside, precisely to that strip of land on the blue sea I could see on particularly clear days from my terrace 30 kilometres away.
From the new house I could see the sea and its storms and, in summer, swim in its water and lie in the sun. It was a totally different life.
I learnt to love the ‘Trieste bora’ that blows in Fano. When this gale gusted against me as I walked home from school, I lay face down on the beach pebbles, caught my breath and went on walking. I love that wind! I felt like a kite, my feet on the pebbles, the waves breaking on the shore, my gaze gliding in the sky with the seagulls.
In the meantime, infinity had turned into a line, all the landscape had changed. I haven’t forgotten anything, I’ve elaborated my memories with my jewellery.
Even a poem by Montale, (Meriggiare pallido e assorto, TN) which I read at school when I was 13, has become a diamond and rock crystal necklace. I’ve had to polish my own ‘glass shards’ by living. When I felt the edges of those jagged shards were blunt enough not to sting my interiority, I designed a beautiful necklace (20 years had passed).

What was your relationship with school?
I was listless at elementary school. It bored me. I didn’t like to sit at that small, uncomfortable wooden desk. Every day I dreamt about being outside in the fields, with animals, in the sunshine and the rain. I was so sad! I had to sit there and listen to the droning voice of my teacher, Mr Micucci, lecturing us about wars, grammar and maths expressions.
It took all my patience. I wouldn’t like to go back to those years simply not to return to elementary and middle school. Those dismal buildings with grey rooms and that uninterrupted flow of words. There was no beauty.
When you have lived in the countryside and by the sea you realise what beauty is, because what abounds there is precisely variety and beauty. Beauty doesn’t lie in an object we observe or listen to, it isn’t possession sealed off in itself. It’s the energy I share with the world every day by being creative. I’m not afraid of living!
I was happy to attend the Art Institute Adolfo Apolloni in Fano. There, I could express myself through drawing and metalwork. It was there I finally learnt about goldsmithing. In 1971 I was the first girl in that school to ever enrol at the jewellery-making class.
The headmaster placed his trust in me.
Everything was congenial to me. Not only listening and being interviewed, but also acting, creating and designing. During my third year there, I started training at a goldsmith workshop to learn this art. After my gold- and metalsmithing diploma, I enrolled at the university school of Architecture in Venice.
I was reaching the second step of the ‘mandate’ I had been given at 5.
I was fulfilling my life project.

Why did you choose that subject at university?
In addition to what I said before, I liked to carry out projects. Every 5 years I promote a new idea (among those that come to my mind). I draw up a plan that turns my idea into a project.
Actually, if I look back, my entire life has unfolded in this same way.
The ‘architect’ is an ancient cultural figure. A project requires planning, and planning requires execution. This occurs through chrono-planning.
Each project accomplishes a plan and triggers execution.
I realise that this is the direction all my life and knowledge have proceeded, since I was a child.

How is the beauty of nature revealed in jewellery?
Nature has always provided me with vital energy, I was given the gift of fertility that has enabled me to express myself in the jewellery I make.
I have studied the cycles of the seasons, seeds and the wind for years. I love the way interiority manifests itself as sensitivity. Before turning into jewels, subjects and elements must be sifted by in-depth understanding, it’s a ‘bringing to light’ process.
When concepts are moulded into jewels, they become confident. They are free of me and from me. They become part of the world. That is when I entrust them to collectors, to those who’ve decided to wear them.
The jewels I shape don’t express my feelings but ‘the relationships of the world’. I don’t recount my life, but those parts of the world I perceive, comprehend, translate and share as ‘knowledge with the world’.
Geodedication, Birth, The Sky for a Star are the names of some of my collections.
Gemstones and gold come from the bowels of the earth, while light comes from the sky. What interests me most is the sky. Bringing to light – stones become gems. That’s how my ideas and my perceptions are brought to light.
This perfection changes every second. Being aware of this makes harmony universal.

Which Italian masterpiece affects you the most?
Michelangelo’s The Deposition at the Museo dell’Opera dell’Uomo in Florence. In my opinion it’s the perfect work, it exudes Love. There’s nothing else to say.
Then there’s the Rondanini Pietà, which stands for Creation and Creature. It’s the Creature’s catharsis in Creation

Have you ever thought of these works when designing your jewels and collections?
They are such perfect sculptures I can’t imagine them in my works. Although my jewellery does sometimes express the ‘catharsis of the world’s sorrow’. Designing jewellery sometimes fills me with a sense of yearning. I worry my ideas can’t translate the life of mankind.

What are recurrent materials in your works?
Gold, gemstones and silver. I tried to work with other materials, but they weren’t suited to the voice that tells my story.

In the course of your life as an artist, what characteristics have you sought in the materials you’ve chosen?
I’ve always worked with gold and gemstones and a little silver. Why do I prefer them? I need the ductility and pliability of these metals to live. Gold is yellow due to the speed its electrons circle its nucleus. These characteristics are always at the back of my mind while I work. I feel and perceive them in my wrists, the universal spirit flows through them.
Then come naked and reverberating gemstones whose cores reveal the perfection of creation. They are complex and colourful. They, too, want light.
Extracted from mines and ores and modelled by glyptic tools, they exude beauty, colour, perfection, transparency and purity. They are the nature that feeds my life.
This is why I’ve devoted my life to fulfilling that mandate I was given as a child. Today I realise it was my destiny.

How do your designs come about? Do you sketch them first?
My jewellery is the product of written reflections. First I write something, then I shape three-dimensional volumes with memory wire. I don’t draw, colour or set anything. The models provide the void – the indispensable volume to invisibly contain words, spirit and love. Then, in my studio, I create the jewel quickly, it wants to be born. I smelt, roll and hammer. I keep moulding it until it is finished. After a few days I look at it again, I refine it a bit – very little, actually – because I accept it as it is. If it can withstand my critique, it is free.

Although I was born in the Marches and live in Veneto, the origin of the Banci family is Tuscan. My great-grandfather Gerolamo Banci was Tuscan and purchased a plot of land on the Marches hills to which he moved with his family. We have always felt Tuscan because all the stories the elderly members of my family told us went back to the places where they used to live. A past I store in my heart… here I am… wandering as if landless… although in fact, I do have many places to live in and feel at home.

Banci Banci