A third-generation member of a family of skilled jewelers and tailors, Carolina Gimeno began making her own wearable works at a young age in her native Valparaíso, Chile. The visual artist and jewelry designer has created objects, illustrations, performances, and art projects professionally over the last 15 years throughout her studies in Barcelona, Chile, and her current home, Stockholm, Sweden. Her enamel and metal jewelry pulls inspiration from sea creatures and flora, frozen in their billowing movement. Carolina often slows down the speed of her own creative process to immerse herself fully so discoveries can be made. She considers the past lives of found objects, and imagines herself as a watchmaker, “able to adjust the beats of the heart; that way, your life and moments could last longer, or stop time so that moments would last forever.”
Carolina co-founded the contemporary art jewelry collective Bórax08001 in 2010, and earlier this year launched Talvikki, an online concept store that makes her work accessible to everyday buyers. For more of her designs, check out our first-ever Fine Art Focus jewelry feature on Carolina. —Annie
Photography by Carolina Gimeno
What’s in your toolbox?
My jewelry bench is the main container of my tools, and in it I have most of the hand tools I need. In the drawers I try to keep order and have the smaller tools in the middle drawer, which has dividers. In there, I also have tin boxes, which I love to collect. In the boxes I have space for small leftovers of silver, drills, beads, gemstones, a digital scale… On top of the bench I have a set of stuffers to be used with a brass “dice.” Inside of a copper pot, which I found in a flea market this summer, in Gotland (a marvelous Swedish island), I keep flux. In order to solder you need flux that helps the flow and work process — basically, it is put around the area that is being soldered before soldering. In the same pot I have a German carbon paste that avoids desoldering of already soldered areas, it is like a magic paste that protects the metal from fire. I love it! In the same pot, I also keep a fine steel wire that helps to tie up the structures when you are going to solder something.
I have an old brown Cristal bottle that reminds me of the old bottles that could be found in laboratories. I keep a special solution of acid mixed with water in the bottle, used to remove fire-stains from metals after soldering. I have made a wooden structure that holds the pliers and at the same time contains all the welding tongs, and abrasive files. In the bottom drawer, I have some hammers and mallet tools made of a material that will not seriously mark metal, in nylon and pork leather. In the drawer, I also have the “tribulet,” a conical steel tool used to hammer rings. For enameling I have many other tools, sifters, and enamels (glass in powder, colored by oxide of metals). I have a porcelain mortar to clean the enamels, pencils, grids, leather gloves to protect my hands from burns when I take the pieces from the kiln. I use a mask so I won’t breathe the glass fumes when I am working, and safety glasses. I have many pots, and some cork disks that I use to put the warm pieces in and on when they first come out of the kiln.
Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”
When I am in my studio I feel fortunate!
What is on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
I am reading Old Mistresses: Women, Art, and Ideology written by historians Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock. It is a very interesting book that gives a historical perspective, how the pejorative stereotyping of art made by women has caused it to be considered creatively inferior to that made by men. I feel very inspired and enthusiastic when reading these historical analyses. I think it is a great tool as well to stay informed and better understand the past and present role of women in art. This is a perfect complement to my own practice as a jewelry artist, being a woman as well. The book explores the works of women in both the fine and decorative arts from the Late Middle Ages until the women’s art movements of the 1970s. I really recommend it!
How do you keep yourself organized?
I use three different calendars — a weekly almanac, and a monthly planner book that provides a very useful bigger picture of the whole month. When I am involved in a project that requires a lot of preparation, I use a work plan that is a more specific calendar with personal deadlines and details on what needs to be finished in time.
If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?
I would love to be able to stop time, change the speed of the time, and make it slower. I imagine myself as a watchmaker, able to adjust the beats of the heart; that way, your life and moments could last longer, or stop time so that moments would last forever. I also used to dream about closing my eyes and being teleported to somewhere I’d love to be at that moment…
What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?
The best advice that I have ever received is to be persistent and never give up, followed by the idea that you should always have a picture of how you see yourself in the future, in order to know what the next step is to reach your goal. If I could give advice to someone younger, it would be to follow your passion and have goals and a plan for how to reach them. Maybe having someone you admire as a reference or guide to follow. Never feel afraid to contact someone for help or advice. Imagining the reality you want to live helps to get what you want!
How do you combat creative blocks?
I combat creative blocks by continuing to work, no matter what. Sometimes it seems that nothing is going on and there is no visible progress, but suddenly the solutions appear. The progress of a creative process is possible when you are in the process. I believe that the creative process has different speeds and sometimes what you need to do is slow down the speed. It is important to have short breaks. The central location of my studio allows me to take breaks, go out for a while and have a coffee, buy some flowers, or just get some fresh air. It’s great to have all my favorite cafes and parks in the neighborhood!
Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?
I love flea markets, but the best place for inspiration is when I am in nature. I feel a special attraction to sea creatures and flora. I am inspired by the colors of nature, but also by cities and their inhabitants. Places that contain traces of a past life also inspire me. I like to imagine the past life of objects I have found and collected.
If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?
I would love to peek inside the studio of Ron Mueck and see the whole process of building huge human bodies in a very realistic way. I have always been impressed by large-scale sculptures that make humans feel small.
What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?
The music I play when working varies a lot depending on my mood that day. Lately I have been listening to a mix of music that ranges from musicians like Ólafur Arnalds, Sigur Rós, Sylvain Chauveau, and Dustin O’Halloran, to bands like Tears Run Rings, The Autocollants, and Mazzy Star. When I’m in a more festive mood, I like to hear old chachachás — I love Bebo Valdés old albums.