South Bay artist Giuliana Torelli spreads joy through jewelry.
WRITTEN BY SUZANNA CULLEN HAMILTON | PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAUREN PRESSEY
Artist Giuliana Torelli has been creating wearable art her entire life. From jewelry to embroidery to scarves to fashion, she has an eye for beautiful creations combined with the passion and patience it takes to create them. Today her work is represented in the Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles, as well as online through Giuliana Torelli/Handcrafted Jewelry on Etsy and Facebook.
Growing up in Costa Rica, her family’s dining table was the gathering spot for more than just meals. Giuliana’s mother instilled a love of artistic endeavors when she gathered her daughters to create and commune. “The creative process binds us together when we sit at the table to embroider and paint,” says Giuliana.
Today her mother still spends time each day at the family dining table in Costa Rica creating beautiful embroidery, and Giuliana’s sister is a batik artist whose pillows are now featured in luxurious Costa Rican hotels. Giuliana’s home in Palos Verdes is filled with paintings by her mother and batik pieces by her sister–reminders of her family and their love of the creative endeavors that bind them despite the geographical distance.
Giuliana began making jewelry when she was a teenager. “I’ve always loved handmade things, and I have a passion for jewelry,” she says. Her work is diverse in both medium and style–ranging from dainty, feminine pieces to bold statement works. From the intricately created sterling silver pieces in her Rose Collection to her bold cuffs made from leather, embroidery and beadwork, Giuliana’s craft enraptures people and there is something for everyone.
When she combines vibrant Latin American textiles with richly colored ribbons in beautiful pendant necklaces, the result is a radiant explosion of happiness. However, it is her one-of-a-kind metal fretwork pieces in sterling silver, copper and brass that capture attention for both the designs and the craftsmanship.
Working with a jeweler’s saw, Giuliana makes each piece by hand, but the work is so detailed that most people might mistake it for the more common laser-cut pieces. Remarkably, her pieces are very affordable—ranging in price from $150 for some earrings to $700 for larger necklaces.
In her Palos Verdes studio perched above the ocean, Giuliana listens to music and TED talks while she creates whatever inspires her. “I always have a party of one going on in my head, so I create whatever I’m feeling inspired by on that particular day,” she explains.
Her studio is lined with shelves containing every possible type of art supply. Markers, pens, sketch books, beads, ribbons, canvases, paints and metals fill her colorful studio, where beautiful textiles float in the breeze as inspiration.
“It all starts with the pattern that I envision, and then I focus intently on creating it,” says Giuliana. That pattern could be in the form of painting or textiles, but most frequently it’s jewelry that inspires her.
Working with a jeweler’s saw is dangerous due to the razor-sharp blades, but she is meticulous in attention to detail. “The saw is what jewelry schools use to filter people out–it requires so much focus to accomplish,” she explains.
In order to create her filigree pieces, Giuliana saws through each solid metal piece as the designs unfold before her. “I am one of those people who needs to focus that intently; it’s how I work best,” she says. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets and cuffs appear magically from her workbench, though each has taken hours to create and no two pieces are alike.
All of her pieces tell a story, and the stories are part of larger collections. “I express myself through my creations, and my jewelry collections evolve from life events,” shares Giuliana. From her arrival into the United States as a child with only $100 to the joys of becoming a grandmother, her life is told in the chapters of her jewelry treasure trove.
After going through a particularly difficult period in her life, Giuliana created a necklace called Agony & Ecstasy. A red stone heart hangs beneath a silver Celtic cross, and both are suspended from leather that’s been tied to resemble barbed wire.
Her Cloud Collection necklaces feature silver clouds with silver chains dangling crystals like falling raindrops. Her Rose Collection involves intricately created roses with each tiny pistil, stamen and anther tightly nestled within the graceful petals.
“I have to be with my family and reconnect to my home where
I find so much inspiration and joy.”
“I’ve literally sold them off of my neck when people walk up to me and offer to buy them,” she says. This is evidence that her collections may vary in theme, but her attention to detail is consistent.
Giuliana’s work is constantly evolving in scope, medium and genre. Her sketchbooks reveal a mind that is always in imaginative motion with swirls of color and pattern flowing from the pages. She is simultaneously working on numerous pieces ranging from embroidery to jewelry to paintings. Tables in her studio are covered with pieces in various phases of completion, but all relate to each other and all inspire her.
Each year Giuliana packs a suitcase filled with her materials and heads to Costa Rica for several weeks. “I have to be with my family and reconnect to my home where I find so much inspiration and joy,” she shares. Sitting at the dining room table creating with her mother and sister feeds her soul as much as the Costa Rican gallo pinto and casado nourish her body.
When she returns to the home in the South Bay she shares with boyfriend Steve, her Costa Rican family and life remain with her and inspires her. New experiences, adventures and travels provide fertile ground for her prolific and visionary artistry.
Yet the profusion of ideas and the explosion of colors and materials remain firmly attached to tradition—Giuliana creates them at the table in her studio. A different place, a different table, but the same crafts unfold with the memories and the voices of her mother and her sister always with her.