Frankness and honesty are not in short supply when speaking with Fiorina Golotta, jewellery maker and designer extraordinaire. Refreshingly so. It’s as if you’re speaking with an old friend, catching up over a coffee and getting the lowdown on what’s been happening in your lives for the last few months, years or however long.
“I don’t have a practical mind,” she tells me. “It’s frightening. So when I see something vibrant that holds its own, I go for it.” Right now it’s colour – and more specifically, magenta – but in her store in Armadale there are hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces with the idiosyncratic Fiorina style and charm. It reflects her personality and wit, and the store has ‘destination’ written all over it.
It’s easy, comfortable and totally genuine – which, if there’s going to be a clumsy segue in this piece, this is it – just like her jewellery. Fiorina has been carefully, but very naturally refining her style and craft for over 10 years, and in that time her ‘modern tribal’ aesthetic has garnered many imitators. But the fact remains, hers is the only one you’d want to keep and hand down. Hers is the original, the future heirloom.
There are “very emotional responses” when people come to the store, she tells me. Even “during such fickle or tough times, jewellery is such an emotional thing, like ‘I’m getting divorced, so I deserve this’ or it’s summer and I want to feel happy’.”
She’s also too emotional, she claims, loving all that she creates and wanting to share all with the world to the point that it doesn’t make for your strongest business model. “I’m not allowed, they don’t let me on the floor,” she laughs.
But this is also the strength and beauty of her work; the collections stem from her honesty and innocent approach. In this respect, it makes her more of an artist or artisan than a designer or someone in fashion. There’s nothing disposable about her work, so she still maintains that wonderful insecurity that all craftspeople possess, that questioning of direction, always unsure if the correct choices have been made. So like the work of an artist, it evolves, a style is developed and it matures and grows. Fiorina is now at a point where her style is its own entity. It can be referenced and addressed by others, but with the knowledge that what she does is truly and uniquely hers comes great confidence and she wonderfully tempers that with charm and modesty.
If you’re a fan of Fiorina’s work, you won’t need any convincing of what it is she does and what makes it great. If not, understand that every piece in her collections are handcrafted, that the coins that have become synonymous with her work are real, pre-1945 currency (because they were sterling silver) from around the world (she wont do castings) that are becoming harder and harder to locate and track down. “There is the drama of the Italian and French coins and the grandeur of English heraldry,” but the mention of more obscure finds – coins of Africa and Central Asia, in particular Ethiopia – that she keeps ready and waiting for the perfect ‘home’, “like rites of passage or extensions of oneself” she explains. Adding “the coins act as protection too, echoing the jewellery worn by the Tibetans.”
It’s a very holistic experience, the Fiorina experience. There’s the jewellery itself, a trip around the world worn on your wrist, neck, fingers or ears, stories that are woven into new tales as cultures and icons collide with harmonious results. Then there’s Fiorina herself – honest and open, so happy she can make a 90-year-old’s day with a beautiful necklace and a 10-years-old’s Christmas with her first serious piece of real jewellery. Fiorina has avoided the usual trappings of commercial success. Her total denial of production line manufacturing processes is one of the precise reasons she has succeeded.
You can look at it any way you like, but Fiorina is a stalwart and stayer. The imitators will come and go, and who cares for them anyway? Only the original will survive. The store in Armadale is a place for her not so logical mind to call home and it garners all the emotional responses you’d hope and expect of a Fiorina piece.
897 High Street, Armadale