Tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Elisabetta Marrella and I am a Toronto native where I currently live in my small, one bedroom apartment that also acts as my studio. I am the sole designer for Bread & Circus, a recent graduate of OCAD University where I studied Criticism and Curatorial Practice and most recently I worked with Etsy Canada where I worked in the social media and digital marketing department. I am a Pisces through and through, a lover of old books, good conversations over lots of good wine, The Wizard of Oz and dream journal-ing.
Tell us a bit about Bread and Circus.
Bread & Circus got its name from a Roman philosophy "Panem et Circenses" which described how governments appeased the masses by giving them something to consume (bread) and something to entertain themselves with (circuses). We all know that life today is a little more complicated than that but I was really attracted to this basic structure of amusement. I feel like the act of buying jewellery really fits into this model; it's really about providing this simple pleasure through adornment, whether that's through a huge statement piece or a tiny, barely-there ring.
That said, I also use this model of consuming and entertaining by giving something to entertain yourself with with every piece of jewellery you purchase. Sometimes it's a fact that describes how blood is chemically similar to sea water, or the historical significance of a friendship bracelet. Sometimes it's a movie suggestion or a book I think you should read; the idea is that through this exchange you forge new relationships between the things you wear and
the things you know.
What brought you to start designing jewellery?
Designing jewellery is one of those things that I can't quite pin point a start date to, the way I can't figure out when I knew I wanted to be an artist or the first time I fell in love with boys with blue eyes; it's just this innate attraction to it. I think it has something to do with jewellery's capacity to transcend historical, social and cultural boundaries. Everyone, everywhere, has some sort of relationship with it in some capacity and that's what's exciting to me. Why I decided to start making my own? Well, I think I can establish a few reasons that go beyond the general frustration of mass-produced, cheaply made jewellery. For one, I feel fulfilled when I'm working with my hands and to be able to give the end product of that feeling away to someone who is (hopefully) going to love it as much as me makes me more than happy. In other words, it is way for me to be purposefully creative and expressive. Secondly, the handmade market can be a little unnecessarily expensive and therefore a little daunting for even the most enthusiastic and righteous of consumers. I wanted to show people that buying handmade doesn't have to break the bank
to be beautiful.
Where do you find inspiration for your jewellery designs?
To say I don't have a specific person in mind when I'm making my jewellery would be a lie from a branding and marketing perspective, but I think it has a general appeal that goes beyond that person. My inspiration really comes from the everyday. I have a few pieces in my collection that are clearly not intended for everyday wear, but for the most part I wanted to make jewellery that you forget you're wearing; things that feel natural on your body. I had this one thin chain, 14K gold bracelet with a small heart and a key that I wore for a good six years before it eventually broke and fell off and I still think about it from time to time. I want to continue to make work that evokes that same sort of nostalgia.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I have always been attracted to the warmth of gold, but because I am not in an ethical or financial position to work with it, most of my pieces are constructed from solid brass because it evokes that same feeling - with a few sterling silver exceptions here and there. I am also an artist by nature, and so I have a compulsion to hoard materials until I find a use for them and collections are usually built out of that. For example, I went to a garage sale about a year and a half ago where this eccentric lady (who I fell in love with) had piles of the most wicked vintage wallpaper. I took home two rolls of this pastel metallic stuff and kept it sitting in a closet until I figured out a process of burnishing it onto surfaces. I threw some resin on it and before I knew it I had this playful collection of vintage wallpaper pieces that composed most of my (last) summer collection. This season, I am working with a large piece of bronze from my father (amongst other materials). Working in this way makes me feel like I am slowly giving away abstracted pieces of a story with every item I construct. It feels good to me to make things in this way - maybe this whole entertaining/consuming thing isn't too farfetched after all.
Which jewellery designers do you admire?
Working for Etsy I was so inspired and humbled by the talent both here in Canada and around the world. Amongst the handmade handbag designers and printmakers I'll leave unnamed, I am the most inspired by the several Canadian jewellery designers that have turned their passion into a business. Montreal designers who reinvent materials and shapes like Nanoukiko and Noemiah, to the stunning androgyny in the work of Toronto talent like Dolorous and REBELbyFate to Vancouver talent like RISH Jewellery and Wasted Effort 's use of metal and stone. I could keep going but for the sake of listing I'll stop there.
What is the best and worst part about designing your own jewellery?
I can't tell if it is the critic or designer in me that brings this out or whether it's a deadly mix of both, but designing my own jewellery has made me hyper critical of everything out there while being attracted to it all. I'm constantly picking up pieces in every retail space I go, almost compulsively, and analyzing how things are constructed and put together. It is what keeps me both inspired as it does confused. In other words, sometimes I can be really attracted to something and because I have the knowledge and the capacity to make it myself, it's a constant negotiation over whether or not I should. I try and hold true to my brands values and keep things consistent, and support jewellery I love by buying it, along the way. I'd have to say though, that the most exciting part about making my own jewellery is the new people I get to meet through the shows and online platforms (Etsy, SM channels, etc) - I've learned so much through these interactions, both about the work and about myself and as long as I can keep riding that wave and
inspired, I will.
What inspires you the most (someone, something, somewhere)?
As I mentioned above I am really inspired by the everyday. Somewhere along the way we started only concerning ourselves with only the profound moments in order to validate our lives, you know? Whether it is the exotic place you got to visit for the sake of taking a photo there or the food you photograph at the super expensive restaurant you got to eat at that one time, this feeling is apparent everywhere I go and I'm not very interested in it. I don't travel much, mostly for financial reasons but also to boycott the "look where I've been" attitude, and I feel validation through making my own food and feeding my very close circle of friends in the home I've created for myself. I'm inspired by the conversations we have over those meals and the roots I've created in places I've lived all my life. I'm inspired by the things that transcend eras, like great stories and intelligent design and the things that we see all the time: budding flowers every May, the smell of warm coffee every morning and tears at funerals. I feel comfort in consistency and I want my jewelry to fit in somewhere in that space, all the time.