Behind The Scenes. In conversation with Giovanni Corvaja

Giovanni Corvaja is an Italian artist from the northern city of Padua. Fascinated by the unique properties of gold he has dedicated his experimentations and research to this material, creating objects from the ultra-thin gold wire. The artist draws the material into fine thread hardly thicker than a spider silk until it becomes smooth and soft. It seems to touch fabrics or fur. Any object is created with mathematical precision, patience and clarity. Accurate gold structures give a sense of transparency and light. It’s like a music structure of poetry.

Gold brooch with platinum wires and black enamel drops

Giovanni, in one of your interviews you said “a journey is important, not a destination”, reaching the end is not so significant as the way itself. What is so important and precious in a process of creating?

A journey of an artist is an act of transforming a material into a different object. Our thoughts and feelings are translated into a form, which will convey emotions, ideas in a heart and in a mind of somebody else. When you create a piece, you change a part of material, a part of the world. At the same time you are not immune to be changed by it.

What I like about working with gold is that it stays in the same shape and color, it doesn’t tarnish or get ruined by time. The piece will always give a trace of my fingerprint and will never forgive my mistake or laziness.

What do encourage you to create so beautifully crafted jewelry? Or it’s an innate desire?

I am very sensitive to beauty, I think that the world needs it and I try to put as much as possible in a tiny, little space. The desire is innate, the Craft is a profession.

Mandala bowl. 18ct gold wire

How do you select the idea worth to explore further?

Normally it takes a long time between getting an idea and working on it. I try not to fix it on paper and give my ideas freedom to change, be forgotten, become more important, insistent, and almost obsessive.

It might happen that I get an idea and make immediately some research or test. Then I usually stop and wait because I am also engaged in other projects. I find it useful: only few ideas pass the judgment of time and keep me being excited about it after a couple of years.

Do you always know you would be a jeweler? Was there a key moment that changed your life?

When I was a child, I studied to become a musician but I was constantly playing with metals. I started studying goldsmithing at the age of 13 but only years later I realized that even before, while I was in the middle school of the Music Conservatory, my visual art teacher was formely a goldsmith.

18ct gold and blue enamel box, 2013

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your approach to work, way of thinking?

Possibly my Masters Francesco Pavan and Paolo Maurizio. The first taught me to be pure in Art, the second taught how to keep learning.

I grew up with Pavan. He was my teacher for five years and always a Master. I got private tuitions from Giampaolo Babetto and worked with Paolo Maurizio. All three were students of Mario Pinton. At the end of my formation in Padua, Francesco Pavan told me that I should carry on studying but somewhere abroad. I decided to go to the Royal College of Art in London.

I get as inspired at an Art fair or exhibition as I get at a mechanic manufacturing fair. I learned so much from looking and listening to other people. My parents also taught me the joy of learning.

I was very impressed seeing the Golden Fleece bracelet. It took months of work, repeating the same gestures 14 hours a day. How your mind and body reacts in front of such a repetition?

Working for thousands of hours on repetitive processes was a challenge and an experiment. I knew that something would happen to me but didn’t know exactly what. Before I started I had asked a friend to keep an eye on me, just in case. What I found is that I got into a meditative state where I could focus on little details of what I was doing or listening. The physical part was the hardest: posture, repetitive movements, etc.

The Golden Fleece bracelet, 2008. 18K gold, 22K gold, 950 platinum

Do you have to make your own gold alloy to be able to create so fine wire?

The alloy choice is always a compromise between esthetic and mechanical proprieties. Not all of them can be drawn as fine as a silk thread, I had to study and develop the right ones.

Can you describe the feeling of touching the gold fabric and the fleece bracelet.

It is a different experience. Imagine silk but being cold and heavy, imagine skin made of metal, fur of gold, like a pet but different.

The touch has lots to do with the material we are touching. Gold and noble metals in general create an immediate movement of electrons between the surface and us. Difficult to explain without spoiling the poetry.

The Golden Cloth

Did you publish a book?

I did not publish books, though one day I would like to put my work together in a publication, a technical book is another matter, a complex job that I don’t feel capable of putting together, not alone.

Any recommendation to the young jewelers and students?

The question of learning is a difficult one. I cannot think of an institution that can entirely form a craftsman/craftswoman. I would suggest following an education in different countries and type of schools. Important is to learn the language of Art, not just the goldsmithing techniques.

Pin, 2001. 18ct gold. 26 gold alloys shading from yellow to white to red gold.



This video takes you to Giovanni’s workshop and you can see some steps of his creating process.