Those of you who have visited our shop have likely met our manager, Ana. She keeps our workshop humming, our clients happy, and Tim and myself sane – we’re incredibly lucky to have her. Many of you may not realize that Ana is an accomplished jeweler herself with a keen focus on the intricate art of cloisonné enameling. To celebrate Ana and the amazing talent she brings, I sat down with her to talk about her art form and what inspires her to create such fascinating pieces…
Ana’s eye for intricacy and obsession with color makes her a perfect match for her chosen art, traditional cloisonné enameling. Enamel art is practiced widely throughout the world but has special prominence in Ana’s home country of Georgia and Ana is proud to carry on a tradition that is both ancient and modern in its application. You can shop her work on her website, or make an appointment with her to directly inquire about any of her pieces. And yes, she does accept commissions!
Meaghan: How long have you been doing enamel work?
Ana: I have been practicing this art for about three years now. I have taken a couple of classes, but my experience has primarily been self-taught with lots of experimentation along the way.
Meaghan: What compelled you to take up this craft?
Ana: As a daughter of two internationally distinguished artists, I grew up with an array of creative outlets encompassing drawing, painting, sculpting, tapestry weaving, and piano but I have always been drawn to jewelry making. The most distant, fond memory I have of making a piece of jewelry is at my country house in Georgia (the country, not the state). We had a huge spool of copper wire left over from our renovations. I used to cut off small bits and fashion them into rings with the help of household pliers.
With regard to enameling, I enjoy challenging myself, pushing the limits and making pieces that I may not be entirely comfortable in making. I appreciate the unpredictability that comes with fusing glass within a few minutes, and how mere seconds can affect the result. As I take the piece out of the kiln after each firing, I often hold my breath, waiting for it to cool down and reveal whether it is progressing smoothly, or if I’ve just burned it and may have to start all over. While this process can be tedious and at times frustrating, it is also extremely rewarding. I continue to learn with every enamel I produce, and each one of the failed experiments has helped me create all the successful ones that have preceded it.
Meaghan: How would you describe your art?
Ana: I love vibrant, saturated colors and am not afraid to use them. Majority of my enamels are on a fairly large scale and are meant to be worn as statement pieces – it is important that these pieces are not interpreted as just “jewelry” but instead as small pieces of art. Aside from these enamels being a wonderful conversation starter, they can also serve as a great accessory to dress up your little black dress or even a plain t-shirt.
Meaghan: From where do you draw your inspiration?
Ana: Unless I am working on a commissioned enamel piece, I can honestly say that my enamels are products of pure imagination and spontaneity. I rarely plot out where every silver ball and cloisonné wire will go, I simply sit down and let my creativity flow. I do draw parallels and inspiration from ancient cultures that I spent years studying with my Master’s degree. Interestingly enough, a few careful observers and admirers of my work have suggested that my work depicts various traditional art motifs or Georgian enamel styles, but if this is in fact true, I have to admit that it was executed purely on a subconscious level.
Since art is one of the best methods of expression, lately I’ve been inspired to create pieces motivated by issues of climate change. These pieces are still primarily abstract, but incorporate distinct floral, leaf, or seed elements which I hope will remind people of the beauty of nature and the importance of our environment.
Meaghan: Are there any enamelists whom you follow/look up to?
Ana: There are some incredibly revolutionary and progressive enamelists all over the world, however, I find myself drawn to the more traditionalist artists. There are two artists whose work still leave me in awe:
-Irakli Megrelishvili, a Georgian enamelist who, along with jewelry, has fabricated some astounding 3D enamel sculptures.
-Philip Barnes, a British enamelist who has fashioned breathtaking enameled hollowware as well as jewelry pieces.
Meaghan: What is the biggest challenge to your work?
Ana: The biggest challenge I face on a daily basis is finding the proper time to enamel. The enameling process is very tedious and time consuming. Each piece can take anywhere from 24 hours to a few weeks to complete. To put it in perspective, the kiln itself, takes about 1.5 hours to warm up to the desired temperature before a piece can be fired. Thus, if I intend on enameling, I can count on spending at least a few hours in the studio.
That being said, there is nothing like the element of success I have when I look at my finished work and the final product resonates the feeling and idea I intended to instill in it. It makes the long hours completely worth it.
Meaghan: What do you plan to work on next?
Ana: My next goal would be to introduce a few items that are geared more towards men. Such items would include enamel cufflinks, money clips, pocket-knives with inlaid enamel handles, and other unique pieces.
Thank you, Ana! We’re lucky to have you.
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.