In conversation with Danielle Romero

Inspired by nature, minimalism, and architecture/design your work aims to “bring the energy of the natural environment inside the home while maintaining the object's ability to harmonise with the environment outside.“ Can you share a little about your approach to creating and how these key themes manifest in your practice?

Well I’m a nature girl at heart. I received my BA in Environmental Studies with a specialisation in sustainable agriculture. But I’ve always felt this duality within whereby I am also extremely moved by fashion, art and design. What’s interesting is that I can’t really tell if those aspects of my personality have been solely formed by my upbringing. My dad has always been an outdoorsman, constantly immersing my brother and I in nature. Aside from all of our childhood vacations revolving around outdoor activities in nature, and even though we lived in suburban Miami, we made campfires often and my dad made our yard feel as much like a forest as he could. He also loves plants, like really loves plants - he would quiz us on the names of trees as we drove around town, and would drag us out to the yard to see certain plants blooming or fruiting; my brother and I hated it at the time haha. So I wonder if had I not had a parent like that would I be so reliant on nature for all the positive emotions that it makes me feel. On the flip side, my mom was an interior designer who came from second generation furniture makers. She loves fashion and design; she was the artist for sure in my upbringing, and still is likely the most artistically talented person in our family albeit she may not say the same. While she wasn’t as imposing of her interests on us as my dad was, I see now that the way she lives her life and her aesthetics made a much deeper impact on me than I would have ever imagined.

So my evolution went from wanting to be a marine biologist as a kid, to a fashion designer in high school, to a fashion writer in early college, then circling back to the environment late college, and now almost 10 yrs out of university finally finding some semblance of balance between the two parts of me that I feel so strongly identified with. The only thing I’ve actually figured out is that I don’t think I would be true to myself if I lived my life as one or the other. So that’s the long, and the short, of how my practice is informed haha.

An art practice is inherently meditative, often creating a sense of stillness and calm in the body and mind. How does your art-making affect your sense of self and do you see it as an act of self-care?

I absolutely see it as an act of self-care. I find that when I get into ruts/blocks, it is mainly because somewhere along the line my focus has shifted from the purity that is creating, to the pressure of perpetuating this as a means of income/career. As I touched on a bit above, I am not formally educated in art. I took photography classes in high school and college, along with a figure drawing class in college (that I really loved), but otherwise I have no background in art. I began painting and taking ceramics classes because I was going through a period of change in my life where I desperately needed self care, and these were two things on a list I made of things I wanted to explore during that time. It still completely amazes me that it has come this far. So yes, my entire practice began as nothing but self care, and at the core, I believe it’s why I still do it.

 
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Parodi, is an offshoot of Flora and Form studio and focuses on ceramic objects that marry traditional and modern aesthetics. Can you share a little about the pieces you create and your influences?

My ceramic practice often feels quite different from my painting practice in that for some reason I am much harder on myself with the paintings that I produce. It is extremely rare that I am satisfied with them, and on the occasion that I am, I soon retract my satisfaction and think that the piece isn’t good enough; that I want to be making something different, better… With pottery I feel more lenient with myself, almost as if it isn’t just me in control of the result, that the clay plays an equal part as well. So I succumb to the clay and what it wants to do, letting myself off the hook - haha, the psychology of it fascinates me because I do believe at the root of both actions is a far greater force than myself ultimately creating. It is when my mind wants to be in charge that I hit the biggest roadblocks.

Anyway, to answer your question, I’m heavily influenced by the connection of clay to our species history. I love learning about ancient civilizations and the pottery that plays such a large role in those social systems. That interest translates into pieces that hopefully portray some aesthetic quality of our past. But I resonate equally with modern images of pottery; I think because my general aesthetic interests revolve around the balance between old and new, I always try to produce work that has those qualities.       

 
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Whose work do you most admire (in both the art and ceramics world) and does it influence your own practice in any way?

In both my painting and ceramic practices I am diligent not to look at other artists’ work too much. For one, it really messes with my head as I am still, for whatever reason I have not been able to work out yet, quite insecure about my abilities to produce pleasing and consistent work. More importantly though, I feel it too easy for my subconscious to be infiltrated by images, and I definitely do not want to find myself creating work that looks too similar for comfort to anyone else. And it’s difficult, as even when I have made a piece of work that I think is completely new to anything I’ve seen, I get on the internet and boom there it is, a close resemblance by someone else that did it before me haha. Though to be clear, it’s not that I don’t research artists past or present at all, but I do limit the frequency of that research. Specifically on social media, I don’t follow a lot of painters or ceramicists - just a few of my favourites whom I follow mainly because they post images other than their work that are inspiring in different ways from the work itself. I can tell you however that two of my favourite artists are Isamu Noguchi and Georgia O’Keeffe. I know they’re both somewhat typical references these days, but I grew up with a lot of Noguchi images as he is one of my mom’s favourite artists, and I absolutely love his minimalism; specifically the landscaping work he did with his sculptural parks. While I am not as moved by O’Keeffe’s physical work, I refer to her as one of my favourite artists almost solely based on her lifestyle. I have reclusive tendencies and very, very much feel the need to be alone for longer periods of time it seems than my close friends and family haha. So I admire immensely the way O’keeffe lived her life in some semblance of solitude in that beautiful environment - that is a longstanding dream of mine.

I first stumbled upon your work through instagram and then upon joining the team at Assembly Label as a Designer I noticed that your work adorned the walls of the office. Can you share more about the process of creating these works, including your inspiration and any brief you had?

That was a very pure time of creation for me, and it is still very special to me. The inspiration for that work, along with the other pieces I created during that time, were a direct result of my first trip to Utah. I spent a week hiking in and around Zion national park with my boyfriend, and the beauty of it all left me completely speechless and elated. The paintings that resulted from that experience were in many ways to me the most pitiful recreation of what I saw in Utah, but what they do have, is the purity of emotion from which they were created. If I remember correctly, my contact at Assembly Label referenced another piece I had previously been commissioned to do for the L.A. based store Formerly Yes, which was one of the first pieces I made from that Utah series and that was the direction we went in.  

You’ve recently collaborated with Ajaie Alaie to design a dress. Can you share a little about this project and your exploration of the beauty-in-between?

I’m really thrilled with this project. Ajaie Alaie and I worked on this dress on and off for just about an entire year. Daniella, designer and owner of Ajaie Alaie, had the concept to make a print based around the principles of Wabi Sabi. There are a few components to the philosophy, but with this print we chose to focus on the idea of transience and the natural cycles of the earth. I created four paintings, each representing one of the four seasons. We then merged the paintings into one pattern. Of all the qualities of the print, I am most moved by how the pattern does not have an obvious order in the seasonal representations - you can’t tell where the seasons begin or end, nor what order they are in, because Daniella had the brilliant idea to slightly overlap them. I think that aspect of the dress best expresses the concept we were aiming for.   

 

“I began painting and taking ceramics classes because I was going through a period of change in my life where I desperately needed self care, and these were two things on a list I made of things I wanted to explore during that time. It still completely amazes me that it has come this far. So yes, my entire practice began as nothing but self care, and at the core, I believe it’s why I still do it.”

 
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Where do you see your practice moving towards? Are there any new techniques you’d like to try in the future?

In all honesty, I’m currently very unclear of which direction my practice is moving toward. Phases like this actually affect me greatly as I tend to have a lot of anxiety when I don’t have direction, clarity, something to focus on, or some kind of action to take - basically I’m not comfortable with the unknown. And if I’m not producing, or progressing in some way I often get these anxious feelings of being left behind. Having said that, recently I have come to the realisation that the practice of leaning into that discomfort, to become friendly with the unknown and inactivity, is likely one of the most important lessons I will learn in the evolution of my being. So I’m trying to take my mind out of the equation and just be accepting of the present moment. What I do know, is that I’ve had a strengthening desire to explore furniture design. I also know that I am not ready, perhaps never will be, to consistently create work in one medium, one style, or one technique. As much as the idea that I am not consistent in my work plagues me, I feel that I have not experimented, or learned enough to find that overarching theme in my work. Perhaps I never will, and being okay with that is another area of growth I will need to reach.  

Do you have a favourite piece of work (collaboration or client)?

Umm, this is a difficult question for me, but I’m almost certain the answer is no. There are definitely works and clients/collaborations that stick out in my memory - for example this project with Ajaie Alaie is one that I’m still on that high from - but ultimately they all have their moments in the limelight of my conscientiousness, and then fade into the background noise. They’re all special in their own way.

What does an average morning & evening look like for you? Do you practice any routines or rituals?

You’d think that being someone who isn’t very comfortable with the unknown, that I’d definitely be a person with long standing rituals. But being that I’m quite terrible at consistency, with almost everything in my life, I’m basically a walking contradiction and I do not hahaha. My morning rituals tend to change quite frequently depending on my mood. The only thing I always do in the morning, first thing out of bed, is open all of my curtains. I am really lucky to have a lot of sliding doors in my house and a beautiful, but still in progress, garden/property. So I like to stare outside for a few minutes watching the birds, and seeing my trees and plants, sometimes assessing whether they need maintenance or daydreaming about the other sections of the property we still need to landscape. Evenings are actually a lot more consistent, perhaps because it’s a time to wind down for me… I try and go for a walk as often as I can right before or after dinner. After a bit of clean up, showers are taken, and then around 8:30 my boyfriend and I settle onto the sofa to watch a few shows. He wakes up very early, and I find that I require about 9 hrs of sleep so we’re typically in bed by 10:30.   

Finally, I’d love to know a woman who inspires you.

Oh there are many… One that immediately comes to mind other than my mom and my grandma (whom I have an extremely close relationship with), is my closest friend and basically sister, Jess. I can list a bunch of her amazing qualities which are definitely integral parts of why I highly admire her, but I feel that would simply reduce her to some words on a list. Because really, there are no words that could accurately describe what it is in me that feels what she gives off in her being; the connection that I feel to her. It’s been years of knowing and growing together, and she is still inspiring me.  

 
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Images by: Jessica Pages; Kelsey Heinze; and Danielle Romero

 

In conversation with Momoko Hatano

Before launching your namesake brand you worked under iconic brand Dinosaur Designs as well as exhibited work in various galleries such as Object, Gaffa and 2017. I’d love to know a little more about your background and what lead you to Jewellery making.

I was studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Drawing at COFA. That’s when I dappled in jewellery as an elective. It felt really natural to me and I picked it up fast because jewellery making is quite similar to drawing - it’s technical, laborious but super fun. So after I graduated I saw a job opportunity in a jewellery workshop, and I knew I wanted to be there.  

“Jewellery should be designed to last a lifetime, so it can be repaired and re-worn, passed down the generations as mementos and then if the time comes, melted down to create something new. If a piece of jewellery cannot be treated this way then I believe the designer has failed”. How is sustainability woven into your practice and what considerations are taken when designing a new piece?

When I’m designing a new piece I abide by those 4 main questions - Can it be made in recycled materials? Can it be worn for many years? Can I repair it? And can I eventually melt this down? If the answer is no, then I really can’t bring myself to make it, because I feel that I am being an irresponsible designer and manufacturer. So my design and aesthetic decisions are informed by those questions. For example, my latest collection Oei features Swarovski crystals. I intentionally chose Swarovski not only for its beauty but also because I know they are manufactured in Austria and that crystal glass is recyclable.

Stocked in Bassike, Well Made Clothes and Sorry Thanks I love You your pieces are timeless, simple and contemporary drawing on your travels, everyday objects, the simplicity of Japanese aesthetics and the free spirited nature of Australian culture. What do you think makes your collections unique in the industry and where do you see your practice going in the future?

I think the combination of each piece being handmade by me, and my cultural identity brings a unique story and aesthetic to my collections. But I still try to create pieces that are accessible and speak all kinds of women.

In the future I would love to see my collections overseas and I’d love to eventually open my own store.

 
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As per your website, your most recent collection Lan, is inspired by traditions where flowers are interlaced into daily rituals. Taking the name of the Japanese word for orchid, the hand made pieces in this collection reference the delicate anatomy of flowers, echoing the curves of blossoms, and capturing the delicacy of petals. Can you share a little more about this concept? And any details about your upcoming collection launching soon?

The Lan collection was inspired by my trip to Indonesia and how flowers are part of their everyday life and rituals. And Orchids are very visible there, different varieties in full bloom. I have always loved how sculptural and even other worldly orchids are, so it just felt like the perfect theme to design a collection around.

Describe the woman who wears your jewellery

I think she is a conscious woman. She knows her own style and is always searching for designs that reflect her values.

What’s your favourite piece from your archive and why?

I would say the Large Arch Hoops. They are light yet full of presence. I love that you can dress it up or down and wear them on any occasion.

 

“When I’m designing a new piece I abide by 4 main questions - Can it be made in recycled materials? Can it be worn for many years? Can I repair it? And can I eventually melt this down? If the answer is no, then I really can’t bring myself to make it.”

 
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When it comes to your personal jewellery collection what are the pieces you wear everyday?

I wear my Arch Envelope ring everyday. It fits so ergonomically I don’t even realise I’m wearing it and it becomes a part of you.

What does an average morning & evening look like for you? Do you practice any routines or rituals?

My average evening ritual involves cooking with my partner, hot teas and cuddling my cat.

Finally, I’d love to know a woman who inspires you

There are so many women that inspire me I can’t single one out, but if I have to it would be my mum. She migrated to Australia with me at 35 as a single parent, she didn’t know anything about the culture or language but she decided to give it ago. She is the ultimate hustler.

 
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