Florence Part 1: Alchimia

This past winter I received a creation and development grant from the Ontario Arts Council to expand upon my research of employing paint directly on metal, and to work towards creating a more sculptural body of work. The group of works I exhibited in the show “Studious” at Harbourfront a few months ago was the first culmination of my early research and experimentation.

Shortly after the exhibition opened, I came across a workshop being offered at Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School in Florence, Italy titled “Pigments on Metal: Explorations in Mixed Media”. The focus of the workshop was the use of different paint media on metal, taught by the school’s director and co-founder, Lucia Massei. It seemed like a perfect fit for the experimentation I was deeply immersed in. I knew I had to go.

I got back from Italy a few weeks ago, and looking back on my trip now, it seems like an almost surreal experience that came and passed much too quickly! I saw and learned so much in such a short period of time, I am still trying to sort through and process everything in my mind.

I had been intrigued by Alchimia for a while, partly because of its location right in the heart of Florence, but mostly because of the style and quality of work produced by the school’s students and alumni. Jewelers whose work I admire such as Camilla Teglio,  Yoko Shimizu, and Isabel Dammermann are among some of the school’s very talented and successful alumni.

When I arrived at the school, I was immediately charmed by the intimate size of the studios, and beautiful architecture of the building itself. It seemed like an ideal environment for an abundance of creativity!

The instructor, Lucia, was such an incredible teacher with an extensive background as both a painter and a jeweler. Her passion for art and teaching was immediately apparent as she patiently introduced and explained various processes and materials in great detail, most of which were completely new to me.



We made many samples following her demos, slowly getting to know the new materials and techniques. Learning to control the processes through practice is key to truly mastering the art (although some of the most beautiful results can be achieved by “accident”!). Lucia’s extensive knowledge and understanding of the materials seemed to allow her a zen-like demeanor as she carried out the demos, and showed us some of her stunning work.

Even though I had been experimenting with paint on metal prior to the workshop, what I learned during the workshop was completely different. Through new processes, painting and metalsmithing were amalgamated in a way I had never experienced before. The two disciplines became so intertwined and interconnected that I actually found myself with a paintbrush in one hand, and a torch in the other. I remember thinking to myself, “This is what I have been looking for.” And everything changed for me in that moment.




My short time at Alchimia was an amazing experience, and it was great to meet other jewelers from different countries in Europe who had come to take the workshop. I totally fell in love with the school (and Florence, of course!). I hope I will be back someday soon.


Outdoor work station


In the courtyard


Lucia showing us some of her many beautiful pigments.


Studio kitty!

While in Florence I stocked up on a bunch of new materials and tools. I paid a visit to an art store called Zecchi, which had been recommended to me by one of my talented artist friends back in Halifax. It did not disappoint! I splurged on some beautiful new pigments that I am very excited begin working with. I also had the chance to visit a number of really incredible galleries, and to meet some other artists that live and work in Florence. I will write another blog post soon about some of these highlights. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, I have been working in high gear preparing for my first big commercial show, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition which is held at Nathan Philips Square in front of City Hall in Toronto. The show opens next Friday, July 4th, and runs through Sunday July 6th. If you are in the area, please swing by to say hi! I will be located at booth F28. Many of my fellow artist-in-residence from Harbourfront Centre will also be exhibiting; keep an eye out for us! 🙂



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