Read Tamagit’s comprehensive personal interview of the artist Nuria Carulla.
Who is Nuria Carulla? Where was she born and raised?
I was born in Bogota, Colombia and both my grandparents from my mother’s and father’s side were Catalan. My grandfather José Carulla moved to Colombia after the floods of the Llobregat river and he started trading between Colombia and Barcelona. From the Amazon he made crossings through Colombian rivers to obtain rubber, quina and tagua (which was mainly used for clothing buttons back then).
Mi maternal grandmother, Victoria Soler, was the daughter of Juan Soler, the painter. She made hats and often had to travel to Paris to acquire the latest fashion hats. Mi father, Jorge Carulla, was born in Colombia and raised in Barcelona. At that time, he was Spain’s swimming champion but he had to go back to Colombia with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Mi maternal grandfather, Miguel Fornaguera Ramón, moved to Colombia fleeing from Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship. He belonged to the Escuela Nueva movement and once in Colombia he introduced –nex to to Pau Vila- new methodologies in the education system of the school Gimnasio Moderno of Bogotá.
My Colombian maternal grandmother, Evangelina Pineda, was a nursery school teacher and she followed Maria Montessori’s principles. Lastly, my mother, Núria Fornaguera, was born in Colombia but moved to Barcelona as a young girl. She studied at the Institut Escola and lived under the Spanish Civil War. When the war was over, she had to flee to France with my grandparents and my aunt and my uncle. From there they moved to Colombia after a certain time.
This explains my connection with Catalonia.
I myself pursued primary education in Bogotá and then I moved to Barcelona in order to enrol at the Escola Massana. Since my return to Colombia, I have always been busy with jewellery teaching and working at my own atelier.
When did you start being interested in artistic jewellery? Why did you choose jewellery as a mean of expression above any other one?
In 1962 my father travelled to Barcelona and bought me an enamel brooch at the Escuela Massana. I loved that brooch so much that I decided to learn jewellery and enamel technique at that institution. So, I travelled to Barcelona by ship together with my grandfather Miguel Fornaguera. He was the one who helped me out with the enrolment procedures and accommodation. I was 15 years old back then.
Who do you consider that influenced your work from an artistic point of view?
When I started at the Escuela Massana, my grandfather introduced me to Monserrat Sunyer, the daughter of the jeweller Ramón Sunyer. Montserrat made enamels for the Sunyer shop and I started working with her and making saint sculptures. Afterwards, I was offered a job as a designer at the manufacturing atelier at the Escuela Massana, which operated in the mornings and where the trophies for the Generalitat were done.
At the end of my stay in Barcelona, I worked at the Montserrat Mainer atelier doing enamels. The experience at those workshops taught me the rigor of the profession and a completely new way of carrying out projects; a different way of facing pieces. I gained deep knowledge and practical experience.
Nowadays one can say that my language oscillates between the monumental and threatening tropical storm clouds and the blue sky of Barcelona.
When did you first realise that you were going to dedicate your life to jewellery? Any special experience or recognition?
I never imagined studying any other subject. Neither have I thought of abandoning my profession. I have lived my life creating in an atelier.
Is Barcelona an inspiration source?
Yes, in my mind I always have my two cultures, and this obviously shows in my work.
How do you conjugate Bogotá and Barcelona in your artwork?
The shapes come from the Tropic, but when I have to make a decision which involves colours, I always think of Barcelona.
Moreover, the way I face my profession and the rigor I have in it comes from my experience at the different ateliers in Barcelona.
Next to making jewellery you also teach and assess. For example, you have been advisor to the National Colombian Jewellery and Crafts programme during ten years. What does this mean to you as a person and as an artist?
Teaching has always been present in my work. In a convulsed country such as Colombia, teaching is my contribution to society; like this I give back all what was given to my immigrant family. Moreover, I think that culture and education are the only means of saving a country.
All the years I worked for Crafts of Colombia I travelled through the most convulsive zones which were precisely mine communities. I then realised that preserving crafts was one of the ways to contribute to conflict resolution.
I learned a lot from craftsmen/women: their wisdom, their courage. I learned more from them than they ever did from me.
Where do you work now? Do you have an own atelier? How is it and how do you feel in it?
I live in the countryside and there is where I have my atelier. It has plenty of light and it is surrounded by nature. I love the fact that it has big windows; it gives me the impression that I am in the middle of the garden. I cannot imagine a windowless atelier which is not in contact with the trees, flowers, birds…
What material do you use for your creations? When selecting those materials, what is important for you? Do you think sustainability is important?
I only use silver and enamel. And yes, sustainability is important, but I also think that professions have to be preserved, as they reflect ancient knowledge. What is very clear to me is that everything one does needs to be done rigorously. It needs to be long-lasting and it has to be designed with authenticity so it can last- unlike pieces that follow certain fashion trends. I think it’s important not to do work that expires.
How do you create? Do you sketch your pieces?
There is always a topic or an emotion I want to express. I create from a sketch; I do not need mock-up pieces. I have a notebook where I draw and write notes all the time.
Chaos, structure. What do you want to express with these elements?
My theme are the Tropics and their abundance, where a plant is born under another plant and after a couple of days… another one. Like this, as forms overlap, chaos is created…but at the same time, a certain order appears within that chaos.
How do concept and form interact in your work?
Form comes from nature: from birds, trees…. although what I need to express is never so literal. There is always a poetic reason underneath and since a while ago I have the Canto Espiritual de Joan Maragall as a reference. I have written this text on the drawings I am doing. It helps me chase an image.
What types of jewellery do you prefer (brooch, necklace….)? Why?
I have mostly created brooches, because they have the life of small sculptures and they are not constrained by usefulness. But I have also made serial pieces such as earrings.
Tell us more about your series.
I have worked on chairs: the place everyone has in life. And on clouds, iguanas, trips… and I have paid four tributes to persons through my jewellery. The first one was a creation upon my father’s death. Through it I expressed both cultures, the Catalan and the Colombian one. The second one was on the Tropics and it was a tribute to the Valencian painter Juan Antonio Roda. The third one was a tribute to my mother, who loved jewellery and had a great sense of humour (my creations were like sketches of other pieces of jewellery). The last one was a tribute to my sister Marta. It was called Talismans & Male and female Heroes and it was inspired by kids heroes’ talismans and their protective influence on the wearer.
The last series you have created, A lo lejos (Far Away), seems to be very poetic. What does it mean to you?
At my mature age I enjoy the freedom of distance.
After having raised my children and having completed many projects, at this stage I do not want to be so entrepreneurial. It is not my aim to pretend or be more than I really am. I am entering a more contemplative phase which confers me more freedom. Having more time for myself, the chance to search for introspection is much bigger.
What would you like to transmit to the wearer of your pieces? What is your identity as an artist?
I want the wearers to make the pieces theirs so we can share its poetry. As for my identity as an artist I would say that it is the honesty and the rigor in my profession.
Your pieces can be exhibited as visual art or do you think that they need to be worn? And do you need to explain your work or do the pieces speak for themselves?
My pieces are bound to the body and I like them to interact with it. However, as artistic pieces they also have their own life and can therefore be considered independently. Like good embroidery, both sides need to be perfect.
Any wishes for the future?
I want this profession to last. I would not like machines to replace it, as I think it’s important to keep the connection between hands and mind.