Inside the lit glass cabinets, bathed in the warm glow of golden light, Joyce Makitalo’s jewelry and ornaments are reminiscent of a tour inside the Armory Chamber of the Kremlin Museum, that repository of bejeweled Bibles, Fabergé eggs and gold-leafed carriages in Moscow.
The collection is transportive, a stroll through the era of Russian tsars in gilded regalia, into the opulence of a bygone time and a world that’s likely remote from your own.
And, indeed, “Non-saint,” Makitalo’s new collection, recently unveiled in an exhibit at Firma in Greenbelt 3, is inspired by the excesses of the Romanov period—but now yours for the taking.
On the invite, the artist-slash-musician-turned jeweler wrote:
Now the cup has overflowed
Golden tides comes rushing down
The altar steps are a bloody mess
And out goes rolling the jeweled crown
Grab your pails and sacks and virtues
Hear, you peasants, the rushing sound
Into your homes and into your houses
Non-saints come a-tumbling down
“The poetry came to me in the middle of the night, I had to get up and write it down,” she says. “It’s about all the opulence locked up in castles, churches, temples. With this collection, I try to bring them out into the world as a celebration of the human spirit, to be enjoyed by ordinary people.”
“Non-saint” is a continuation of Makitalo’s “Horologe Crux” collection from early this year, a collaboration with Celestina. The necklaces, rings and bracelets exhibit the same exquisite boldness that Makitalo is becoming known for: massive, colorful stones set in 24-k gold-dipped brass. In the Firma exhibit, her first solo, she also debuted her collection of jewel-encrusted minaudieres and pendants resembling pyxes, the “vessels used for carrying the host.” She also showed several church-inspired objets d’art such as jeweled goblets and candlesticks.
“My pieces have become bolder in terms of silhouette, and they now have more detail,” says Makitalo, who studied Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas. “And since people tell me that I’m really a colorist, I get inspired to make new palettes.”
Born Joyce Ortiz, Makitalo comes from a family of artists. Her mother, sisters and brother are all painters and graphic designers. Makitalo, who’s married to a Finn, was herself a graphic designer and painter before her foray into jewelry design, a hobby that turned into a career. (Apart from Firma, her jewelry is sold at Rustan’s Makati, House of Laurel, Charina Sarte in Greenbelt 5. Visit www.joycemakitalo.com for other stockists.)
“Years ago, I met this German woman who was wearing an agate bracelet,” she recalls. “The stones kept making this noise—like candy in a bag—and it triggered something in me. I wanted those stones, to handle them, even to taste them! So I started a semiprecious stone collection. The odder they were, the better.”
In 2007, she won in the nontraditional category of the Guild of Philippine Jewelers’ Design Competition.
Soon enough, Makitalo’s designs were adorning the necks and fingers of fashion editors and fashionistas alike. The young mom of three had stumbled into a new career.
“You have so much freedom when you are a painter,” she says. “The only measurements that limit you are that of your canvas. When one designs a functional object, everything has numbers—dimensions, cost, weight, etc. I would say designing jewelry is more challenging. I have to be on my toes and come up with new things at least twice a year. It makes me evolve faster as an artist, but ironically, all this keeping up with fashion makes me feel younger.”
She adds, “The bags and objects-of-art pieces are both agonizing and a great joy to make. I feel very powerful when I sketch my ideas because I always believe that any idea I come up with can be done. But then, when these ideas manifest on a material plane, I see screws and soldering marks, they’re either too wide or too heavy… I’m learning that when one creates things, one needs to combine art with craft, and what you get is perfection.”
Makitalo is now preparing for a fine-jewelry collection she plans to unveil next year.
“All the time, I keep pushing myself to create things I’ve never created before—to make pieces that have never been created before, actually. People say there’s nothing left to create, but I have faith.”