Sónia Nunes, who lives and works in Portugual, designs and makes textile jewelry under the Moldarina label. Her playful work appeals to me in part because it brings back some very fond memories of being in Lisbon and Evora a few years ago and learning about Portuguese handicraft traditions.
I did a short interview with Sónia to find out what's behind her jewelry, which she makes out of cotton or wood beads that she creates and paints.
How did you learn to make jewelry?
When I had to choose a degree, I was undecided: social education or arts. I chose the first option and worked twelve years (2000-2011) in social housing areas (Lisbon and Coimbra) with people who had complex social and economic needs.
But I never left arts behind because in my spare time I learned how to dance, about decorative arts and designed clothes for my mother to sew.
But the real “cou de foudre” happened six years ago when I experienced the pleasure of creating jewelry after a casual visit at a supply store. My first item was a complex beaded necklace with some textile parts.
Since then, I started a self-taught path where I learned to embroider, knit, crochet, sew, and photograph, among other things. I used the Internet, books, some workshops and the explanations of some kind women to learn about these crafts.
Opening Moldarina in 2011 was the outcome of this journey and a turning point in my career, because I decided to dedicate myself full time to this project, leaving behind social education.
I learned that Portugual has a long tradition of textile jewelry making while visiting there a few years ago. Did the tradition inspire you to become a textile jewelry artist, or was it something else?
I think my passion for textiles came naturally with the hours I spent with my mother choosing fabrics and other materials for clothes that I designed in my student years. I discovered textiles as a result of my Internet research for my student project.
How do you make the Complementar necklaces (see the necklace below with the blue tips)?
It takes me many hours to make a Complementar necklace. My first step is to make 80 little fabric tubes with wool felt applications in both edges. After that, I knot them to form 4 threads with 20 fabric tubes. Finally, I assemble them all.
Yes, this is the first time I did machine embroidery (see the white Vestige neck piece, below).
My favorite textile jewelry artists are Vera João Espinha (with her I learned to simplify/clean my designs), Maria João Ribeiro (with her I learned sensitivity), Margarida Pintassilgo (with her I learned method) and textile artist Dina Piçarra (with her I learned to define my personal style, freedom, and creativity).
What's coming up for you and Moldarina this year?
For me, the challenge is the birth of my second daughter in September and coordinating her care and needs with my work.
For my work, my main objective is promoting and marketing Moldarina. I also want to open an Etsy store, start wholesaling and launch one collection. I'd like to do more things but I know that I don't have time for everything. So, I prefer to choose some things and do them well.
These colorful pieces and fun designs are terrific, all the more impressive since Sónia is largely self-taught. I admire that she held onto her love for the arts and decided to make that her career.
Thanks, Sónia, for doing this interview. I wish you much success juggling the demands of motherhood with your career!
You can see more at Moldarina.