5 questions for a Costa Rican jewelry designer

May 29, 2016

Daniella Baltodano’s jewelry line brings an unusual mix of disciplines to the table. Baltodano, 35, studied biology and landscape architecture at the University of Costa Rica, then worked for four years as a landscape architect at Urban Design South. When, two years ago, she ventured into the jewelry world with her own business, Elha, she incorporated both architectural aesthetics and her love of biology. Her work is characterized by the merging of semiprecious stones, silver and a clean, pleasing look.

On a sunny, warm morning, The Tico Times sat down at Café Miel in Barrio Otoya and spoke with Baltodano about her process. Excerpts follow.

How you choose the semiprecious stones?

The stones I use represent the architectural axes, both in the faceted stones and in their cuts and gloss. My favorite stone is the sapphire due to its resistance to heat and its infinite colors. It’s wonderful. I love the stones in their natural state because you can see their organic crystallization. I find it amazing that the earth can create this. I also love pearls, but the ones that are in their natural state. Most of the time I choose the stones because of the use of color and color theory, rather than the stone itself.

There are many stones with different meanings. For me, the sapphire means that luxury is accessible. There are also stones such as the pink quartz that contain an energetic component; everyone associates it with love. Most of the time [the stone choice by a wearer] is due to the person’s skin color.

What do the stones’ colors mean for you when creating a piece?

I love color theory, so I notice it quite a lot, and the contrasts it creates. My jewelry is made to be worn on a daily basis, so there are colors that work quite well and others not so much. Finding that perfect tone for the user and managing to catch that person’s attention at that moment is part of the process. There’s a theory that says that sometimes you have an energy shortage, and you’re drawn toward certain colors. There are times when you only want to dress in black or blue, and it’s because each color represents a certain mood. I believe that when people choose their jewelry it has to do with that. They’re searching for their favorite color, or a certain color clicked with them at that moment.

Elha Jewelry
In the Elha line, Baltodano plays with both architectural and biological aesthetics. (Courtesy of Daniella Baltodano)

Why are you so drawn to geometric figures?

I guess it all has to do with the eight years of architecture. I’ve tried to regain the biological part, so I’ve incorporated a lot of textures and aspects of the forest. When my husband and I go to the forest we find tons of treasures along the way. I take them back home to my atelier and try to incorporate them. I try to clean everything so that it’s perfectly aligned with its axes.

What pieces have been most difficult to create?

The most difficult are the engagement rings. I make them because it’s a personal challenge. It requires a lot of perfection, precision and accuracy compared to the other jewels I do; these other jewels are more contemporary and less perfect and accurate. However, I love being able to tell a story through an engagement ring. When I hand over the ring to a guy, the fact that he’ll propose marriage with it is such a big symbol of love, independently of the piece’s value. I love that.

How do you define elegance?

I believe in the idea of less is more. Simplicity is part of sophistication. In my family we’ve always been very minimalist when it comes to dressing and decorating, so I like my jewelry to be a detail rather than a statement. It has to be delicate and embellish the person and his or her clothing. It’s a detail that accompanies you and, one way or another, you feel identified with it because of the shape or color.

Our “Weekend Arts Spotlight” presents Sunday interviews with artists who are from, working in, or inspired by Costa Rica, ranging from writers and actors to dancers and musicians. Do you know of an artist we should consider, whether a long-time favorite or an up-and-comer? Email us at kstanley@ticotimes.net.

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