Live from the Artist’s Studio

You know that I wish that I had artistic talent and could make beautiful things?
I do.
But I cannot. I can only appreciate and collect.

I loved the distinctive jewelry of Denisa Piatti when I saw it in the window of Lilith at Metro Center.
This is what I saw.
This necklace fills me with intense longing, as beauty sometimes can
This necklace fills me with intense longing, as beauty sometimes can; admittedly, though, not for everyday wear

I went in and was excited to learn that Denisa lives in Washington D.C. and receives visitors at her studio.
Who wouldn’t want to visit an artist’s studio?
Understand: It didn’t take me long to insinuate myself into that studio.
At the main work table
Fully insinuated

The Directrice picks up the scent
The artist’s model
I asked Denisa to make a choker like the one seen on this model.
Having a piece custom-made meant a second trip to the studio for a fitting, with The Photographer in tow.

So who is Denisa Piatti?
Denisa Piatti
This is Denisa Piatti

Born in Slovakia, she trained as a jewelry-maker there and in Scotland. After the completion of her formal training, she lived in Zanzibar for several years, where she taught jewelry-making techniques and learned local crafts and materials.
Denisa is interested not simply in creating beautiful jewelry but in making wearable and accessible jewelry. This means that she applies the precision, care, and attention of traditional jewelry-making techniques to affordable, non-precious materials. Sometimes they are embellished with precious metals and semi-precious stones, but often not.
Acrylic cuff embellished with a small piece of ___ silver
Acrylic cuff embellished with a small, unpolished silver disk

Paper models mixed with finished samples
A template

partially finished pices
Silver pieces, partially finished, to be combined with acrylic
acrykic pices
Acrylic pieces

I am into this because I love resin, acrylic, and plastic jewelry. Denisa has a rainbow of acrylics to work with and produces both translucent/shiny and matte finishes.
I asked her for a teal choker with a translucent, shiny finish.
Trying it on
Trying it on for size

Denisa wanted the choker to fit securely, but not feel constricting. Although her original model was molded to fit the neck, she proposed using a thin silver chain at the back of the neck to hold it in place.
I selected a magnetic closure because I find tiny clasps increasingly difficult to manipulate.
I didn't think the Mingotts would try it on
Denisa demonstrating a snugger fit by pinching the chain

The design of this choker was inspired by seaweed and despite the rigidity of the acrylic, the form appears to undulate. You can also see that the choker is asymmetrical.
My choker on me
Perhaps I should have removed the dowager brooch before trying the choker on; be assured I wouldn’t wear them together

How does Denisa mold acrylic into undulating, organic forms?
Answer: Heat is involved.
Note the oven in the background
Pssst — see tiny oven on the far right

First, Denisa cuts the pieces from flat sheets of acrylic, using a template like the one shown above.
Then she heats the pieces in a small convection oven.
Once the pieces are hot enough to bend, Denisa removes them with oven mitts and uses various molds to shape them to fit necks and wrists. Some pieces receive a little additional bending and pinching to create extra movements in their lines.

piece cming out of oven
A piece coming out of the oven

Molding a piece into a bracelet
SHowing me x
Showing me a nearly finished choker

After the piece is shaped, she polishes it. All the rough edges are smoothed away until it feels like silk.
A vacuum tube is sucking dust out of the air. Denisa usually wears a mask while working.
Jewelry-making is a little scary: hot things that can burn, sharp things that can cut, and dust that shouldn’t be breathed.
Polishing rough edges with hand-made tools

In addition to her work with acrylic and metal, Denisa also works with horn.
Horn has visual weight, but is actually very light. I think it is particularly beautiful in the summer, when worn with simple white, khaki, or black dresses.
horn necklage
Denisa’s beautiful horn necklaces. She uses light chains and open space to balance the visual weight of the horn.
Being proven wrong in my own post; horn looks beautiful against orange
Being shown up in my own post; horn looks beautiful against orange

I thought, incorrectly, that animals shed their horns periodically, thereby giving jewelry makers and other artists a large supply of guilt-free horn to work with. Apparently this is not so. But Denisa’s supply of horn comes from African markets, where it was salvaged from animals killed for consumption.
horn box
A Question, Directrice: If horns just fell off animals naturally, why would poaching be turning into an existential threat for the elephant population?

Denisa will be showing her work at the Baltimore Craft Show on Feburary 24-26. Information about the American Craft Council’s juried shows is available here.
Between now and then, be sure to visit Denisa’s website at
My beautiful Denisa Piatti brooch, recently seen in this post

16 thoughts on “Live from the Artist’s Studio”

  1. Perhaps you were thinking of antlers which are shed.

    This jewellery is stunning and I loved the behind the scenes peek at her studio.

    • You’ve made me feel better, Allison — that someone sheds something! My incorrect belief came from somewhere. So glad you enjoyed the tour.

  2. Directrice, you will become the next Oprah of local artisans! May I suggest that “The Directrice’s Treasured Objects” would be a fitting column title?
    I will surely swing by this studio to pick up a piece or two!

  3. Wow! This post is exciting. The jewelry looks delicious. The teal choker looks stunning on The Directrice. Thanks for showing us the artist’s process. I’m tempted to make a trip to the Craft Show.

  4. I’d pay good money to have The Directrice stroll into the office wearing the necklace in the first photo.
    Anyway, love the seaweed inspiration — so interesting, and in such a flattering color, too. Denisa has a lovely style in all these pieces. Thanks for the voyeuristic peek into her studio.

  5. Denisa’s pieces are stunning, and I’ve been a big fan of hers for a while. I’m a proud owner of a seaweed necklace and a pair of her earrings! Thanks so much for sharing this and supporting the DC design community!

  6. I’m very pleased to see you supporting your local artisans/jewelry makers. It’s a rare opportunity to see a piece you own being made! Great blog post!

  7. As others have said, thank you for the wonderful studio tour, and the insight into how these lovely, unique pieces are made.

    I’ve been exploring Denisa’s website (instead of working). It may have been a mistake to check out the Lookbook section. I’ve fallen in love with several pieces in the Seawood collection in the Lookbook, but none of them are available in the Shop section where you can buy things. Perhaps Denisa will bring back pieces from these earlier collections?

    • So glad you enjoyed the studio tour, Lynne. You should write to Denisa — she accepts custom orders. As if her beautiful work were not enough of an enticement, she is passionate about her craft and loves meeting and talking with customers.

  8. What an eye you’ve got Directrice ! Can’t comment on the rest of the studio (I’m a classicist with regard to jewellery) but your piece is at once an arresting bit of sculpture AND an eminently wearable and flattering accessory AND it carries the signature of your own personal style every bit as much as it does its designer’s. Congratulations to both the talented ladies involved in this very successful creation.


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