The Medici Dynasty Show is pleased this season to be partnering with local jewelry designer Sara Amrhein.
Sara Amrhein is a contemporary jewelry designer working in Florence. She grew up in California and has now lived in Florence for sixteen years. She has a lovely colorful studio in Via di Mezzo 6 where you can view her bold statement jewelry and have a chat with the artist. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sara in her studio to talk about her collaboration with our show and the art scene in Florence.
Tell me about your collaboration with our show
When I began the process of designing a collection for show, I initially brainstormed with Cristiano (Medici Dynasty Show Sales and Marketing Director). We started the process in November and I worked on the collection and met with Cristiano until April. First I created sample pieces. I looked at late 17th and early 18th century fashion and jewelry for initial inspiration. I wanted the collection to be informed by the fashions of history yet have a contemporary design made with contemporary materials. With Cristiano, we discussed incorporating the Medici Dynasty Show logo; not in an overtly obvious way but also still evident, and done in a wearable way. Specifically I incorporated the color scheme of the logo into the collection. Polymer clay is the main component in my designs. Any additional elements I use in my designs are high quality, which is important to me. I use semi precious stones, glass crystal, and silver and gold plated chains. I love the polymer clay, to me it is like sculpting. I did not study jewelry making, I studied art, so my art training informs my jewelry practice.
What inspires you to create in general?
My inspiration constantly changes. Creating the [Medici Dynasty Show] collection inspired my own work in personal ways that I wasn’t expecting. The Baroque Frame necklaces that I created for the collection inspired a series for my other work. Overall my main inspiration is to try to do something new, contemporary, and different, especially living in Florence. Florence is so based on tradition. I am constantly trying to find a way to mix tradition and contemporary. Craftsmanship and traditional methods of creating have a long history in florence, which is important to keep alive, yet I think it is equally important to embrace new ways of making art. I am also influenced by where I am from. [Los Angeles] is colorful and our art history there has a much younger point of reference, the 1920s. Growing up in California [I was] always outside year round, so nature and flowers inspire me. Making things with my hands, keeping [my hands busy] is one of the things I love the most about making jewelry and art in general.
How do you feel that the Medici affect your life? (if at all)
Totally they do! I think Florence would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for the Medici. All the artists that are here now wouldn’t be in Florence today if it wasn’t for the patronage [of the Medici]. People still come [to Florence] from all over the world because of the art here. The Medici family were about promoting up and coming artists and looking for new talent. I think Florence does them a disservice by not continuing to do that today. There seems to be this idea that in order to honor [the Medici] we have to keep everything how it was. If [the Medici] were still here, I believe that they would still be doing what they had always done, which was pushing forward new art, and I am really passionate about that.
Who is your favorite Medici family member?
I gravitate towards Cosimo the 1st. He was so young when he came into power and he didn’t grow up in Florence like other members of the Medici family. He was living in the countryside, not living the more privileged life of the Medici in the city. From what I know about him, he seemed down to earth yet understood his role as a Medici and the importance of the family. His concern was for the city and for the people of Florence. He got people to trust the Medici again after the reign of Savonarola. I admire the relationship he had with his wife, there didn’t seem to be a question about her having power to help make important decisions which was not something acceptable at the time. I also admire that he was a family man and wanted to be involved with his kids. I feel like he did a good job during his time in power.
Sara is the co founder of the organization Creative People in Florence. She explained to me in her own words more about the group.
The main mission is to promote new artists, to try to get people to look at contemporary art and design, and to foster community. The international community in Florence has changed; even in the sixteen years that I have lived here I have seen a change in who comes to live in Florence. There are people creating new, compelling artwork, but it is overshadowed by the great history of Florence. We believe that there can be both contemporary art and historical art, existing together. What happens today with contemporary art is a direct effect of history and there is a rich conversation that contemporary art has with history. If people could realize this progression, they could develop more of an acceptance of contemporary art. At the same time, we love the artists who hold on to classical techniques and we feel that learning that technique is still very important. However we also believe that someone who doesn’t work in traditional techniques is not less of an artist that those that do.
Do you think this idea of traditional art taking precedence over contemporary art is more exaggerated because we are in Florence?
Other cities find a balance and embrace the new. They keep their residents interested in what is currently happening with art. For people that live here [in Florence], that are not studying art history, there is a need to see something new. These other major European cities like Paris, London, and Berlin, have been able to [implement] programs, grants, and residencies to help contemporary artists work. This is something that is severely lacking in Florence.
Why do you think that is?
If more people accepted contemporary art, I think it would promote even more empathy and understanding of other people and cultures.
I always say that I didn’t choose Florence, it chose me. What I mean by that is that it wasn’t a conscious decision. I had no intention of ever staying here. I planned to stay for only six months on my study abroad program and then return to America. When I got [to Florence] I felt very at home and comfortable. Especially studying art history, everything comes alive when you see it in person. I knew I wanted to explore being here longer. I also met my now husband a month into my study abroad trip, which factored into me wanting to return to Florence. I thought I would give it a try. And it worked out! I moved here before the financial crisis so I found a good job and made friends which helped me feel at home here.
Florence is great for many things, I love the small community. It’s good to have people who know you and that you can relate to. The fact that my neighbors pass by my studio everyday and say hello, that people know me in the area, and that they have accepted me feels really good. Creative People in Florence also gives us a purpose here. It is our way to give back to the city, contribute to the community, and to do something we believe in so strongly.
I am inspired by the future of Florence, where it is going, and the potential that it has.
You can view Sara’s work on her website here , or visit her studio at Via di Mezzo 6.
Post by Brianna Pohl