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The sacred architecture and patterns of the Silk Route are the inspiration for Alice Cicolini's jewellery. It is handmade in India in the studio of one of the last Jaipuri meenakari trained in the enamel traditions of Persia, passed down through family generations over 200 years. A family whose work is owned by the Maharajas of Patiala and Jaipur, and exhibited the world over, their craftsmanship remains of the highest quality.
Alice Cicolini is a designer and creative commissioner, curator of several international touring exhibitions on design and a published author, including a book on contemporary British dandyism, The New English Dandy, for Thames & Hudson.
She is a Research Associate at Central St Martins, where she graduated in 2009 with a Masters in Jewellery Design. Formerly Director Arts & Culture for the British Council in India, she remains closely involved with Indian craft and design.
Alice has exhibited at the V&A, Fortnum & Mason, Zaha Hadid Gallery, Somerset House, Sotheby's and Asia House in London, and at Nature Morte and Bungalow 8 in India. Her guest designer collection for British fine jewellery house Annoushka launched at Liberty's in London in 2010, and showed at Harvey Nichols and Annoushka's flagship in Cadogan Square. A limited edition collection launched on luxury e-tailer 20Ltd.com in November the same year. She has collaborated with ceramic designer Peter Ting, Tricia Guild, Ilado, and with Swiss heritage pearl company Winterson. Alice was part of the British Fashion Council’s celebrated Rock Vaults initiative, curated by Stephen Webster, from 2012-2015. Her work has been featured by Joanna Hardy (Masters of Modern Jewellery) and Carol Woolton (Drawing Jewels for Fashion).
Known in Europe as champlevé, the meenakari enameling tradition involves engraving pattern in to the metal; in India, craftsmen prefer to work on 23.5 carat gold, the softness of the metal allowing for more detailed and expressive work, brought to life using rare enamels that have been passed down within families as heirlooms in their own right. Enamel is a combination of ground, pigmented glass and metal, heat fired into the recesses created by the engraving and then polished with agate stone to create these extraordinarily vibrant and rich colours. More commonly applied to the reverse of jewels, where the precious stones such as diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds are privileged at the forefront, meenakari is also known as “the secret”, an intimate dialogue with the gem’s wearer.
Kamal Kumar Meenakar has now been working in the enamelling tradition for generations and his father, Munna Lal, was a celebrated mastercraftsman whose work was regularly selected to represent Indian craftsmanship internationally. Meenakar can claim some of the pieces in books such as Jaipur Enamel and Dance of the Peacock as having been made within his family. The tradition of fine meenakari work is, however, almost at an end; previously commissioned on a large scale, plates, bowls and cups were all finely decorated in rich colour, vines and birds traced around their edges. Work on this scale is now a thing of the past. Alice Cicolini's work aims to go some way towards providing a large-scale platform of expression for this extraordinary tradition - a magical combination of artistry and craftsmanship at the highest level.
Photography: Damon Cleary