Entries in alice cicolini (1)


Alice in Wonderland

June 19, 2012:

I met jewellry designer Alice Cicolini a few weeks ago. She was showcasing her wonders at an event. As she moved to open up the glass cabinet where her jewellry was on display, I felt my heart skip a beat. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my jewels and it was like she was about to unlock Pandora’s box for me. I was a little girl in a candy store, all over again.

Born and raised in North London, Alice grew up in a very creative home. Her parents taught history; her mother wrote poetry and also painted as a hobby. The walls of her home were adorned with William Morris wallpaper. William Morris (1834-1896), for those who don’t know him, was a leading member of the arts and crafts movement in the 1800s. He massively opposed the mass production of items in a factory. It led to what he believed to be the alienation of design from production, resulting in a lack of individuality. He was definitely not a big fan, in fact not a fan at all, of the Industrial Revolution.

Alice began her career with a degree in costume and design. She worked in public relations, which she believed to be fundamentally soul-less. She went on to work with furniture designer Tom Dixon who was Head of Design at Habitat and that was where Alice soon made her new home. Co-incidentally, soon after she met Emily Campbell, the British Council’s first Head of Design & Architecture at the Milan Furniture Fair, a connection which ultimately led Alice to India and to being Head of Arts & Culture at the British Council in New Delhi.

India, which for little Alice had been the Far Pavilion, full of danger, intrigue and romance, was where she lived for the next four years. During this time, she worked on a mentoring project for creative entrepreneurs, amongst many others, and also spearheaded a production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s dream in multiple different languages, all at the same time. The production brought together many different artists from many different regions across the country and was something original that had never been staged previously. During her stay in India, she also completed the second year of a two-year jewellry design programme, which she convinced Central Saint Martin’s to let her do via distance learning. She graduated with a Masters in jewellry design in 2009.

Soon after, Alice began creating her jewels – bold and beautiful, bright and colourful. She decided to revive a dying, heritage craft and work with one of the last remaining meenakari artisans in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Meenakari is a 200-year-old Indian enamel craft tradition with its origins in Persia. It has been passed down from father to son and very few remaining artisans are now proficient in the trade. During this time, Alice also had a baby girl, forging another connection which she shares with the country that she now owns a business in.

Alice has since relocated back to London and runs her business from afar. She has not only managed to bring a historic tradition in Indian jewellry to a Western audience, which would otherwise have limited access to this specialised product; in reverse and even more laudably, she has created a passage for an artisan who lives in a small city in India to a world he would have never been able to dream of selling to. She has magnified his world a zillion fold.

Through long-distance travel and the use of modern technology, Alice is able to manage her business from many miles away. The artisan she works with has now set up an email and a Skype account in order to communicate with her and now also has a Facebook account in order to share his works with the rest of the world. Alice continues to market him with pride.

William Morris not only penetrated Alice’s parental walls as a child, but also had an impact on her psyche and philosophy, leading to what she has managed to create today – jewellry, which is truly individual, designed, crafted and one-of-a-kind. She has created her own true wonderland.