Chainmail to Laugh About
Published April 20, 2010
Humor might not the first thing that comes to mind when looking at Arielle de Pinto’s at once delicate and tough crocheted chain jewelry. But the 25-year-old Canadian designer asserts that it is a key element in her crafty creations. “It’s not always humorous,” she admits. “But [humor] is definitely there. It’s what drives me.”
Born in Toronto and now based in Montreal (although Brooklyn is a frequent home away from home), De Pinto launched her line of loosely woven metal baubles in 2007, after being named one of Gen Art’s Fresh Faces of Fashion. Since then, her cascading necklaces, fingerless gloves and knotted dangling earrings have amassed an international cult following.
A graduate of Montreal’s Concordia University, de Pinto first explored her creative side as a printmaking student. “I just got sick of paper,” she says when asked why she later switched her studies to textiles. But even this more three-dimensional path didn’t satisfy her curiosity for tactility. “I’d walk around the trimmings store and I’d think, ‘I don’t want pom pom strings; I don’t want any of that.'”
Treating fine threads of chain as if they were fibers, de Pinto’s first substantial piece was her signature web. Next came abstract gold and silver masks that drip and melt around the face and skull, each of which is closer to a work of art than a fashion accessory. “I’m definitely more of an artist,” she explains. “I’m not a designer.” In fact, working in fashion was never really on de Pinto’s to-do list. “It was never an aspiration of mine. I’m discovering it. I’m figuring out my way through it and, luckily, it’s been pretty welcoming.”
De Pinto has no formal jewelry training, and can’t remember specifically when she learned to crochet, but she cites her grandmother, who crochets mats for homeless puppies in her spare time, as an influence. And while the tradition of this seemingly old-fashioned craft is apparent in de Pinto’s work, her intentionally unfinished, organic designs, which range from fully functional iPod cases disguised as necklaces, to drapey metal tanks to fingerless gloves that resemble decayed Victorian lace, are far from the frilly doilies that you might find in Grannie’s kitchen. Currently inspired by southern hip-hop and what she describes as the “joyous” flavor of New Orleans, de Pinto has recently begun to work with experimental colors like ultra-violet, rose dust, sea foam and a rainbow-like effect called “spectrum.”
De Pinto has also just made a sculptural charm as an effigy of her great aunt, who recently died at the age of 98. “She did sculptures similar to this charm, and she was really into expressionism and impressionism, so this is an homage to her.” Other charms are lighter in tone and history; de Pinto’s roughly carved “pervy cats” series is an example, as are her rugged, nude male forms: as the designer puts it, “You’ve gotta have some naked men around your neck!”