In Piazza San Marco, under the porticos of the Procuratie Vecchie, there is a small boutique, with inserts in pink marble and two bright windows shimmering with precious stones and unique designs. It is the boutique of the family Boncompagni, started in the second half of the 20th century. Initially it gathered antiquities, works of art, and jewels. In the 80s it specialised as a jewellery and today, with Valeria, in addition to a carefully selected collection of brands, it displays its own creations, characterised by a very distinctive style.
I had the fortune to meet Valeria through a friend in common, so I seized the occasion to ask her some questions about her work. Below our brief conversation.
1) Valeria, what is it like to go to work everyday in Piazza San Marco. Tell us a little something about yourself.
I grew up between Venice and Milan, until my family finally settled in the lagoon. I have always been surrounded by art and curious objects and have felt the need to work with my hands since when I was a child and, perhaps, this is why I studied sculpture and modelling at art school. Anyhow, it was only in 2011 in Florence that I literally fell in love with the technique of lost wax, which I apply for my creations. While practising and experimenting with different metals and waxes, I understood that more than modelling a precious metal, I prefer turning a poor material into something rich, for example by adding precious stones or covering it in gold.
As for working everyday in Piazza San Marco, it is at the same time a great fortune and a huge responsibility. The name Valeria was added to the boutique' sign only in the summer of 2019, thanks to the insistence of my mother. I was petrified by the idea of having my name in the Piazza, because -it is impossible not to feel a little bit under pressure. I think I will never forget that day. I wasn't sure whether it was the right thing to do, and I kept asking for some sort of sign. While the workers were still putting up all the letters, I went inside and started displaying my pieces for the first time. After less than five minutes, a Venetian gentleman passed by, looked at the window and bought one of my rings. I felt so overwhelmed by emotions that I started crying! Unfortunately, we all know what happened later on in the year, the Acqua Granda first and then, well... Mr. C.
The lockdown too is an experience I will never forget. I worked every single day, in a surreal Piazza. These experiences, together with all things life and always my two children, have shaped some of my rings, like Eureka and Il Guardiano dei Nostri Mari.
Right now the situation is still uncertain, but I am planning to use my free time (not that much actually, with two kids and three dogs) to improve my glazing skills in a local foundry.
2) Your rings, your pendants and your creations in general have a very distinctive style. They seem to tell stories, so rich in details and narrative. Where do you find your inspiration? Do you have a specific method? My jewellery is born from the need to express one or a mix of emotions. Of course I have a method, but when I create I don't have a pre-planned design in mind, I simply let myself go. Often, I understand my pieces fully only after some time, probably the time necessary to sediment.
As for where I find inspiration, I would say everywhere. My children, Virginia and Santiago, are constantly present. Nature, especially the lagoon, where I like to sail on my boat. Then, Venice, with whom I have a visceral relationship and surprises me everyday, in the good and in the bad. As you may know, Piazza San Marco is one of the lowest areas in the city and among the first to flood when there is high tide. The Mose wall is lifted only when the sea-level reaches 110/130 cm, but the Piazza floods at 80 cm... which means that every November and sometimes also in December, we experience a bit of a nightmare. Yet, despite all the challenges, I can't imagine myself living anywhere else.
My cheval de bataille, is a ring dedicated to the Doges palace, in gold. From the first ring, two others with a slimmer design were born. A small homage to the marvels I see everyday.
The lagoon inspired the fedi laguna, wedding rings shaped as gentle waves and also, as already mentioned, Il Guardiano dei Nostri Mari, which was born after the Acqua Granda. No matter how many videos you may have seen, I assure you that those of us who were here will never forget the incredibile force of nature of that night and the following days, but also the strength and resistance proved by the people.
Last but not least,Women are a great source of inspiration. Our inner universe and our worlds of emotions. It is not a world that I am trying to investigate, but rather just live. Although the life experience of each of us is unique, the emotions we experience are universal, and I suppose this is what I try to convey with my jewellery.
3) If I am not mistaken, you mentioned some workshops ...
Well, there are several activities I carry out. One that is very important for me is my teaching activity inside primary schools. It is a non-profit activity I enjoy and consider as a sort of mission, because children are our future and it is our duty to help them feel free to express their real selves and their creativity. People often complain that kids are always engaged with technology, but what do we do to entertain them, or better said, to trigger their curiosity? We must involve them and help them become happy and kind adults, open-minded and curious. Children can't wait for us to teach them new activities and the joy their smile gives me when they see the result of their experiments is the best reward I could ask for. I have two portable work-desks and one is dedicated to the children. The wood isn't as good as the one I use at the boutique or when I go to do a demonstration in a hotel, but their signatures and short messages written in markers of different colours make it extremely special.
Inside my boutique, I offer individual workshops, both for adults and children The course includes six lessons of 2 hours each, with hands-on experience. For those who are visiting only for a short time, I offer an individual lesson/demonstration of 2 hours. For further inquires, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
I am very grateful for the time Valeria dedicated to me and for having been introduced to a unique and imaginative universe at only five minutes from my house. and I cannot but invite you to stop and discover her work the next time you are in Venice.
Valeria Boncompagni Piazza San Marco, 130
30124 Venezia (VE)