The dark side, populated by grotesques and monsters, angels and devils is the world of this multi-talented artisan. She is one of those following their own particular path, shaking the trees in their chosen fields. This outstanding artist has been on the radar here for some time so Constant Circles is happy to feature an artisan jeweller with a unique and distinctive style. She works from a studio in Sheffield and sells her outstanding and original pieces all over the UK and farther afield, the latest foray being in China.
Her name is Chiara Bet and she hails from Sacile, a small town in the beautiful area north of Venice. The first question is obvious.
Considering you grew up in an area in the foothills of the Alps, famed for Prosecco, why the UK Chiara? When did you come here?
I first arrived in the UK in November 2004 (how time flies! WOW! Over a decade now!) to visit my aunt in Leicester. I needed a break from the “noise” around me back in Italy, time off to concentrate on myself and my thoughts. Between visiting and staying the step was a very short one – and here we are 10 years down the line!
That was quite a radical step. Did you always have an interest in Jewellery?
Not always, no. My first interest laid in illustration: as clichéd as it might sound, I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember! It’s so easy to bring my own “reality” to life just by letting the pen roam free on the
piece of paper in front of me. It’s my quick fix for times of stress or melancholy: letting some of my demons go and sharing them with the world.
So I assume that your higher education took place here in the UK. Where and what did you study?
The first course I ever took in Leicester was a life drawing class at the Adult College; the artist teaching us happened to be a tutor at Leicester College and she was quite adamant that I pursued my drawing skills and follow the artistic vein further. It goes without saying, I am very grateful to her for that, for her enthusiasm and encouragement.
Following my National Diploma in Art and Design at Leicester College I spent 3 years at De Montfort University Leicester, graduating with a First in Design Crafts in 2011.
You have developed such a distinctive style, what are your main influences?
Uh, that’s a tough one.., Definitely dark traditional tales from my region (Friuli Venezia Giulia) alongside the Latin & Greek mythology studied at school back in Italy. They are extremely well lodged in my brain. Growing up with such marvellous subjects filling my mind inevitably led me to create monsters of my own, those monsters that have recently started to populate more and more of my sketches.
A dusting of Teratology (the study of physiological abnormalities) is what brings together my passion for fantasy on the one hand & the human form on the other, in an ambiguous concoction of human bodies, animal limbs and tormented souls.
PASSION!! The same passion behind many pieces from Medieval, Renaissance and Symbolist Art: entertaining as Hell!
(Quite literally so, most times..)
OK, we understand your fantastical inspiration, so how do you approach a new collection?
Most of my pieces start from illustrations, in a quite classical approach.
I find several customers like to have a developmental sketch to go with the piece they purchase, to make it that more special and unique.
Few times though I like to jump straight into wax carving, skipping the drawing stage. This is when I have a clear idea of what I want to sculpt, so don’t need any developmental sketch. “Rapture” is the word that best describes my state in those moments: physical & emotional.
I have so many different collections I wish to create that I’m now finding myself working on 3 lines at once, with very little time to dedicate to each one of them, but diversity is what keeps me motivated. I get bored very easily!
Each collection is a new narrative, new family, new feeling. I tend to get too emotionally involved with my pieces, but I guess that is what artists and makers do – and what pushes us to keep up the hard work.
Yeah, feelings and emotions, just as in music, have to have an outlet. Describe your studio; does it have all you need?
My wonderful studio is painted in the loveliest of colours: garnet red! Rich!
I wanted something that screamed “Medieval”, a great background for my own Bestiary of illustrations on antique paper.
At the moment I’m still building my tools arsenal, looking for lost gems I can get from experienced silversmiths and jewellers.
It’s always exciting getting hold of tools that formerly belonged to skilled makers; they are imbued with a peculiar type of energy, almost palpable.
It reminds me of cannibals eating the enemy’s heart to acquire their courage, in a dark romantic way. Uh!
So what would you say is your most successful collection?
I would say so far, my Hand Narratives line is the most popular. That might well change with three other collections all in various stages of development: it’s like pushing uphill a Mammoth! I sometimes wish I could focus on just one line at the time! Haha!
And do you have a most favourite piece? Is it the same as ours?
One of my favourite pieces is a crucifix composed of miniature hands in different gestures. When I first put the design together by aligning dirty, rough silver castings just back from the casting company on my bench I was struck by the allegorical potential behind it. This piece now belongs to a dear friend: happy it went to a lovely home!
(YES that’s our favourite)
What does the future hold for Chiara Bet?
Hah! The Weird & The Wonderful!!
More bizarre coming my way, please! This year will see the promotion of original drawings and prints, alongside of course more making!
I am looking forward to completing a small collection based on the enchanting world of Mermaids and Tritons, as well as pushing further the collections “behind the scenes”.
I have recently been asked to draw some tattoo designs, so that is certainly a new path to follow! Tattoo Conventions are definitely on my radar as the optimal venue for my more alternative pieces.
Details of feature shows will be on my website, so keep an eye on it if you’d like to come say hello.. Otherwise, you’re welcome to the “rouge” piece of Heaven/Hell that is my studio, based in good old Sheffield!
“Ladies and Gentlemen, step right up, step right up..!!”
Thanks so much, Chiara, for opening your heart to us. We are sure that you will go from strength to strength. The future for you is exciting. We will continue to follow your progress and, hopefully, we’ll catch up with you in the future.
If you want to see all her collections, follow her stellar progress or wish to contact Chiara, you can find out where she is exhibiting/selling here
Chiara Bet Designs – Artisan Jewellery (Facebook)