Interview with Eleonora Federici from Italy

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Eleonora Federici

Eleonora Federici was raised in a family of famed jewelry shop Gioielleria Marinone in Pavia and was always a creative individual which lead to her being a designer that leaves a lasting impression!

Interview With The 2023 NY Product Design Awards Winner – Eleonora Federici

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your background.

I was born and raised in Italy, in a family of jewelry makers. My parents founded a jewelry shop (Gioielleria Marinone) in Pavia in 1980, starting from nothing but their passion for high-end jewelry, top quality gemstones, and watches. My father was literally ahead of his time: he introduced in Italy brands that no one knew at that time and then became famous, like Blancpain, Franck Muller, Daniel Roth, Gerald Genta (I met the last three in person when I was young!).

They instilled in me the same attitude and mindset, and I was raised in an environment where Italian craftsmanship and an unwavering work ethic were the everyday experience. My mother started the tradition of creating amazing, one-of-a-kind jewels for their customers, as well as of refurbishing family heirlooms. I can say that imagining and designing high-end jewelry is something natural to me; I feel like I was born to be a designer.

After completing my degree in Modern Art and then becoming a Gemologist, I began working in my family's jewelry shop, where my mother allowed me to take the reins of direction for the creation and production of custom-made jewelry. I also learned how to carve wax to create my own models and later acquired bench jeweler skills. However, I wanted to expand my knowledge and skills even further, so I enrolled in the Jewelry Design & Technology course at the Gemological Institute of America.

This was a gamechanger, as I earned my Jewelry CAD/CAM designer diploma and understood that with the new powerful means I had acquired, I would have the opportunity to show my designs to the world. In 2021-2022, I entered my one-of-a-kind single earring, "The Hummingbird," into three international design competitions and won two. This year, I achieved two more important milestones: winning the gold Muse Design Award and the Silver NY Product Design Award for my bracelet, "Model IV: DISRUPTION”.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a product designer?

I have always had a deep love for art and a great sense of creativity, which I believe makes me naturally suited to be a designer. I think I was born to do this job. To me, design is design, and I don't see a big distinction between different types of designers.

However, what sets my jewelry designs apart is a modern style that is also resistant to changing trends. I believe that jewelry should be wearable and comfortable, and my designs are always created with this in mind. Ultimately, I aim to create pieces that not only look beautiful but also leave a lasting impression on those who wear them and those who see them.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

I am the Creative Director and Jewelry Designer of Gioielleria Marinone, a family-owned jewelry store in Pavia (Italy) which was founded by my parents in 1980. My brother Carlo works alongside me and handling also the watch part of the business. I am proud to have almost two decades of experience in the industry, which has enabled me to develop technical skills, knowledge, and experience that are rare to find.

As a qualified gemologist, I am adept at selecting the best stones for my shop and my jewelry pieces, as well as guiding customers in choosing the best stones for themselves. Additionally, I have experience in purchasing, having attended international trade fairs and visited gem-producing countries.

From the initial idea to the finished product, I am capable of overseeing the production of a piece of jewelry. I believe that a jewel is wearable art, a unique and inimitable piece, or customized to the customer's liking. My design style is modern, wearable, and comfortable, yet resistant to changing trends.

As a CAD/CAM jewelry designer, I am also able to design my models with 3D software, which reduces waste, optimizes production, and gives my clients the opportunity to see their jewelry through renderings even before it is produced. This is a bespoke service that is increasingly hard to find in a world where mass production has led even major brands to no longer adapt to their customers. My vision is different, and I strive to offer a personalized service where the jewelry piece is a unique expression of the wearer's style and personality.

4What does “design” mean to you?

Design, to me, encompasses a range of elements such as art, perfection, emotion, and innovation. It is what distinguishes a product that stands the test of time from one that quickly becomes outdated and forgotten. Design adds value that may not always be immediately apparent, but it will increasingly become a crucial factor in determining a product's success.

Looking back in history, figures like Leonardo da Vinci were considered the first designers, as they were able to create works of art that perfectly combined form and function. Leonardo's approach to design was based on art, science, and technology, and this multidisciplinary approach remains crucial to creating high-quality products today. Design has evolved, but the focus on attention to detail, form, function, and technology remains essential. As a product designer, I strive to create products that not only look good but are also functional and can stand the test of time.

5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

As a designer, I have a great appreciation for all types of design, but there are a few that stand out as my personal favorites. Firstly, I have a deep love for fashion design (jewelry design above all, of course!). There is something about creating wearable art that truly excites me. The challenge of combining form and function to create garments that not only look beautiful but are also comfortable and practical to wear is a constant source of inspiration for me.

Secondly (but not least, obviously), product design is another area that I find particularly intriguing. The ability to create objects that people use and interact with on a daily basis is a powerful thing. Good product design can improve people's lives by making their daily tasks easier and more enjoyable. It also offers the opportunity to explore new materials, technologies, and manufacturing processes, which can lead to exciting and innovative solutions.

However, I also find myself drawn to interior design. There is a certain harmony and balance that can be achieved in creating a well-designed space. It relates to my own field of jewelry design in the way that both involve the relationship between people and space. Jewelry is an object that occupies a space on our bodies, while interior design involves creating spaces that we inhabit. I find it fascinating to explore the ways in which design can enhance our experiences in these spaces, and create a sense of comfort, beauty, and functionality.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?
A good design stands the test of time and improves the user's experience. It should be intuitive and easy to use, while also evoking emotions and being memorable. The aesthetics of a design play a crucial role in creating a connection with the user and leaving a lasting impression. A good design should have the power to evoke the desired emotions and create a memorable experience for the user.
7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.
My design style is difficult to describe in just a few words as it draws inspiration from the ever-changing beauty of nature and the fluidity of motion. I aim to create unique and exceptional pieces that reflect my commitment to the craft and embody my passion and creativity. Each design is a reflection of my artistic ethos, which seeks to capture the essence of the world's beauty while respecting it deeply.
8Tell us about your design process.
To begin my design process, I visualize the piece in three dimensions within my mind's eye. This allows for a natural and intuitive transition from my imagination to the finished 3D artwork. I almost always skip the paper and pencil stage and go straight to the modelling phase, whether is carving wax or using 3D software (Rhinoceros 7, Z-Brush). During the process, I may make improvements and changes to the initial concept. The power of my imagination is what makes my work unique and captivating.
9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

My country's cultural heritage has undoubtedly influenced my appreciation of beauty, harmony, and art. However, when it comes to my personal creative process, I don't feel limited by cultural boundaries. Instead, I strive to transcend them and explore new avenues of creative expression.

I draw inspiration from the natural beauty that surrounds me and the many cultures I have encountered throughout my life. While my heritage may inform my work, my creative process is fuelled by my imagination, curiosity, and passion for my craft. I believe my work is a synthesis of tradition and innovation, blending classic forms with contemporary sensibilities to create unique and exceptional pieces.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 NY Product Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
It means a lot to me to receive this award distinction. Personally, it is a great source of satisfaction because creativity often requires courage and belief in oneself and one's dreams. When a panel of international judges recognizes your work as among the best in the world, it provides a boost of energy and self-confidence. This award validates my belief in my dream of becoming a renowned jewelry designer who leaves a mark.
11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 NY Product Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

I entered this project because it represents what I am going through as a person and an artist. It fully embodies the three principles that are fundamental to me: beauty, wearability, and being a bearer of an important message. The most important part of this design is its message, as it symbolizes the moment when change - which also brings destruction and detachment - generates something new and wonderful.

It represents the pinnacle of the process of renewal and transformation that we all, as human beings, must go through sooner or later. The gemstone, a blue topaz, is a metaphor for the human being trying to emerge from the old and escape from limiting and suffocating beliefs. It is a representation of our conscious or unconscious struggles to break free and realize our full potential.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?
To create a piece of jewelry that was both elegant and harmonious while also conveying a message of disruptive change was the biggest challenge with this project. These two concepts appeared to be in complete antithesis, making it difficult to achieve the desired result.
13How has winning an award developed your practice/career?

Winning awards, including this recent one, has been instrumental in developing my practice and career. My journey to establish myself and gain recognition for my talent beyond my local context began with "The Hummingbird," a single earring that won me my first two awards.

Participating in competitions at this level has pushed me to give more and demand perfection, never settling for mediocrity. Despite being told that my demanding and critical nature is a limitation, winning awards like this proves me right and encourages me to continue with my philosophy.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

When it comes to our industry, there are three things that I particularly love.

Firstly, the constant need for research and innovation keeps me on my toes and ensures that my work stays fresh and current.

Secondly, the opportunity to create something new and improved with each project is incredibly rewarding and drives me to push myself further.

Finally, the daily challenges that I face keep me motivated and engaged, ensuring that I never get bored or complacent in my work.

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?

Being Italian, I firmly believe that our country has a unique position in the design industry. Italy has a long and rich history in art and design that dates back to the Roman Empire and beyond. Italian design is renowned for its elegance, sophistication, and attention to detail, and Italian designers have played a significant role in shaping the global design industry.

From fashion to furniture, "Made in Italy" is still a symbol of the best quality and craftsmanship in the world, and our country's reputation in the design world is unmatched.

16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

Over the next 5-10 years, I believe that we will witness a significant evolution in the design industry. The development of new technologies will undoubtedly be a major driving force, with AI starting to make its way into the world of art. As a result, we will likely find ourselves in a very different world, with many of our deeply rooted beliefs and preconceptions being challenged.

Personally, I have always been drawn to technology, which is why I became a CAD/CAM designer. I firmly believe that the collaboration between humans and machines has the potential to lead to incredible and extraordinary developments, and I am excited to see where this partnership takes us in the coming years.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring NY Product Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

My advice would be this: don't limit your imagination, and don't let others discourage you or make you doubt your style. Keep moving forward with passion, and work hard to achieve your goals. Remember that success often requires persistence and perseverance, so don't give up in the face of challenges or setbacks. Keep your focus on your vision and your passion for design, and the results will come in time.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

First and foremost, network and communicate with your peers, as they can offer valuable insights and advice. Utilize social media and the internet as sources of information to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments. Remember to be open-minded and learn from anyone around you, as everyone has something valuable to offer. Be bold, but stay humble.

Finally, if you feel that the world is evolving, don't hesitate to take courses or attend workshops to enhance your skills and keep up with the times. The key is to never stop learning and to always be willing to grow and evolve as a designer.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
When I was young, I had a deep love for art. I dreamt of becoming an art conservator, spending my days surrounded by the beauty and history of some of the world's most precious artworks. While my career path has taken a different direction during my life, my love for art has never waned. Now, my goal is to create beautiful and meaningful pieces of art through my work with jewelry.
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Throughout my life, I've been inspired by a number of people.

Some of these individuals are legendary artists like Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh, who were outsiders like me but changed the world of art forever. They were true visionaries who refused to be limited by convention, and their lives and artworks continue to inspire me to this day.

But the most significant inspirations in my life have been the people closest to me. My parents, Anna Maria and Daniele, started with very little, but they never lost sight of their dreams and pursued their passions with unbridled courage. They instilled in me a sense of fearlessness and determination that has carried me through all of life's ups and downs.

While I won't name them here, I want to thank them for making me stronger and showing me exactly what I don't want to be. Their actions have only fuelled my passion and determination to succeed in the face of any adversity.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Success is not just about talent or luck, it's about working hard and never giving up on your goals. My key to success has always been to be persistent in a positive way. This means having the self-confidence to believe in yourself and your abilities, even when faced with obstacles or setbacks. It means never giving up on your dreams, even when things get tough.

My parting words of wisdom to anyone striving for success in the design industry or any other field are to stay focused, work hard, and keep pushing forward no matter what. With determination and perseverance, anything is possible.

Never stop believing.

22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
I want to take a moment to express my deep gratitude to those who have supported me throughout my journey. Your belief in me has fuelled my passion and dedication to my craft. And while my heart aches with the loss of my father who passed last year, I am committed to honoring his memory by continuing to create art that inspires and moves others. He was proud of me, and I want to continue making him proud by pursuing my passion and creating meaningful art. I will not let anyone down, especially not myself.

Winning Entry


This bangle was inspired by the idea of disruption, which is linked to the concept of rebirth and renewal. The gemstone…
(Read more at NY Product Design Awards)

Eleonora Federici 

Eleonora Federici was raised in a family of famed jewelry shop Gioielleria Marinone in Pavia and was always a creative individual which lead to her being a designer that leaves a lasting impression!

Read more about this interview with Barbara Sala, the Silver Winner of the 2023 NY Product Design Awards.