Francesca Vitali Paper Jewellery Artist - USA

How did you first become involved with paper?

I have always folded paper since I was a kid. My parents’ store, among other things used to run a lotto stand and the play-slips were everywhere and they were perfect to make really everything my mind could think about out of paper. That’s where I started folding and playing with paper. 

How and where do you mainly source your paper?

I have been collecting paper for very long time. I even moved to the States with a suitcase full of paper (as if I wouldn’t have found paper here, I know crazy!!). I’m not very selective about the source, meaning I like to use any kind of paper. What attracts me to a certain kind rather than another are the colors and the story behind it. The memory that it carries.

I also have a paper bag collection that I started without even thinking and now it has bags from all over the world, because that’s what friends bring me back from their travels. Each piece made with those bags are very special to me.

Discuss the importance of folding in the construction of your jewellery. 

Folding is the foundation of the work. It is what gives the structure and the strength to each piece. It is based on the repetition of the same movements over and over, each piece can easily contain 1000 folds and more. Definitively it is the most time consuming part of each piece but it is also the step that I love the most, the core of each piece, when an idea becomes an object. Pure magic to me!

Does the number of folds give the strength or is it the grade ?

I know it will sound counter intuitive, but the short answer is neither.

The number of folds has more to do with the shape of the piece. And as for the grade of the paper I rather work with thin paper in multiple layers that thick (stronger if you will) paper.

You also use metals along with paper in many of your jewellery pieces, Expand on the combination of metal and paper.  

At the beginning of my professional carrier I felt I needed metal as a way to increase the perceived value of the paper itself, as if paper was not enough. Later, I switched completely to no metal at all. It felt like I was betraying my beloved raw material (we can call it the I don’t care what you think about my work period 😉 )

Today, I’m less worried about the value or the perceived value of my work. You can say I’m more confident in my collectors, I know now that they understand and love paper as much as I do. Therefore I started to use some metal again as part of the design when and where it is esthetically required. And I find myself using more and more steel. I love its sturdiness its color combined with paper. 

Can you discuss your bracelet ‘Solido’ and briefly explain the technique used in this piece? 

This bracelet is one of my very first piece that I have made only with paper, and I keep going back to it. I love everything about it, the simplicity of the shape the minimalism if you will, but then if you look closer you can see each single fold and how intricate it really is. And I love that I can play with colors and color combo and paper patterns while making it. It has endless possibilities to my eyes. But what my collectors like the most about it is the light weight despite the size especially when you wear more than one.

Wearability is often the question with paper jewellery.  What is the best way to look after your pieces especially bracelets?

It is actually very easy to care for the jewelry because they are very sturdy and very durable. Once the piece is completed the paper is treated with acrylic medium which makes it water resistant, so every piece can be worn in the rain.

Expand on your jewellery and how you have used the natural shape of a spiral?

My formal training is in science (I have a PhD in organic chemistry) and my mind works very ‘mathematically’, and I’m attracted by repetition and math problems and more often than not my designs are informed by chemical structures and molecules in a very subconscious way.  And that’s where the spiral comes from.


Discuss your use of colour and the movement through one colour to another.

Sometimes this is a very controlled process where I use strictly mathematic formula to blend colors and sometime I just let the paper (especially the  recycled one) do the work for me, and when I do that I have to restrain myself from controlling the final result. It can be very hard, because I don’t know how the final piece will look like until the end, and there is no guarantee I’ll like it.

Your most recent pieces you have added gold leaf, is the applied before you start to fold?

The gold leaf is applied after the weaving and before the sealing.

You are currently debuting this new necklace at the Smithsonian craft show, in Washington DC.  Explain a bit about this show.

In terms of craft shows in US this is one of the best, it is very competitive and to be juried in is considered a Medal of Honor and a privileged among the craft community.       

          Size The show is pretty small I think 120 artists

Discuss the importance of transformation from recycled paper to beautiful jewellery.

Paper is a media that allows me to play with memories in a totally different way than other media. Paper comes to me with its own story, and it is up to me to preserve it or sometimes even destroy it.

What is there not to love about it?


How often does your jewellery surprise people – by this are they always aware that the material is paper?

Very often, I have been asked if my work is 3D printed, if it leather, plastic or even wood. And then when they start looking closer at the paper, every single person will try to understand what kind of paper it is, which to me is great, I can see how connected people are with such an humble and everyday material, we all have stories about paper, it is so familiar to us. And this is what I love about it! 

Is print a problem?

Not at all! I actually have a body of work that is all made with an Italian poem that I printed over and over and then cut in strips and used for all the edges of the pieces.

Contact details:

Francesca Vitali, USA

INSTAGRAM       @FrancescaVitali.PaperJewelry

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, September, 2017