by Eleonora Varotto

María Helena González is a Colombian artist.

I chose her jewel among those selected at the contest Maratón Joyero to discover more since I was very impressed by the artist’s artistic research. I met María Helena during a video call and here’s what she told me…

EV_This sculptural jewel, almost architectural, hides a very significant story for your country can you tell us about it? Where did you get inspiration for this specific structure?

MHG_ Hello Eleonora, first of all I wanna thank you for this wonderful opportunity to talk about my work. Of course, I would love to tell you the story of this jewel.

The title of the piece is “Campos de Libertad”. It was born thanks to an open call made by a Company in Colombia; they invited many artists to present works with different techniques, including jewelry, with the aim to describe the narratives of the most significant events that occurred in the period between 1810-1819 namely the deeds and the process of independence of the Colombian territory.

There my research process began and I started visiting the Museum of Independence located in Bogotá – Colombia, reviewing websites related to the most important events of that time, paintings, speeches, monuments and much more.

“Campos de Libertad” is inspired by the Temple of the Liberator Simón Bolívar that was built in Bogotá to commemorate the first centenary of the birth of the liberator of my country. It is a work built by the Italian architect Pietro Cantini and it was inaugurated in 1883. Inside the temple there is a sculpture by Simón Bolívar. This place is a significant reminder of the history and struggle for independence in Colombia.

From this architectural work was born the desire to transform it into a canvas to represent the most symbolic aspects related to the independence of the Republic of Colombia between 1810 and 1819.

EV_Can you tell us about the creative process behind this jewel that can be worn both as a pendant and a brooch?

MHG_During the process of incursion into this wonderful world of jewelry, which started 10 years ago, I was struck by the jewelry with movement, those with which you can play, versatile, those that complement each other between the various parts; and this became my reason for being.

With this in mind, I began to wonder how I could merge that raison d’être with the way to creatively and innovatively tell the story of the independence of my country, Colombia. At the beginning, various ideas emerged to tell this story, such as making a storybook or a bracelet with different scenes of the most representative events of the independence. However, thanks to the research process that led me to learn the history of the Templete del Libertador, I was able to organize my ideas to transform it into the piece “Campos de Libertad”.

During the research process I found that not only people (men and women) were the protagonists of the struggle for independence, but also animals and nature itself played a fundamental role for the freedom of my country. So I wanted all these aspects to be represented in the piece.

It is curious, because I remember that the first collection I developed in 2018 was inspired by the domes and the temple that now served me of inspiration had a dome at the top, so I felt very calm working with something I already knew.

In this way, I started the design process on paper with several sketches; then I selected the materials that for my case were silver and glass, worked with techniques of assembly, draught, sausage, textured finishes, glass fusion and glass carving. I also spent much of my time designing and selecting the images that would be part of the piece such as: silhouettes of horses, riders, swords and spears for the dome; silhouettes of laurel wreaths and Simon Bolivar on his horse for the back of the dome; design of silhouettes of the protagonists of the independence as Simon Bolivar, Policarpa Salavarrieta and images of the Battle of Boyacá and the Monument of the lancers of the Swamp of Vargas, which served for the brooches.

My vision of the piece was always focused towards versatility, so “Freedom Fields” is like a small jewel where the dome becomes a charm that, thanks to its circular movement gives the impression of soldiers riding through the fields. The four “walls” between column and column become small brooches that can be separated and worn in jackets or dresses, in bags or other garments.

When you stop using them, you place the press charm at the top of the columns, the chain of the charm is hidden between the columns and you put the brooches back in the mini temple, which serves as a support for all the pieces of jewelry.

It is a piece measuring only 5 centimeters high and 4.7 centimeters in diameter that relates in a delicate and wonderful way symbolic aspects related to the independence of Colombia.

EV_Materials also play a very important role. How do you use glass?

MHG_”Campos de Libertad” is a piece of jewelry made in 925 sterling silver. The dome at the top represents the brave soldiers who, on their horses, roam the vast fields with spears, swords and waving flags in their fight for freedom.

The bottom of the dome is a polished concave dichroic glass worked with the vitrofusion technique that represents the beauty of our territories with diversity of colors and textures, on which the liberating troops were mobilized represented in the openwork dome with four horses and their soldiers, separated by four spears that join in the center of the dome. The dome can move in a circular way and gives the impression of the soldiers riding through the fields.

Dichroic glass is a special material because when working with the glassfusion technique it represents for me the so diverse nature of our country, which resembles a “patchwork quilt”, with a variety of textures, colors and landscapes.

I started working with glass in 2018 with the first collection I presented at an international fair in my country: Expoartesanías. Why? Well, my dad is a watchmaker who for 40 years has worked with watch glasses polishing and repairing them. Seeing him work with glass every day made me curious enough to include this material in my jewelry to give color to the pieces.

In 2023 dad and I took a vitrofusion course and started to include glass in jewelry in a creative and innovative way, like a canvas to tell stories. We have also been inclined by the versatility of dichroic glass to give some differentiating and unique nuances to jewelry, because melting it will never give you the same pattern; it is like a luminous chameleon that transforms with light and captivates our senses. They are all handmade unique pieces.

EV_What is the main message you want to convey through this jewel to your viewers and to Colombia as a whole?

MHG_In every inch of this jewel, beats the heart of our history, the passion of our heroes and the tireless struggle for freedom. “Freedom Fields” is more than a piece of jewelry; it is a tribute to the courage and determination of those who forged our independence.

– El Templete del Libertador: Inspired by this iconic monument, it represents the courage and determination of those who fought for independence.

-The Dome: As the dome separates from the columns, we too can free ourselves from the bonds and find our own voice. Every movement of the dome evokes our tireless struggle.

– The dichroic glass base of the dome: with its changing colors, it represents the diversity and beauty of our territories. It is a reminder that freedom is woven in the wealth of our land.

– The Pines of history: the pieces that become pins are like fragments of our collective memory that inspire us to move forward: Simon Bolivar, Policarpa Salavarrieta, the Boyacá Bridge and the lancers of the Swamp of Vargas.

– The transparent glass of the pins: through it, we see the story clearly and remember that freedom is fragile and must be protected.

In “Campos de Libertad”, we carry history in our bosom, independence in our lapels and hope in our hands. It is a reminder that we are part of something bigger: a nation that fought for its freedom and continues to fight for a better future.
EV_What does the future hold for you? Are we lucky enough to see you here in Europe?

MHG_I am excited for what the future holds and although it is a blank canvas full of possibilities, I want to continue participating in competitions, create my website, publicize my creations so that the world appreciates the magic of our jewels, rejoice to see them, feel love for nature, fly, take an interest in the story they hide and have fun with them.

I have always dreamed of traveling and exploring different cultures, and Europe is definitely a destination I would like to visit to experience the beauty and history it offers; and, although I cannot confirm a trip to that continent at this time, I’m excited for the ability to connect with everyone through social media and share my work, creating meaningful gems that connect with people and tell stories.

You can contact the artist  through her Instagram @joyashelenbrila and her email
                    Editorial written and laid out by HOOROON Editor, Eleonora Varotto. @hooroon__
Interview with María Helena González
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