Editor’s Note: Meet Sofia Henriques, the stunning jewelry maker behind the limited edition pieces of SHAMA. After stalking her on various social sites, mesmerized by her work – including her Disruptive Diva necklace – I eventually sweet-talked her into lunch at Chef Kiko’s A Cevicheria in downtown Lisbon where we spent the better part of an afternoon bantering over design, dreams and her future in Portuguese jewelry design. Below you’ll find the highlights of our conversation.
1. Who is this Disruptive Diva and why is she so passionate about design?
I’ve always been passionate for design. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to textures, colors, antiques, art, fashion, crafts, DIY etc, a residual effect from my summer holidays in Coimbra. The women in my family were gifted with their hands, producing linen, carpets and new clothing from tattered, old pieces that others might throw away. I never did! Today, my grandmother’s retro outfits are not only in fashion, but share a story from my past. Spending lazy summer days in the country also cultivated my appreciation for nature as I tagged along with my grandparents to help with field work. Every stick, stone and flower displayed unique contours, colors and texture. As a child, it fascinated me! This sensitivity to sensual experiences also played out in food and art. With my mother, I gained an appreciation for quality and authenticity in ingredients, while her painting of princess in gouache were mesmerizing. I grew up in rooms blanketed in canvases, brushes, rollers, paints and sprays. I experimented, played, hosted exhibitions and of course, absorbed everything I could. My childhood was a tapestry of sensual experiences!
2. You could have been a painter, or an underwater basket weaver, why jewelry?
My very first contact with jewelry was on a trip to Montreal, Canada, to visit my boyfriend’s family. His mother was jewelry designer and showed me how to craft basic pieces. I was so inspired, that when I came back to Portugal – jobless at the time – I signed up for a jewelry course. It was incredible to work with fine materials, to appreciate how vastly different the process was depending on the final piece. I worked with leather, brass, copper, fabrics and stones. I fell in love with coral, turquoise, shells and african beads. I was inspired by everything I touched, everywhere I went and everyone I met. Eventually, I took the leap and launched my own business. But jewelry is just one of my passions. Lately, I’ve also became interested in furniture restoration, but of course time and patience to devote to it is a challenge. I’m dying to restore my grandparent’s antique desk that’s been saturated in a thousand layers of green, pink and gold paint to expose its natural wood! Eventually!
3. Is jewelry design a hot trend in Portugal right now?
In fact, the art of craft is fashionable right now in Portugal, which includes: jewelry, knitting, furniture restoration, clothing, pottery, basketry, carpet, cork, ceramics, etc. There are a number of factors which have, in my opinion, led to this boom. First off, while many people have had a similar experiences growing up around crafty grandmothers, others are simply tired of what conventional stores are offering. Plus, the Portuguese are now valuing the entire handmade, Made in Portugal, movement of small, independent producers who are reviving the old-school traditions. Who knew that cobertores de papa or chinelos de farrapos would become fashionable again? And in fact, both are gorgeous! This notion of going back to your roots can also be seen in food. Just take a look at the boom in organic markets and rooftop gardens in the city.
4. Beyond filigree, does Portugal have any native styles or famous jewelers?
Filigree is undoubtedly the touted jewelry style throughout Portugal. This highly delicate and lengthy process has been in existence since 2500BC! Only now has it become a worldwide trend, as a result of both the craft movement and noted artists. For example, Euleutério seamlessly combines ancient with modern design, while Valentim Quaresma repurposes materials to make larger than life designs. I also love Cecilia Ribeiro‘s work, because she integrates cork into a natural, organic forms. It’s breathtaking!
5. How would you describe your jewelry, what makes it unique?
I love creating pieces in limited editions. Every piece of jewelry is unique with a singular element that helps it stand on its own. These elements might include baroque pearls, exotic fabrics, antique silks, semi precious stones, African beads, as well as leather and copper. For me, it’s essential that every piece transmits a sense of excitement with a touch of wild abandon.
6. What’s the backstory on your company’s name, SHAMA?
My name is Sofia Henriques. I knew I wanted a name that would integrate the “SH” and sound Portuguese. After playing around, I eventually integrated my 3 other names: Alexandra, Maia and Almeida, which gave me the intials “AMA”. And voila! SHAMA was born, with the small addition of “for you”.
7. Would you consider Portugal a creative and crafty country?
Absolutely! Just look at the toys from Madeira, the bellows of Mirandela, the lacework of Ervideira, the Alentejo hand-painted furniture, the intricate masks of Bemposta, the wicker baskets of the Algarve and the weaving tradition of Almalaguês… just to name a few. Many of these stunning Portuguese crafts are now being widely disseminated thanks to new designers who’ve taken advantage of these old school traditions. Using age old methods, they’ve simply added their own contemporary twist, and relaunched a new, exciting product. A great example of this Tóino Abel‘s reed handbags. By adding leather straps and fastenings, he provided a new exciting feel to an old tradition.
8. If someone is visiting Portugal, are there places people can learn to make traditional Portuguese jewelry?
There are plenty of jewelry schools and workshops in Portugal – mostly to the art of filigree. Mind you, this is an art, which takes years of discipline and practice, but if you’re keen to get a small taste of it, contact Catavino for more information.
9. Where can people find your work?
Sofia, thank you so much for sharing your dreams and visions with us, and with luck, we’ll have more info about your jewerly making workshops in the near future!