“Working with one’s hands is a slow, painstaking process that requires a patience unseen in today’s society — but is more vital now than ever before.” Isabelle Guédon
Recycling rough materials into miniature sculptures meant to be worn, Mio Studio crafts new life from exotic hardwoods and metals. Artists Mayra Orama Muñiz and Erica Millner hand carve and sand each piece from start to finish, using their years of experience to meld remnants together into clean, modern designs.
The jewelry of Mayra Orama Muñiz and Erica Millner is another welcome stirring of the pot. Their geometric, architectural work seems like it would be made with metal, but in fact utilizes a combination of precious metal and wood. Their bracelets have sculptural elements, such as a three-part bangle that features each of the three curving arches interlocking into a single smooth piece that has a sense of rotational power. Their geode-like necklace has a satisfying heft of shape, with each wooden “bead,” matte charcoal black, populated by dots of silver to break up monotony. The use of wood stems from their first craft fairs in Puerto Rico, where they began their career. “There were many ‘rules’ about making crafts that reflected the historical crafts of the island. Artisans were accepted to craft fairs based on their use of traditional materials. We started using seeds from palm trees and vines to create our jewelry. Many people were doing the same thing so we started using exotic woods that were readily available. We would go to the local wood mill and select the pieces that would otherwise be burned or discarded. The wood was so unbelievably beautiful that we were inspired to use its grain, tone and color to create sculptural jewelry.”
Muñiz and Millner have been doing art fairs for years in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Having begun their jewelry careers in 1998, they attended roughly fifty art fairs every year in a wide range of locales, from the Museum of Art in San Juan to “a dusty field in Moca.” As with Kaoru Izushi, Muñiz and Millner show that there is a sizeable pool of artists who have plenty of experience in shows yet only now have gained the opportunity to attend a higher venue, about which they are similarly enthusiastic. “We are very grateful and excited,” Millner says. For Millner and Muñiz, the Smithsonian Craft Show gave them an excuse to experiment with their work and push the edge of their artistic envelope.
-Patrick R. Benesh-Liu