“Battered metal” – this is the Instagram biography of Mutter, a UK based jewelry brand founded by Helena Vieira. The phrase, which recalls the strength and malleability of Vieira’s choice materials, is an apt description for this.
The designer, who discovered her passion for metalwork during her studies in Lisbon, traces a path between hard and soft, vigor and delicacy. A phallic appendage, reminiscent of the pistil of a flower, springs from a heart-shaped charm engraved with the word “baby”. A pair of gold mermaid hoop earrings, mythological temptresses, after the Venus of Willendorf, the oldest known representation of women. A literal “penis ring” resonates over the ouroboros, replacing a circular snake with a penis that appears to eat itself.
As ironic as Vieira’s creations are, they exude a deep meaning. You can almost feel the craftsmanship that went into creating these tokens – the tactile nature of the rounded, globular shapes Vieira works with isn’t too difficult; instead, they mimic the organic nature of something you might find washed up on shore, perfectly worn by the waves. They are pieces meant to be cherished as both objects and modes of self-expression.
We spoke with Vieira about the connection between strong women and jewelry, as well as the inspiration behind her designs.
How did you originally get involved in jewelry design and what prompted you to start Mutter?
It was not a linear path. I took a beginner [jewelry-making] Classes [in Lisbon] for a few weeks and loved it, but with a degree to complete and a new love for photography, I didn’t think about jewelry until I moved to London four or five years later. At this point in my life, I was trying to find my way, a path in which I felt connected to my ancestors, strong women, and my passion for metalworking. It took experimenting with metal in different ways and slowly uncovering memories of spending time at my grandmother’s house with my mom, delving into their past in their jewelry cabinets and drawers. I wanted to be entangled in this world on a daily basis and share it with others.
You have a background in metal forging and sword making. Can you explain how these two professions influence your work with jewelry?
I developed an obsession with blades quite early in my work with metal. They are sensual and deadly and hold a tension that appeals to me. The act of forging is incredibly powerful in a metaphysical sense, from the chemical elements in steel to the act of using fire and water to anneal and quench. Hitting while the iron is hot using the right amount of balance, force, and precision feels like poetry in motion and I try to encapsulate this damaged quality in my designs, even when I sculpt them in stone. wax.
Who or what inspires your creations?
I think my work maintains a tension between the sensual, the daring and the bizarre. Each collection focuses on different experiences in my life, from clean lines drawn from industrial components (my experience in product design), to the design of inspired forged and mudlark objects (my affinity with forging metals and antique jewelry) , to the feeling of isolation in the first lock and sculpting penises in wax as a means of invoking human connection. This current collection with flower blooming women is what I wanted to feel emerging in the spring after last winter’s lockdown.
Mutter means mother in German. How did you choose this name?
Since I was born, the women in my family have always given me jewelry. You keep these offerings with you until you pass them on or pass away. My mom and grandmother wore a lot of jewelry all the time; it was like an inextricable part of who they were. As a child, I would often sneak into their rooms to browse their treasures and sometimes they would tell me stories about them. I have this memory of visiting an abandoned family home where my grandmother grew up and finding family jewels, like treasures lost in time. These memories are precious to me and catalyzed my desire to connect with ancestry through jewelry.
Some of your recent work integrates male and female anatomy. How do sex and gender play into your designs?
I have a loving personality and I think it shows in my work. Sometimes I like to beat around the bush with an abstract approach and other times I get straight to the point. I consider these pieces as testimonies of this kind of expression.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can talk about?
I started a long term and ongoing project with photographer Renate Ariadne in which we each respond to each other’s work through photography and jewelry. This year, I also plan to start offering home accessories and small sculptures as part of my range.