Born in Italy to an Italian journalist father and an American mother, Francesca Lacagnina spent her first decade living in some of the great cities of antiquity – Cairo, Beirut, Athens and Rome. When her parents divorced, she moved with her mother and sister to San Francisco. “Both my parents were very classical, in their styles,” she describes. “My father had that elegance that’s so quintessentially Italian. And in the way that they both lived, the way they surrounded themselves with beauty, and the rich visual language I was exposed to as a child, all of these have deeply influenced me.”
Francesca enjoyed a successful career in both fine art and commercial photography for 20 years. As a photo illustrator and fashion photographer, her work was commissioned for scores of major ad campaigns, and covers that ranged from Neiman Marcus book to Time Magazine. Her fine art photographs have been represented by many galleries.
For Francesca. making jewelry began as a personal exploration, one she hadn’t intended to pursue as a vocation. “I have always loved working with my hands” she notes. “Over time, photography was becoming less satisfying to me as a means of expression and meaning. I wanted to tear it apart, collage it, mix it up. Making jewelry, I found my true medium, where my ideas flow easily, the process of creating pieces is fluid, and the end result is textured and tactile and feels good – and has a feeling of being made by hand. I like making pieces that people can wear every day, that become a part of who they are – and yet have an elemental feel, as though someone has worn them over the centuries.
Francesca works with no set ideas, preferring to work intuitively. She draws inspiration from the classical forms that informed her aesthetic as a child, and weds them to shapes and textures she finds in nature. Her garden and daily walks are continual sources of inspiration. Francesca’s eye is drawn to the small, overlooked folds of nature: the intricate whirls of a fern; a seed pod’s dense chambers; fat, convoluted flower buds; the details in a withered stalk of a dahlia; the anatomy of a pine cone – the underpinnings of life. There’s a purity and a directness in these found objects that Francesca retains in her “finished” pieces.
Everything is connected. “That’s what I love about jewelry,” she says. “It encompasses history, mythology, personal feelings. it connects with every culture and speaks to it. It connects us with the meanings of stones, their healing qualities.” The forms of antiquity and of the natural world that find their way into Francesca’s pieces are transformed by a modern sensibility, into jewelry that’s fresh and contemporary, but never loses sight of it’s roots.