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December 9, 2011

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Paloma Picasso makes a name for herself

JEWELRY designer Paloma Picasso, the daughter of 20th century artist Pablo Picasso, says the family name can be a blessing and a curse.

"When you have a name like mine, on one hand, it surely makes your life easier; but on the other hand, people can be nasty to you," she says.

Paloma Picasso carries on the family's artistic tradition, but has her own style and sensibilities. It helps that she works in a completely different medium, which means critics can't compare her work to her father's.

She says her father taught her many valuable lessons.

"Like my father taught me: you can be gifted but that is not enough," the 62-year-old says. "You have to really work hard to achieve something. Every time he became acclaimed for his work, he moved on to something else.

"Very often when people become famous they forget they are just human beings. That's another thing I learned from my father: always be humble and do your best."

Paloma Picasso is known for her boldly original style defined by brilliant colored gemstones, which she combines to create powerful, modern statements in her jewelry.

For 31 years she has been an exclusive Tiffany designer and she visited Shanghai last month, at the same time some of her father's paintings were being exhibited at the China Pavilion at the former World Expo site.

She is an avid traveler and often draws inspiration from her trips. Collections like Marrakesh were inspired by Morocco while her new collection Venezia is a tribute to the water city Venice, Italy.

"Sometimes it's hard for me to pinpoint where the inspiration comes from but the recent collection Zellige is obvious," she says. Paloma Picasso says a zellige is a special kind of mosaic used predominately in Morocco.

"As I was very excited to see the beautiful zellige pattern on the fountain in our home, my husband Eric said, 'why don't you try to use it in your jewelry?' That started it,'' she says.

All of the pieces were designed to reflect the vivid colors and exotic elements of Marrakesh where Paloma Picasso lives part of the year, dividing time between there and her home in Geneva, Switzerland.

A lifelong traveler, Picasso has incorporated the art and culture of many exotic places in her work. Having visited Venice from the time she was a teenager, she developed a particular fascination for the city.

"Venice is another city I fell in love with," she says. "It is very mysterious and dreamy and the fact you are surrounded by the water makes it one-of-a-kind. The juxtaposition of the styles from every century is represented in the city."

The magical atmosphere of Venice, the reflections on the water and the swirls in Venetian grillwork have been captured and transformed into a newly launched jewelry series.

Through jewelry, Paloma Picasso has expressed her passion for life. Before joining Tiffany, she was commissioned by famed couturier Yves Saint Laurent to design jewelry to complement his collections. Later she designed gold jewelry for the House of Zolotas, where she perfected her skills.

Born in Paris in 1949, Paloma Picasso spent her childhood in Paris and the South of France surrounded by artists. Her father named her Paloma, which means bird of peace in Spanish. The great painter has portrayed his youngest daughter in some of his paintings such as "Paloma with an Orange," and "Paloma in Blue."

When her father died in 1973, she took a hiatus from designing jewelry to catalogue the artist's estate and help establish the Musee Picasso in Paris. She briefly lost interest in designing, at which time she played Countess Erzsebet Bathory in Polish film maker Walerian Borowczyk's erotic film, "Immoral Tales" (1974), receiving praise from critics for her beauty.

In 1979, then-Tiffany design director John Loring invited her to present a table setting for one of the brand's exhibitions. A year later, Tiffany introduced Paloma Picasso's first exclusive collection, which was instantly embraced for its innovative "graffiti" shapes, bold scale and brilliant color contrasts.

A savvy eye can pinpoint a Paloma Picasso piece a mile away. Loring describes her designs as "aggressively chic and uncompromisingly stylized."

"I like big statement jewelry, which also looks good on me. My tendency is to create things striking which might also relate to the fact that I started to wear red lipstick at the time that was not fashionable at all," she says.

Paloma Picasso feels she has a great deal of artistic freedom with Tiffany & Co, which has allowed her to be flexible with her creative process. "Other jewelers don't have designers under their names, which shows how secure and strong Tiffany is. Besides a lot of freedom, they also give me lots of expertise on stones, manufacturing, presentation, which makes my life easier," she says.

In recognition of her achievements in jewelry design, two American museums have acquired her work for their permanent collections. Housed in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History is her 396.30-carat kunzite necklace. And visitors to The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago can view her 408.63-carat moonstone bracelet accented with diamond "lightning bolts."

Paloma Picasso says she enjoys her life with her husband Eric Thevenet, living between Geneva and Marrakesh.

"My great pleasure in life," she says, "is no day is like one before and one after."


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