Leonardo Maldonado

2nd Place - Hollowware

L. Maldonaldo image.jpg

Leonardo Maldonado’s Fantasy Coach is in a class of its own. His fascination with and love of coaches has driven his passion to reproduce them in a smaller size. This coach was inspired by the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. His craftsmanship, artistry and attention to detail make these pieces truly collectible.

About the winning piece:

What materials did you use in the winning piece?
Silver, some 14K gold, a garnet on the top of the coach and pearls.

What processes did you use?
The piece is completely hand-fabricated with flat twisted wire. 14K chain is used inside of the coach. The disks in the center of the wheels are 14K gold. Filigree is also a main component of the piece.

What inspired the piece?
Back in 1981, when Diana and Charles got married, I saw this carriage in their ceremony, and it impressed me a lot. I thought, someday I would like to make a miniature piece that was like it.

How long did it take to make?
I started some years ago. It is hard to tell how long it took to make. It was more like a hobby. To put all the time together, I would say five to six months. The coach is very complex.

What did you learn from the piece?
I learned that patience is a great virtue for anyone, especially on a project like this.

Are you going to sell it?
If someone offers me a fair amount. Otherwise I will donate it to a public organization for display, so many people can enjoy it. It is priceless.

Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?
I have about a half-dozen coaches from past years, and one that is currently 50% finished. I will work on that and then decide if I will make more. I have a great full-time job with a jewelry company.

What do you like most about the piece?
I like it because it looks like the real thing. People can instantly recognize what it is for.

About the Artist

Where do you live?
West Palm Beach, Florida.

Did you study jewelry?
I was born into a family of jewelers. My father had a shop in the house. I got to see and experience it as a child. Making jewelry is like a language you learn as a child from an early age.

When did you discover you loved making jewelry?
When I came to the U.S. when I was 22 years old, I discovered that jewelry was the greatest skill and passion I had and other areas and careers didn’t give me as much opportunity. I didn’t appreciate it so much when I was growing up. Then I was forced to learn the basics.

Do any of your other passions influence your work?
History is one of my favorite subjects. I love studying the evolution of arts from the beginning of humanity. We can learn so much from the past by going back centuries.

Who is your design/jewelry mentor?
My father was very important to me. Sometimes he made his own tools.

When are you most creative?
After the sun goes down. I love being outside until then. When the sun has set, I come in and have time to make what I love.

What is your favorite material to work with?
My favorite materials to work with are silver and gold.

I only work on the coaches. I have a few pieces of jewelry, but my heart is with the coaches.

What do you love about making your objects?
The satisfaction in making them. They are not easy, and they take a long time. Since they take a long time, it is great to see the finished product and to just look and enjoy them.

Describe the first piece of jewelry you made? When was it?
It is hard for me to tell, I started so early. I started by sweeping the floor for the gold in my father’s store. My first piece was probably a simple ring.

What is the one thing you most love about your studio?
My studio is at home in my garage. I don’t work as intensely as I used to. It was easier when I was younger. I am happy with my studio. I like the fact that I am completely isolated from everyone.

What is your favorite tool?
My file.

One word of advice you received when starting to make jewelry?
Just be yourself and don’t be afraid to get something accomplished.

What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?
Be yourself. Believe in yourself. Try to accomplish what seems to be a challenge.

What work inspires you?
Fabergé. His pieces are just incredible.

What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud of?
Pulling together traditional jewelry techniques and fine craftsmanship, such as filigree, and using them in the present. It is a statement of the past. It is all part of the history of jewelry making.

What jeweler would you most like to have dinner with or visit their studio?
Fabergé if he was alive but having dinner while looking at his work would be so exciting! 

About the Saul Bell Design Award:

What did you feel when you found out you were a winner?
It was a great feeling. This contest is not easy to win. I have great respect for all the artists who have won. I was hoping to be a finalist. It is a great feeling.

What made you decide to enter the competition?
Because I have so many pieces I thought to enter one of them to see what would happen. I showed it to a few people and they recommended that I enter.

Have you entered before? When?
Last year I was a finalist.

Interview by Marlene Richey