Around the World

Everyone and everything has a story… the why that molds us and the what the drives us. Formerly unknown tales transform mystery into relevancy — giving purpose and a reason to life.

Each Interi piece hales from different corners of the world, crafted by human hands and nature itself. From deep beneath the surface of Brazil to the ornate churches of Italy, the sculptural formation has a history like no other. Follow the story of our featured piece, the “Floridian”, across time and space.

Four Components, Four Continents

When Artist Jean O’Reilly Barlow creates, she composes sculptural pieces using an eclectic combination of wooden artifacts, precious minerals, and organic shells. “The Floridian” is made of four key elements: the artifact, mineral base, tourmaline decoration, and shell accents — all coming from different parts of the world. 

1. The Wooden Artifact - Tuscany, Italy

The 18th century artifact originally came from an Italian church in Tuscany. It was hand-carved by skilled artisans who specialized in religious pieces, procured by leaders in the Catholic church to create — and to create for the church only.

The artisans learned their knowledge from their ancestors, and the craft was passed on from generation to generation. In 18th century Italy, one’s artisanal destiny was chosen by his lineage: if one’s father was a wood carver, he became a wood carver. From a young age, the father would instruct his son on technique, form, and creative detail. This was an expansive passage of knowledge that transitioned from creation to restoration.

Italian Church
Catholic church in Tuscany; visited by Jean O'Reilly Barlow in Spring 2019.

Once carved, the piece traveled from the carver’s workshop to the nunnery, where nuns decorated the church pieces with paint or gold leaf.

This particular piece includes leaf and flower motif detail. The foliage is hand-painted with gold leaf, and would have framed a prominent church icon due to its intricacy. 

2. Magnetite in Pyrite Mineral Base - New Mexico, USA

The mineral base holds golden hues of the pyrite in a blackish magnetite. Mined from New Mexico, the magnetite and pyrite in its matrix is a rare mix of two distinct gemstones.

Magnetite

Magnetite is the most magnetic of all naturally-occurring minerals on earth. Black in color, it can also be found in Europe and Australia. Wilhelm Karl von Haidinger named the mineral in 1845 after discovering the metallic gem in Magnesia, Greece

It went on to be used for audio recording due to its magnetic properties in 1930s Germany.

Pyrite

Named from the Greek word for fire (pyr), pyrite can create sparks and start a fire when struck against metal or stone. This property once made it useful for firearms, but its use has since transitioned to jewelry and collecting.

Known as “fools gold”, pyrite appears to be gold to the untrained eye as the two form together under similar conditions. Gold can even occur as inclusions inside the pyrite itself.

Pyrite is constantly being investigated for energy and semiconductor properties. Most recently, a group of MIT researchers used pyrite to create solar energy.

Combined in Matrix

From MIT researchers to Jean Barlow, the mineral combination creates artistic energy. The prominent aspect of black magnetite with gold in pyrite makes it a rare specimen that has been coined as ‘Healer’s Gold’ and brings together the colors of the piece itself.

3. Gold Leaf Shell Decoration - Indian Ocean

Shells from the Indian Ocean adorn the piece to emulate the shape and color of the sculpture. 

Looking back at time, shells formed originally as the bodies of sea animals. The shells are now empty as the animals decomposed, passing on the beautiful shape to mankind as they washed on shore.

Seashells have been used as a currency in various places, including this particular form of shell found in the Indian Ocean, and also in North America, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Seashells have also been used as musical instruments, wind trumpets for war, and tools due to their strength and variety of shapes.

More artistically, the shells found their home as jewelry and architectural decoration. Small pieces of colored and iridescent shell have been used to create mosaics and inlays featured in prominent palaces and preserved historic sites.

Interi incorporates these shells as decoration – creating a work of art with nautical interpretation. As the nuns painted the artifacts gold by hand, so does Artist Jean O’Reilly Barlow, who finely gold-leafed the shells herself to coordinate with the historic artifact, mirroring its age and aesthetic.

4. Tourmaline in Quartz Decoration - Minas Gerais, Brazil

Finally, the tourmaline in quartz matrix accents the overall piece. The tourmaline’s black and gemmy green color coordinates with the green painted berry and leaf foliage.

Tourmalinated quartz is clear rock crystal that has grown together with black tourmaline, showcasing strands of the tourmaline running through the quartz, hence “tourmalinated”. The earliest use of tourmalinated quartz was for tools made by hominids in Ethiopia over 2 million years ago.

Quartz is able to generate an electric charge, and has been used in watches, microphones, and speakers. Whether the rich black inclusions bubble through it or are discreet like the stroke of a fine ink pen, tourmalinated quartz is stunning, but easily confused.

In the 1500s, a Spanish conquistador found green tourmaline in Brazil, but he mistook it for an emerald. His error held until the 1800s, when mineralogists finally identified tourmaline as its own mineral species. The confusion about the stone’s identity is even reflected in its name, which comes from toramalli, which means “mixed gems” in Sinhalese (a language of Sri Lanka). Today, it is rare to find fine gem-quality tourmaline in bright colors as are found on this feature piece.

Coming Together as One

From four corners of the world, these four elements of the Italian artifact, American magnetite with pyrite, Filipino shells, and Brazilian tourmaline are put together in a sculptural form. This creates a piece that appears to have evolved together, as each component has done, over time. Interpreting the past to create a piece entirely original, evolving in its own right… from Europe & Asia, South & North America… right to your home.

International in context and historical in significance: Interi’s “Floridian.”

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