Interview with Jewelry Designer Mia Anter

Born in Istanbul, raised between there and Miami, and now based in Brooklyn, Mia Anter is the jewelry designer behind Plutonia Blue. I first met Mia through our mutual friend, Michelle Silver, another hugely talented artist and wonderful woman, at Michelle's wedding ceremony in upstate New York last summer. I remember immediately feeling Mia's warmth when she hugged me, welcoming me with pure affection. When I saw the earrings she specially made for Michelle to wear during the ceremony, I got a deeper glimpse into the enchantment I initially sensed radiating from Mia. Her compassion, artistry, and charm touch all those she interacts with and permeate all that she creates. I was able to talk to Mia more about her practice, her inspiration, and her family to find out just where her magic comes from. Take a look.     

When did you first discover jewelry-making? How did you learn the craft? Can you tell us about your process? What goes into making a piece like your Tulip Earrings for example?

I started making jewelry in middle school, mostly because the things that I wanted and dreamt of did not exist in the world around me. With metalwork in particular, I became possessed by the idea quite suddenly. I was drawn to the perceived immutability of metal, the use of ancient tools, the role of fire. I got an internship with my favorite jeweler for 6 months, then took a few classes. Mostly I learned through experimentation and play. I was enamored, and then obsessed! There is alchemy in every aspect of this work, and it has been deeply enriching. 

My process is very chaotic and feverish. Mostly I'm a category 5 hurricane when I'm at the bench. And after 8 hours, by some fucking miracle, I find myself staring at this strange still life of objects. I try to leave them scarred - so the wearer can see the hammer strikes, the file marks, the light charring from fire. Their transition from the mental realm into the physical one is hellish in every sense. Each mark is a badge of honor.

Most of my pieces are symbols I've seen in dreams. I'm terrible at sketching so I "think out" most of my pieces as I'm making them. Kinda like sketching in metal. Whenever I feel stuck, I deconstruct a symbol I've already made and re-imagine it as an exercise. The tulip earring is by far the most feminine piece I've made - all hips and lips. It was inspired by old Islamic motifs I'd seen in mosques but became much more erotic in execution.

Tulip Earrings

Tulip Earrings

Reina Earrings

Reina Earrings

Can you tell us about the name Plutonia Blue? What is the meaning behind it? What is the inspiration for your designs - many of them seem to be hieroglyphs in a sense - like the Reina Earrings...are they symbolic of a particular idea or concept?

The name carries a lot of meaning, but I've found it impossible to verbalize. It conjures up otherworldly, dystopian, melancholic imagery to me. I'll have to leave it at that for now. 

My biggest source of inspiration has come from one particular object - the first metal object I fell in love with as a child - the alem. It is the gilded crescent that sits atop the mosques in Istanbul. I see it in every piece I make, and I never stray far from it. The crescent symbol is featured heavily in my work, and it is also the most literal. The other symbols and sigils are, as you said, hieroglyphs from my subconscious. A strange dream language that reveals it's meaning once it exists physically. The Reina earrings are a perfect example. The symbol evokes authority, impartiality, dignity - The Queen. But I never set out with this as an end goal. The aim of this work is aimlessness - to be an open channel, an intent listener, and a humble servant to the creative force. 

Alem

Alem

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Many of your pieces evoke intensity and power - and some of the naming even is quite explicitly so - like the Empress ring - can you talk about what you view as the relationship between adornment and empowerment?

The formula for me is quite simple - large and heavy pieces make me feel powerful. I have tried making smaller, more wearable versions of certain pieces and it feels like declawing a mythic beast. I like to feel the weight of these objects on my body, it feels like a declaration of their existence, their right to be here, to be seen and to be felt, sometimes to draw blood. I think as a woman, a very petite one at that, I struggle with my lack of physical power. My adornment needs to be loud, to take up space, to be offensive and defensive and menacing. Symbolism is also incredibly empowering because it is experienced on a deeply personal level. Even a symbol as ubiquitous as the moon must be experienced privately, as a secret exchange between the adornment and the adorned - it is metaphysical empowerment rather than physical. Give a symbol a substantial amount of weight and you're bulletproof.

You recently shared an incredibly moving and personal post on instagram talking about the women in your family - your mother who fled from Havana with nothing, your grandmother who fled from Beirut, your great grandmother from Aleppo, whose home is now in ruins - can you tell us more about each of their stories and the effect they have had on you in your current life and state as you described "broken but not defeated"? 

The past few years, because of everything happening in Turkey and the surrounding areas, I have found myself returning to this theme that threads through my bloodline. My paternal grandmother is very taciturn about that part of her past, and has given me glimpses but not access. My mother was very young and so the decision to flee Havana was made by her parents - my grandmother was younger than I was when she put her baby in the arms of a stranger and sent her to Miami. I keep returning to this moment - because it is only a moment - when they decided it was too dangerous to stay, that an uncertain future in a foreign land was preferable to the uncertainty of home. At what point exactly do you pack your bags and run? Their stories are of resilience, but not everyone is so fortunate. Seeing photos of Aleppo now, where my great grandmother was born and raised, is absolutely devastating. Not a day goes by that I'm not thinking about the millions of people seeking safety and solace in unfamiliar, hostile lands. I am here because each generation before me had to make that unimaginably difficult decision. The day I made that post, I felt the same feeling on this soil that I'd been feeling in Turkey - my home is no longer safe but I'm not ready to say goodbye. And so we stay and fight.

Istanbul

Istanbul

You were born in Turkey, correct? How old were you when you moved to the U.S.? Do you still have family there? What ties do you have there, and how does the current state of affairs there influence you?

I was born in Istanbul and lived there until I was 10 when my parents split up. My mother, sister and I moved to Miami to be near my Cuban family. My sister and I continued to spend summers and winters in Istanbul after that. My father and the rest of my family is in Turkey - my sister also recently moved back. We have a very active group chat of about a dozen family members so I am always in touch. Because of the time difference I wake up every morning to a million texts in that thread and it makes my stomach drop every time - sometimes it's photos of my family at Shabbat dinner, and other times it's alerts about bomb threats, checking in when a car bomb goes off, etc. The traffic in Istanbul is insane and every time I'm stuck in it I find myself praying and simultaneously resigning to my fate. Since things began to really escalate 4 years ago, I've been going there more frequently and for longer stretches of time. My waking life feels like a weird apocalyptic anxiety dream- you know the one where the world is ending and you're barreling through the streets screaming and crying and trying to find your loved ones. Any incident that occurs there makes me want to *be* there. Running distance from my family. Not an ocean and some time zones away. It's physically painful to be here sometimes, but I am immensely fortunate that I get to go home as often as I do. The current state of affairs there has impacted me deeply, and the recent referendum has felt like the biggest punch in the gut yet. I haven't even processed it..

What are some of your self-care rituals or practices?

Long strolls are probably my favorite form of self-care, it's a privilege to have a functioning body that walks and looks and hears and feels without you having to tell it to. My mind is free to wander while the rest of me is on autopilot. I grew up by the Bosphorus and then in Miami, so being in or near the sea is deeply healing to me. Even the sound of a seagull totally transports me and puts my mind at ease. I also have "no person day" where I hide in my room and avoid all human contact-  even from my lovely roommates. Basically the aim is to forget the sound of your own voice. I *love* my privacy and granting it to myself without guilt, apology, or explanation has taken a very long time. Boundaries = self-care! This simple revelation was totally game-changing for me. Oh and long, hot showers with red wine :)

What are you currently reading? What are you currently listening to?

I recently finished Hell is A Very Small Place - essays on solitary confinement and it completely gutted me. Right now I'm reading 2016's Best American Short Stories selected by Junot Diaz - it's good for subway rides and bedtime stories. Also rereading Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (favorite writer of all time) because I've missed the way he makes me feel. Been listening to a lot of Allah Las, Black Angels, and some old Turkish psych. 

Mia's mother

Mia's mother

Who are three women you look up to or admire and why?

I admire Leonor Fini greatly - her uncompromising commitment to living her life on *her* terms. She painted what she saw in her dreams - strong, strange women - and made those dreams a reality not only on canvas but by *becoming* them. My process and methodology aligns with hers in that she tries to create what she does not see in the world - though in the end it is not creation but discovery - and harnessing these visions to transmute into physical form. --->“I strike it, stalk it, try to make it obey me. Then in its disobedience, it forms things I like.” 

I read Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking ten years ago when I was grieving the loss of someone very close to me. I watched her analytical mind shed light on her emotional body, and her emotions inform and illuminate the harrowing process of grief. She is prolific, thorough, tender, and honest. This book has helped me navigate through some pretty dark shit, gave me coping skills, and set me on a path toward emotional self-discovery and mastery. Didion encouraged me to tackle matters of the internal realm using the sober modality of journalism - research, inquiry, rinse and repeat. I will always be grateful to her for this particular work.

Am I allowed to say my mom? Cause my mom. She is a seer and a healer and any magic powers I have I owe to her. She's taught me the importance of keeping good company, of fortitude in the face fear - that the only way out is through. She taught me, from a very young age, that being my freakiest self grants other people the freedom to be their true selves, without shame or self-consciousness. She has lived a thousand lives in just this one and despite going through some serious shit, she's come out of it blazing brighter than ever. An absolute honor to crawl out of her body! <3

Where is home to you?

Home is Turkey and so is the US. I have a different story and identity in each and though it's left me a rather fragmented individual, it's yielded a rich inner landscape!