Dubai artist and architect Andre Meyerhans is taking things to the next level. The Swiss, who designed the city’s famed Garhoud Bridge, has launched a jewellery line called Mario Uboldi. Starting off with a collection of cufflinks which launched during Ramadan, Meyerhans’ designs combine his architectural background with inspirations from nature and his love for his adopted home. The Directory caught up with him to talk design, jewellery and art.
Q: Why did you decide to design jewellery?
A: There are two answers to this question: one tells you the story of how I came to design jewellery in general and the other explains the start of Mario Uboldi jewellery art.
Over a decade ago, my mother had been diagnosed with a severe illness, and I took her for daily treatments to the hospital. In order to cheer her up, we did something special after each therapy: drove a picturesque route home, took a coffee at a nice place, One day, we visited a jewellery shop and she could select a piece she liked. When my father heard that the jewellery she picked had matching yet unset stones, he bought them too — and I designed the settings. Since then, I have created many pieces of jewellery, some for my mother, others for customers. Most of these pieces use an antique bead as an inspiration and balance these 400 to 6,000 year-old treasures with a contemporary setting. I currently hold about 200 such beads that are ready to be transformed into unique pieces of wearable art.
About a year back, I met with a manufacturer in Dubai for some custom-made pieces. During one of our meetings, he mentioned he would like to establish a jewellery brand with distinguished designs but would lack the creative mind. I was intrigued by the thought of not creating a single piece but developing a design principle that could be applied to an entire collection and give it its identity. For this purpose, I adapted an architectural design theory which I originally created for a façade and further enhanced in some of my artworks to suit the techniques of jewellery designs. This was the beginning of Mario Uboldi jewellery art.
Q: What were your inspirations for the pieces? Was Dubai a part of any of them?
A: I took the inspiration from Dubai. It is hard to pinpoint where the inspirations came from — in particular in terms of location. Looking at the initial designs, much of my inspiration seems to have come from nature and “objets trouvés” (everyday objects): a rose inspired the design “rose” — the flower can clearly be seen when four elements come together etc. More recent designs, which are still in the prototype phase, take on board more abstract schemes like geometries, statements and emotions.
Q: How did your relationship with Dubai begin?
A: About a decade ago, I came to Dubai because of the booming real estate industry. I also lived in Doha and spent some time in Abu Dhabi. I am still here, because the Middle East is an interesting region with many opportunities. I like the cultural diversity, the rich history and the central, geographical location.
Q: What does Mario Uboldi mean?
A: Uboldi is the maiden name of my mother and Mario Uboldi honours my grandfather. The logo is actually the coat of arms of the Uboldi family, a noble clan from Milan. It is nice to have a personal link to the brand: name, logo and colours, all of it comes from my heritage. It keeps history and memory alive.
Q: What has the reception been to the line?
A: [There has been] an overwhelming response wherever we have showed the designs. People usually liked the sculptural character of the pieces as well as the confident dimensions. Even when it comes to the material, we find people appreciate diversity: all designs are available in 925 silver, rhodium plated (which is a precious metal similar to gold to protect the silver from tarnish and oxidation), and in 18-carat yellow gold — the interest is equally high. The designs which incorporate gemstones receive lots of attention too.
We entered into the market with our cufflinks collections for Ramadan and made them available at O Concept in Dubai as well as at Toby by Hatem Al Akeel in Jeddah. Currently, we are in discussions to bring the women’s jewellery into various outlets in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Switzerland.
Q: Any plans to go beyond jewellery?
A: The current focus is really to stay focused and position Mario Uboldi as a jewellery line. Who knows what the future brings. The jewellery line was originally inspired by an architectural project — may be some of the architectural designs will be stimulated by Mario Uboldi going forward. Let’s see where this journey will lead us!
Q: Is that a hint on architectural projects we might see soon?
A: There are really two projects where I can lift the veil a bit on. The first one is the Al Nadi Tower which is a sculptural lighthouse cum-viewing platform for The Club in Abu Dhabi. The project commemorates the 50th anniversary of the club. The second one has an even closer resemblance to Mario Uboldi: a 10 metre by 1.4 metre artwork at the reception of Yas Viceroy Hotel in Abu Dhabi. This project plays with reflection and colour as well as it reinterprets the idea of geometry which is so typical for this region.
*For more on Andre Meyerhans’ designs, go to mariouboldi.com.