“…a Sardinian doesn’t mind going ragged and barefoot, but will spend every last cent on being able to show off his silver buttons, chains and hooks..."
— Joseph Fuos, 1774
With all due respect to London, New York, Paris and Milan, if you came from a place where the air was sweet and fragrant and the sun shone all the time, and you felt you were part of something, from the fresh cheese that the shepherds made in their wooden huts to the swishing skirts of the old women in town, it would be no surprise if, one day, you would want to come home.
Giovanni Pisu left the island many years ago. Coming from a rural family of eight children, his ticket to education and travel was far from assured. And yet he ended up in London, Paris and New York where he worked for Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta and met André Baradat, his partner in just about everything.
Together they have now moved back to the island to start a line of jewelry that succeeds at combining the romance and beauty of historic Sardinian craftsmanship with a more streamlined and contemporary design. In order to achieve the feeling of new with the techniques of old, Soha Sardinia has capitalized on the fresh outlook of young designers affiliated with Central St. Martins and the skill of Sardinian jewelers. Some of the pieces evoke natural shapes of the flora, while others recall more tribal designs from the Phoenician era. And almost all of the pieces use the traditional filigree technique of working with gold and silver. It is rare to find dedication to an antique process that is developed in a clean and inventive way; Soha’s line strikes a chord for just this reason.
Filigree was once a common technique throughout both Europe and the Middle East and all jewelers would know how to manipulate the thin threads of metal and small beads that are welded together to make up each piece. But it is a lengthy and delicate process, and has been mainly forgone for easier, less expensive and less precious techniques.
In addition, Giovanni and André have started a line of leather goods and will soon come out with a beauty line that uses extracts from indigenous Sardinian plants. Their main philosophy is to use their knowledge, passion and skills learned abroad to promote and celebrate the island itself. In fact one of the inspirations for the name Soha was the epic installation/performance of Sardinian artist Maria Lai, who also returned from abroad and convinced her entire town to tie their houses together with long blue ribbons that were then attached to the mountain above them.
Speaking of this artwork, Lai once said in an interview at her home, “At first all the town was against me. Somebody even asked me how could I think to leave my hometown for such a long time and then come back and ask them to do things they could not understand while they had much more important issues to deal with. I was starting to worry I was causing damage until one person told me, ‘Anyway, you are brave, because we are many and you are alone.’ There I understood how much they needed art and they did not know it. They were the ones who were alone, not me, because I was there for them.”*
Lai's words radiate with the instinctual human need to come back home. Likewise, Giovanni and André refer to Soha as "a tribute to Sardinia." Today, when the island staggers under a failed economy and damaged pride, there may be no more important act of love than that of returning home to share experience and knowledge that have been gained abroad.