Q: If someone is looking to get one great piece of jewelry around which to design a look, what should they start with, and why?
A: They should start with something that hits them emotionally. It could be a stone, or a type of metal, or a theme, or a person.
Q: What’s the secret to picking out a knockout engagement ring?
A: The key to it is to try to make something that a specific person won’t get bored with in 40 years. And to design for that specific person’s style — present and future.
Kristina Pitaniello Jewelry
When it comes to museums, Kristina passes up old-school and heads for Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, at its still-relatively-new waterfront location. “I find the structure of the ICA extremely exciting,” she says. “The Aoshima mural is incredible — it moved me immediately. I think its theme is truly the reason why we are here. I actually think about the mural constantly.”
That’s Japanese artist Chiho Aoshima, who designs her murals on a computer before transferring them to adhesive vinyl. The work is just one example, Kristina says, of how the art world should be grabbing new audiences. “The ICA blows away all of the others in Boston because it is current,” she says. “We now have to stretch visual arts to gain a reaction from modern-day viewers who have iPods, phones, and small, small attention spans.”
Institute of Contemporary Art
100 Northern Avenue
Two Sides to the Story
Most go to the Boston Public Library’s main-branch location in Copley Square for the books. But Kristina goes for something else: the design. In fact, she considers the twin female statues outside the building’s main entrance to be among the most underappreciated pieces of art in the city. “I love the amazing sculptures of two women outside of the library!” she says. “I think people take these for granted. They should be appreciated, because beauty is healing.”
The two bronze statues were done by turn-of-the-century (that’s 20th, not 21st) sculptor Bela Pratt, who finished them in 1912. If you’re looking at the library, “Science” is on the left and “Art” is on the right, but the statues are looking at each other’s globe, symbolizing the connection between the two sides of the human brain. Pratt described them as the “sisters of literature,” a fitting pair for the entrance to the country’s oldest big-city public library.
And Pratt didn’t do only large-scale work: he designed a gold half- ($5) and quarter-eagle ($2.50) coin for the US Mint, featuring an unusual intaglio Indian head and the country’s only recessed currency design.
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston Street
She does rocks
How to quit pre-med, carve stones and find happiness
Frank and Donna Pitaniello had a problem on their hands: what do to with Kristina. She was a fine daughter and all, majoring in pre-med at the University of New Hampshire, dutifully keeping her promise to become a doctor. Kristina understood why her parents wanted her to study medicine. Frank’s mother, Carmela Pattuello, had left Naples when she was 14 years old and weary of sewing cardboard into her socks because her family was too poor to buy her shoes. So she left, found her way to Upstate New York, worked in factories to earn enough to bring her family to the Land of the Free, to a good life in America. And that’s what Frank and Donna wanted for Kristina: A good life. With shoes.
Thing was, though, Kristina hated pre-med. No, she detested it.
What she liked, what she loved, were jewels and gems, bright stones and shiny baubles—the smooth coolness of raw cobalt topaz, the craggy angles of a muddy diamond right out of the earth, the supple feel of green gold metal. Kristina lay awake at night dreaming of the masterpieces she could create. Doctor? Feh. Kristina wanted to design jewelry.
Still, she soldiered on. She graduated as a pre-med major and got a job as an occupational therapist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. It didn’t go so well. She had a bad attitude. She blew off her rounds and, one day, she gave a psychotic patient a paintbrush to calm him down. Minutes later, right about the time she was getting fired, she learned that a psychotic could kill himself with a paintbrush. She imagined Frank shaking his head.
What can you say? Maybe not such a bad thing for a girl who never wanted to be a doctor anyway. She waited tables at Hammersley’s, and saved her tips to buy tools and rent studio space. She’d stay up all night, cutting rubies and molding gold and, sweet Lord, feeling at peace.
On the walls of her South End studio these days are framed articles about her jewelry in Lucky magazine and The Boston Globe. Julia Roberts, Natalie Merchant and Rosanna Arquette wear her pieces, which range from tough leather cuffs and delicate cross pendants to platinum bands set with pink sapphires and men’s sculptural bronze belt buckles. Hundreds of couples have sealed their love with her custom-designed wedding rings. And there are also two other customers who proudly wear her designs: Frank and Donna.