Spotlight on Portuguese brands Mimata and MMUTT
Designer Joana Mieiro opens up her beautiful studio to talk all things gems
When you travel solo, there are times when you want to just revel in that delicious solitude; the freedom of sitting at a café watching the locals go about their days perhaps, or losing yourself in a museum and resurfacing hours later because you can.
And then there are those times when you want to meet people and make new friends. On my jewelry journey in Porto I was glad to encounter two lovely locals who welcomed me into their space and their story.
I came upon the bright pink clad studio of Joana Mieiro, designer of jewelry brands Mimata and MMUTT and wasn’t immediately sure I was in the right place. While the building has a beauty that stands out from the street, you have to dig a little deeper to find her studio, but I’m glad I did. I was greeted by her husband Hugo who invited me in to see the space and her beautiful collections.
Each collection is so unique and distinct from each other. Mimata focuses on fine jewelry, using diamonds, other gemstones and precious metals. It has an ethereal, magical feel that is inspired by another dimension and MMUTT is more experimental, more industrial using architectural shapes and materials. It’s fascinating to see her range and how the contrasts play off of each other. Joana generously spoke to me about her two lines and how she came to be a jewelry designer.
How did you find your way to jewelry design? Did you study it in school, are you self-taught, is it a family craft?
My way into jewelry came very subtly. When I was younger I used to create pieces that I would give to friends. Sometimes I would even create their wedding rings! At the time it didn’t cross my mind that I would become a jewelry designer and today I wonder why!? I went into architecture and later design and it wasn’t until after then that I did a post-graduate program in jewelry design. I think if this came as a family craft, my way into the market would be easier. It has been a challenge!!!
Tell me about your background: Where did you grow up and how did you make your way to Porto?
I grew up in a small town called Sangalhos in the center of Portugal. As a child I spent most of the time in my grandmother’s backyard with the freedom to run, play or do whatever I wanted. I had school in the morning, the afternoons were spent mostly outside, far from the velocity and constraints of the city.
My mother was very young and she was still studying, in Porto, when I was born. This memory, engraved in my head, was probably the push that led me to see Porto as a city I would like to live in.
When I entered architecture, I came to Porto for 3 years and moved around from there. I did courses at Central Saint Martins in London, I went to Brazil to study and to school in Helsinki and finished studying design in Manchester. In 2011, I went to Milan to study at The Creative Academy for a Masters of Arts and Design. In 2013, I finally decided to move to Porto, to settle here. Since then this is my city.
The designs in both of your lines are so intriguing and wonderfully captivating, yet so distinct from each other. Mimata feels almost mystical, while MMUTT has more of an industrial feel. What is your inspiration behind both lines? Do you see them as being complementary to each other or completely separate?
Mimata was my first project and probably the more ambitious one. MMUTT came as a challenge to reach a different target and an experimental freedom that made me able to explore materials and languages that in the end make both brands so distinct.
I love hearing that “Mimata feels almost mystical” because the imagery that inspires the collection is the idea and relation of elements and their own symbolic meanings; the organic and the geometric as feelings that draw on our own aspirations of the world and our life. The stars drawn as an interpretation of what we see when we look into the sky; the falling star (GEO ring) and the juxtaposition with plain surfaces blown apart to create a new language (the Orion to the Empress collection).
From the geometrical interpretation of a star, the idea is that it can exist as a whole or deconstructed into parts and play an important role in the universe of Mimata (the symbol of the brand, the collection Rome, the collection SUN & MOON). In short, Mimata is built around our dreams and aspirations, a romantic side that is often transformed by a more crude reality.
MMUTT is much more free and is built by playing with shapes, textures, contrasts.
“The imagery that inspires the collection is the idea and relation of elements and their own symbolic meanings; the organic and the geometric as feelings that draw on our own aspirations of the world and our life.”
What are your favorite materials and/or stones to work with?
Gold is definitely the material I prefer for jewelry, silver is a nightmare! I have also been experimenting with rubber, but gold is my preferred material. I very much like pearls, I think they are my dears. Diamonds always have a good sparkle. Emeralds are mystical for me, I don’t know how to explain it! Stones in general are fascinating.
Do you have a favorite jewelry memory? Either from your own brand, or perhaps a gift that you were given, or a family heirloom that has been passed down?
The first collection for Mimata Rome is very dear, the emerald ring; a group of pearls I bought completely blind, I still have them in a box, it was a compulsive moment and a lesson learned, still, I love those pearls.
For an heirloom, I have an old star from a tie pin that belonged to my grandfather. A silver and copper necklace, the first piece I entirely made myself in a workshop in Brazil, inspired by the Portuguese artist Francisco Tropa. I am very happy to say that later I received as a present from my mother, the real sculpture that inspired this necklace!
What do you love most about Porto as a city? Does it ever inspire your designs?
Porto is like a cozy house. Here everything is at hand, I rarely need the car to move around on a daily basis. We have a river and the sea which certainly inspires my designs, but it always works more like a “material” that is naturally changed by the environment than an object that is created from elements or specific parts you can identify.
A selection from Mimata - all photos courtesy of Joana Mieiro