Poet, Model, Figure Skater And Inspiration For Young People, Elizabeth Pipko Will Come To The International Book Expo

Exclusive interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena for L’Idea Magazine

Elizabeth Pipko, 22, was born and raised in New York City. At ten years old she discovered her love of figure skating and moved with her family to Florida in order to pursue her dream of becoming a competitive athlete. She competed for years in various competitions across the United States before suffering a devastating injury at 15, after which doctors told her that she would never skate again. During her long recovery, Elizabeth finished and published her first collection of poetry, “Sweet Sixteen” in 2013. She also began her modeling career, being featured in DT magazine, Maxim, Esquire and many more.  Elizabeth also starred in the Vizcaya Swimwear “Perfectly Imperfect” campaign, an anti-photoshop campaign promoting positive body image which was covered by major publications such as PEOPLE and Vanity Fair Italia. After years of physical therapy, Elizabeth has made her return to the ice, defying all odds and hoping to inspire those around her. Elizabeth is currently a student at the Harvard extension school, majoring in legal studies and double minoring in religion and math. Her second collection of poetry, “About You,” is due for release in early summer 2018. She will appear at the International Book Expo in New York City.

L’IDEA: You are a poet, a model, a figure skater and so much more, even though you are only 22. Which one is the title you feel depicts you more accurately and why?
Elizabeth Pipko: I think I am a figure skater before I am anything else. And I say that certainly not because I am a brilliant skater, but because figure skating is where I found myself. Only after discovering the sport did I discover who I was and who I wanted to be. Everything in my life changed when I fell in love with the sport. Some things got better and some things got worse, but somehow it all felt extremely right. I felt like I was born to be a figure skater when I first fell in love with the ice at ten years old, and I think I’ll forever feel that way.

L’IDEA: Did you always have the poetry bug in you or was it inspired by your life events?
Elizabeth Pipko: I think I’ve always liked writing and felt as if I was better at it than I was in certain other things, but it was never something I did regularly. Only after certain life events caused me to need to find an outlet for my emotions did I realize how much I enjoyed poetry.

L’IDEA: What is your poetry about
Elizabeth Pipko: It’s about a lot of things… For me, I used poetry to express the heartbreak I felt as a sixteen-year-old girl trying to deal with a devastating injury (that took skating away from me) as well as the very common heartbreaks that a sixteen year old girl may face. My second book, About You, was written about my injury and losing the ability to skate, but without ever directly mentioning those words. I wanted people to be able to connect with the words and emotions that I was feeling regardless of what or who it was that they were longing for.

L’IDEA: How important was it to you to return to ice skating and why?
Elizabeth Pipko: It was extremely important to me for many reasons. My parents raised me not to be a quitter. My mom taught me to always follow my dreams, and always prepared me for the many obstacles I would have to overcome in order to do that. And more importantly, showed me how to overcome those obstacles with everything I’ve watched her deal with in her career (she’s possibly the most incredible concert pianist you’ve ever heard). I always knew that this was something I had to do. And whether I make a full recovery and reach the top levels of the sport or just overcome the obstacles that come with trying to skate through pain every day, I’ll always be proud of myself for not giving up.

L’IDEA: In your bio it says you moved from New York to Florida to ice skate and that may confuse our readers, considering the climate of the two cities. Could you elaborate on that?
Elizabeth Pipko: It does sound quite funny now that I think about it! Competitive figure skaters train in skating rinks indoors, so the climate outside is not really the one that we focus on. I discovered incredible coaches, actually completely on accident and without ever planning on pursuing skating, and they’re the ones that introduced me to skating and believed in me from the start. So, my parents and brother packed up and moved down to Florida in order for me to skate with those coaches and follow my dream. 

Photo by Nayo Martinez

L’IDEA: You participated as a model in the campaign “Perfectly imperfect”. Could you explain what that is about?
Elizabeth Pipko: Yup! So Lisa (the owner of Vizcaya swimwear) and I really bonded over what we had been through with dealing with negative comments and cyber bullying and decided to do something using those experiences. We wanted to do something special and something that would feel natural, and also inspire people not to be ashamed of the skin they were born in. The point of the campaign was to show the swimwear and how good it made you feel to be wearing it, and we decided that we could do that without needing an ounce of retouching! Just like in life.

L’IDEA: Would you have a special message for our readers? And maybe a suggestion for our young readers?
Elizabeth Pipko: Always always always follow your dreams! I promise people will stand in your way, sometimes even people who you thought were your biggest fans. But the ONLY person that you needed believing in you, in order to succeed, is YOU.

For more information on Elizabeth Pipko, visit Elizabethpipko.com

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Dr. Mary Rorro, The “Violin Doc,” An Exclusive Interview

An interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena
She was nicknamed “The Violin Doc” in a book by Lisa Wong entitled “Scales to Scalpels, Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine;”  a talented professional viola player and a respected psychiatrist who uses her music to heal veterans, Dr. Mary Rorro is so much more and we are proud to present an exclusive interview with this bright star of the medical field who is finding many ways to help her patients.

L‘IDEA: You are a psychiatrist working with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and blending music and poetry into your practice. It seems that music has always been a major factor in your life. Could you tell us when did you start to use music as a healing tool? {Talk about your Music major, awards but also about the middle school and following years too, please)
Dr. Mary Rorro: When I was six and a half years old, my mother showed me her little violin that she used to play as a child.  I cherished that violin and toted it around in its diminutive case.  My mother, my talented brother Michael and I used to play together to Suzuki records, and listened to Italian arias and Neapolitan songs with my grandparents. The first time I witnessed the power of music was as my grandfather was dying in his hospital bed.  I played Toselli’s Serenade for him, a favorite song he frequently requested.  His last words were “More music.” As a candy striper in high school, my mother encouraged me to entertain the ill patients under my charge.  She witnessed as I played for a depressed cancer patient who had not spoken for months, who suddenly began to sing along with my violin to Christmas carols, bringing the nurses to tears.  That inspiring moment influenced me to combine my desire to be a physician and blend music into my profession. We recognized the healing power of music to those suffering that day. My mother was so proud. I wanted to make her happy by sharing music with others, who needed it in the most essential way.
I majored in music and minored in biology at Bryn Mawr College and received the first Performing Arts Prize ever awarded at the college.  Bryn Mawr encouraged leadership opportunities for women and service to others.  I organized two benefit concerts for St. Christopher’s Hospital for children with AIDS, as President and first violist of the Bryn Mawr–Haverford College Symphony.  I developed a program in medical school and psychiatry residency called “Musical Rounds: The Next Best Thing to Grand Rounds,” and “From Soup to Notes,” to perform for people in soup kitchens.

L‘IDEA: Besides your practice, you also created a program of volunteers with a similar goal, “A Few Good Notes.” Could you tell us about it?
Dr. Mary Rorro: Given the enthusiastic response from my previous musical experiences, I wanted to introduce music into the lives of the veterans at my clinic and the New Jersey VA Healthcare System. I started a program called “A Few Good Notes,” in which I play viola for the patients in the group therapy sessions and individually in my office.  Some of my patients used to play instruments, and hearing me encouraged them to resume their musical instruments and join me in the program.  One of my patients brought his Dixieland band in to entertain nursing home patients with me in the Lyons VA.  The quiet room was instantly transformed with the sound of patients singing along to the upbeat rhythms.  Another patient, after hearing me play Amazing Grace in the office, was inspired to pick up his guitar again and also start reading the Bible, after he contemplated the words in the song.
I initiated a program at the VA that provides free guitar lessons for veterans, which enables them to experience the joy of music first hand.  We have volunteer guitar instructors who give generously of their time and it allows for engagement with other veterans in the Guitar Instruction Group (GIG.)  The clinic is now filled with the strumming sounds of vets on their instruments, and the waiting list for lessons is a long one.
Every year, we carol in Lyons and East Orange hospitals and recruit other employees to share their time and talents with veterans.  The program has been expanded nationally in the VA.  Some patients and employees who are part of our Healing Arts committee bring their guitars and other instruments, and sing along to my viola.
Music draws out stories from the patients, including one Vietnam vet who remembered his platoon sang Silent Night on a hill in Vietnam, causing a cease fire for that time on Christmas Eve.  Music evokes powerful emotions and enables the therapists and me to process them with the patients in group therapy settings.
The program has been featured on WQXR, the former classical music station of the New York Times, WNYC radio, the Dr. Oz website, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and AOL’s Homepage for Heroes.  I was featured as “The Violin Doc,” in the book “Scales for Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine,” by Lisa Wong, M.D.

Princeton Memorial ceremony at Monument Hall (Click on the picture to view a video on YouTube of Dr. Mary Rorro’s program for the veterans)

L‘IDEA: You clearly had a call for music and became a professional violist. When and how did the call for medicine, and in particular psychiatry, come about? 
Dr. Mary Rorro: When I was 4 years old, I was riding in the car with my mother, and she asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I quickly responded, “A doctor, because I want to help people.”  My parents always encouraged me in my dream, from which I never wavered.  I was influenced by many members of my family, who were role models. I spent time in my father’s busy primary care practice, and observed grateful patients leaving his office.  He went on house calls early in the morning for people who he knew couldn’t afford to pay, but was dedicated to helping them.  My Aunt, Mary A. Rorro, M.D. was one of the trailblazing women physicians of her area.  Her “Uncle Doc” graduated from Hahnemann Medical School and encouraged her to go there from a young age.  Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s father, Samuel Alito Sr., was her teacher in high school and he awarded her with the science medal.  He knew she wanted to be a doctor and told her, “Never be discouraged from your dream.” She still has the report card envelope where he wrote other encouraging words about her future, since she valued them so much.  She graduated from Hahnemann in 1958, and married my Uncle Al.  He and my Uncle John also served the community as physicians. My Aunt Celeste received her Doctorate in Education and was Director of Teacher Certification and Academic Credentials in New Jersey.
I became interested in psychiatry after a rotation at UMDNJ-SOM medical school at a New Jersey state hospital.  Psychiatry seemed like a perfect way to blend narratives, creativity, and the arts into the medical profession.  I entered a Harvard Medical School program for psychiatry residency and began working with veterans in the VA system as well as other mental health institutes in Boston, including McLean Hospital, Cambridge Hospital.  Following residency, I completed a psychiatry Fellowship in Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.  The years of tests and training, long nights on call, sleeping on scratchy sheets, were all worth it when someone says, “You changed my life.”  I consider that to be a complement to my parents, because without their constant love and support, I would not be able to help my patients and hear those words.

L‘IDEA: Your poetry is very poignant and inspirational, bringing images of war and tortured souls. Do you write only about veterans’ experiences?
Dr. Mary Rorro: Veterans’ stories of trauma, grief, and loss inspired me to write poetry meant to help patients, and to honor them.  Some poems reflect themes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including intrusive memories, nightmares and flashbacks.  Others relate to more specific trauma incidents and themes of moral injury and survivor guilt.  The patients’ often poignant, sometimes frightening narratives were compelling.  Poetry became a venue in which I could attempt to first process and then articulate the overwhelming emotions they experience.  I began to share my poetry, in hopes of helping them connect and progress in treatment.  The poems opened a new dialogue on aspects of their stories which they might not have touched upon during the standard medication management visit.
I also write other poetry and haiku based on nature and spiritual themes, and compose songs and song lyrics.

Click here to read one of her poems, Tunnel Rats

L‘IDEA: You have received innumerable awards both for your charitable and your professional work. Notwithstanding that they are all relevant and well deserved, is there one in particular that has meant more to you and why?
Dr. Mary Rorro: There are a few that are especially meaningful.  An award that had special meaning was from the American Foundation of Savoy Orders, a royal order in Italy.  They bestowed the Saints Maurice and Lazarus Bronze medal for charitable works at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  It was incredibly exciting to walk up the steps of the main altar to receive the beautiful bronze medal and proclamation of Vittorio Emanuele.  Performing at the Centennial Celebration mass of the Holy Rosary church in Washington D.C. with Supreme Court Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Antonin Scalia, and Nancy Pelosi, in attendance, was also a peak experience. It was an honor to be inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame, in the same year with Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
The Planetree organization’s Patient-Centered Excellence and Innovation Award (received by one of 10 individuals or programs internationally) for my “A Few Good Notes” program in Chicago, was significant for recognizing the importance of helping veterans through the arts.

L‘IDEA: Your father was a doctor and your mother is an icon of the Italian American community in New Jersey. How did this influence you in your personal life and your professional choices?
Dr. Mary Rorro: My late father, Dr. Louis Rorro, was a physician who was committed to helping patients in the community.  My mother, Dr. Gilda Rorro, was an educator and administrator in the Department of Education, and worked in civil rights.  She traveled to Haiti on numerous occasions to establish school exchange program with schools in Haiti and New Jersey.  In the past 20 years, she worked tirelessly to serve Italian Americans in the community as Honorary Vice Consul work and as Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission. She was knighted by the President of Italy for development of her curriculum to put Italian heritage into all schools in New Jersey.  My parents instilled an appreciation of Italian language and culture, and we feel fortunate to have cherished family and friends in Italy. My wonderful husband Joseph also shares my love of Italian culture and music; we met at an Italian social club when I was a psychiatric resident in Boston.
My parents’ productivity and engagement in their careers motivated me toward my profession and I was proud of what they accomplished.  I was raised without limitations of what a girl or woman could achieve.  No matter how busy my patients were, they were always actively engaged in my development, taking me to music lessons, concerts, and trips to Europe, to broaden my education.  They were tremendous mentors, who influenced my life and left a legacy of serving others, which I strive to continue.  Their high school graduation gift was my viola, and one that truly keeps on giving.  I am forever indebted to my parents for guiding me in my goal to becoming a doctor and grateful they helped make my dream a reality.  They gave of themselves with genuine commitment to community, and to me.  My parents’ love and devotion enabled me to be fulfilled as a physician and musician, and aspire to help some many others, to live by their example.

Dr. Mary Rorro plays the viola for the mother Gilda in the occasion of her memoir’s presentation to the public

L‘IDEA: Are there any new projects in the near future?
Dr. Mary Rorro: I consider serving our veterans a patriotic mission. They have taught me so much about sacrifice and resilience. Blending music and poetry into my practice is a privilege and serves as a rewarding and creative means of deepening the doctor–patient bond. I have witnessed the powerful effects the arts can hold for patients and hope to distribute my collection of vignettes and poems to more veterans.  I plan to continue expanding the “A Few Good Notes” program so more patients become involved in music and the arts, as an invaluable tool to employ in their journey toward healing.

Veterans listening to Dr. Mary Rorro’s music (Click on the picture to view a video on YouTube)

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Eastchester High School Students Celebrate “La Festa Italiana”

Article by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Deep in the heart of Westchester County lays the town of Eastchester, one of the many suburban towns, villages and cities that make this county an enviable area to live. Among the finely kept houses stands Eastchester High School, where “La Festa Italiana” was offered to the community at large by the students of EHS Italian Club and La Società Onorifica Italica to display the deep knowledge of the Italian language they acquired at this respected institution as well as the enthusiasm for anything Italian they absorbed from their teachers.

After a brief introduction by Mrs. Lucrezia Lindia, teacher and club adviser, and the clubs’ presidents, followed a speech by an alumnus of the School, Ms. Alyssa Porco, who spoke heartily of the years she spent at Eastchester High School and the advantage she attained by having such great teachers of Italian (in particular she mentioned Francesco Lindia). Virginia Molinari Holek, Immediate Past President of the Garibaldi Lodge #2583 of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, was then recognized for her indefatigable efforts to help the community through the charitable endeavors of her lodge. Special thanks came from the students for the disbursement of various scholarships designed for students of Italian and students of Italian Heritage.

Click on this image to hear l’inno di Mameli!

The performances by the students were entertaining and remarkably refreshing. The national Italian anthem (Inno di Mameli) was sung with vigor and passion by the students of Italian II. A link to the video of this performance may be found by clicking on the image above.

Il giudizio della discordia. Photo by Julianna Portante

Italian IV students presented then a sketch named “Il Giudizio della Discordia,” which was amusing and well spoken, touched the myth of Helen and Paris.

“Breus,” a pleasant passage from “La Tavola Ritonda,” was successful in bringing the Round Table characters to life. All students from Italian III excelled at their intricate staging. A special kudos goes to Alex Siegel for his extended and flawless presentation.

A scene from Breus. Photo by Julianna Portante

“Osare o non Osare?” was a hilarious performance also by the students of Italian III, touching the topic of teenagers shyness and bravado. Lots of physical humor, some of it seemingly improvised, added to the comic lines of the act.

Osare o non osare? Photo by Julianna Portante

A topic that did not need any introduction was the next piece, “Pinocchio,” which had the advantage of using the microphone for all the performers, aiding to the comprehension of the performance in Italian. The students from Italian III were all excellent in their diction and acting; a superb rendition of the wooden puppet and his encounter with the cricket, the fox and the cat was done by Amy Cartolano.

A scene from Pinocchio. Photo by Juliana Portante.

In “Andreuccio da Perugia,” a tale adapted from Boccaccio’s “Decameron,” the performance brought the audience back to the Middle Ages and the humor of this great writer. A confident Ethan Gatrell led the students of Italian IV in this epic and amusing portrayal. A valiant Fiordalisio was performed by Giulia Risi.

“Cavalleria Rusticana” was performed by the Advanced Placement students in an impeccable way. The reenactment of the final moments of this great opera (“Addio alla madre”) were touching and proved once again the fluency in Italian of the students at Eastchester High School. A very believable Alfio (Joseph Gentile) and Santuzza (Julia Caparelli) were flanked by an also credible Turiddu (Adriano Policicchio) and a great supportive cast.

The final scene of Cavalleria Rusticana. Photo by Juliana Portante

Turiddu challenges Alfio to a duel. (From Cavalleria Rustcana) Photo by Juliana Portante

Last act was the song “Io vivo per lei,” performed wholeheartedly by the young Nicolette Mancini and Benjamin Araujo. A portion of the performance may be viewed by clicking on the image below.

Click on the image to hear “Io vivo per lei” performed by Nicolette Mancini & Benjamin Araujo (Photo by Juliana Portante)

Mrs. Lindia was helped in the organization of the event by Prof. Francesco LindiaMs. MarcocciaMr. Alexander, and Mr. J. Gwaryak.

The “Festa Italiana” ended with a fabulous dinner, graciously provided to everyone present by the students and their families. The many delicious dishes available made the dinner as good as a first class Italian restaurant. Since the quantity of the food was in excess, as a typical Italian venue, Eastchester Town Court Judge Fred Salanitro arranged for the copious left overs to be delivered to a homeless shelter in Harlem, last generous and thoughtful gesture of an evening of Italian heritage celebration by these wonderful community of Eastchester.

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A Renaissance Woman In New York City. Interview With LindaAnn LoSchiavo

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7 March 2018

A Renaissance woman in New York City. Interview with LindaAnn LoSchiavo

An interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

She is the optimal example of a Renaissance woman and a New Yorker combined: humble but determined, soft spoken but direct, with a genial attitude not usually associated with a virtuoso of the pen, and most of all a realist who is aware of the elusiveness of fame in the literary world. This, to me, is the portrait of LindaAnn LoSchiavo. Although I know her for over 20 years, I never knew she had a Ph.D. in Early Modern British Literature and that’s because she never talks about herself, although she will have a heart-to-heart discussion of her work, her characters, and the plays she reviews without any hesitation.
Having appeared with her wonderful poetry and her captivating short stories in over 20 periodicals in the last six months, and that’s not counting the numerous nonfiction articles published by our very own magazine and other periodicals, with her plays recently enriching the theater scene of Gotham, and two documentaries to her credit, LindaAnn has definitely proven her worth. To confirm that once more, she just won the 2nd place for her poem “Mother on Morphine” from Wax Poetry & Art, adding it to her many awards.
I thought it was the perfect timing for interviewing her and letting our readers discover not only the extent of her achievements and the path she took to attain them, but also her thoughts about life and literature.

(Please click on the bold words in the interview to link to videos and blogs)

L’Idea: When did you start writing?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: I started putting words together before my fourth birthday. My family used to receive a lot of greetings cards, which contained “light verse.” I thought the sentiments and poems could be improved. My Aunt Fay would draw illustrations on light cardboard and I would write a poem, metrical and rhymed, underneath.

L’Idea: What was the first thing you wrote?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: When I was nine years old, I wrote my first one-act play for five actresses. It was produced in NYC when I was ten.

L’Idea: What was the first thing that gave you some public attention?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Irwin Maiman, a high school English teacher, was the supervisor of the literary magazine and he recruited a number of us. I liked to write but I was also interested in how to become an editor. Being on this staff taught me how to proofread, evaluate fiction, and put a publication together on a deadline. My style changed a lot with the short story I wrote in my senior year about a drug addict. It was accepted for publication and earned me the school’s gold medal for Literary Achievement, which I accepted onstage at Commencement. That academic award was a sign that I was meant for this.

L’Idea: You’ve had eight short stories accepted and/ or published in the past 18 months, each for a different publication.  How do your other literary endeavors – poetry, stage plays, reviews – factor in when you are writing a new short story?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Reviews, as with all journalism, require a writer to be specific. Formal verse tunes your ear and hones your skill with rhetoric. Stage dialogue must be economical, conveying both emotion and information. All these elements get channeled into the creation of a short story and fuel it.

L’Idea: Does any of your work ever cross a genre?  Did a poem ever turn into a short story, for instance, or vice versa?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Since I don’t work on only one manuscript at a time, my pen is often traveling in a few directions. An experience with answering poignant “Dear Santa Claus” letters from poor or abused New York City children became a poem. Since it was rather long for a poem, I turned it into a story. It was published in February 2018 by Flatbush Review.

L’Idea: You mentioned writing your first one-act play at 9 years old. What brought about your transition to writing short fiction, three years later at 12 years old?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: My family started taking me to Broadway shows when I was four years old. I loved playwrighting but, even as a child, I realized that producing a play involved considerable cost and collaboration. My instincts told me I’d better explore other formats and find something else to do with paper and a typewriter.

L’Idea: I’ve noticed New York City is sometimes your setting. In what way does the New York location add to the story?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: I’m a native New Yorker so I enjoy bringing the city into the narrative. My poignant story “Sifting on the Santa Shift” takes place in the basement of the main post office on 34th Street, those unprepossessing cheerless rooms where Good Samaritans gather to read letters from needy children and grant wishes. There couldn’t be an uglier room in all New York where so many beautiful acts of generosity take place.
In contrast, “The Gospel According to Saint Marks Place” was inspired by the street itself. It’s the block where brainy Cooper Union students meet maniac drug dealers and Hell’s Angels along with immigrants born in Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine. A clash of cultures is waiting to happen.

L’Idea: Several of your most recent stories have had a supernatural theme. What accounts for that change?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: I was always intrigued by the speculative elements in the literary novels of certain Latin American writers but felt that, if you have supernatural creatures in the earliest work that is published, you can be dismissed as a genre author. Now that I’ve seen my plays staged, had my articles in prestigious magazines, won prizes for poems, it’s not so easy to categorize me.

L’Idea: What other fiction projects are you working on?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Ten years ago, I wrote a play “The Djinni and the Pianist.” The protagonist is a 13-year-old girl. Since young teens are hard to cast, and an adult who is short and slight would have to play her, I felt it would be imprudent to give her a friend or classmates. It gathered dust; I never sent it out. Last year I decided to revise the narrative as a novella. I completed my first draft of Part 1, which is over 10,000 words, and now I’ve started Part 2.

LindaAnn LoSchiavo poses with Italian American Museum founder and President Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa after her multimedia presentation “Meet Mae West’s secret Italian husband”, which topped all attendance records at the museum. Photo credit: Brian Gonzales

L’Idea: You are an expert on Mae West, with two plays about her to your credit, special Mae tours in the City and a blog dedicated to her. How did this interest about Mae West came about and where is it bringing you?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Whenever I passed the former Jefferson Market Court (now a public library) at 425 Sixth Avenue, one element about this unique nineteenth century structure would annoy me — — the plaque that merely credits two male architects and never refers to its women’s history. It riled me up that numerous women were unfairly arrested and tried here yet most people had no clue. I decided to write a play, three one acts with one commonality: how each defendant was treated unjustly in Jefferson Market Court. The idea was that the library itself might host it.
I selected three potential candidates: (a.) labor organizer Clara Lemlich Shavelson (1887—1982), who demonstrated against the sweatshops with a huge gathering of ladies’ garment workers on Nov. 26, 1909, which led to multiple arrests and a trial at Night Court; (b.) dramatist and actress Mae West (1893—1982), who was arrested and held at Jefferson Jail on Feb. 9, 1927 for writing a play about homosexuals and drag queens; and (c.) sex educator and birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger (1879—1966), whose medical records were seized on April 15, 1929, and who was thrown into a police wagon with her staff, and faced off with Jefferson Market’s Magistrate Rosenbluth.

At a performance of “Courting Mae West,” in 2008, from left, Yvonne Sayers as Mae West, with the late TV talk-show legend Joe Franklin and the work’s author, LindaAnn LoSchiavo.

That was the concept — but with back-stories and three trials, there was too much material for a trio of one acts. Therefore, I focused on one “criminal” and wrote “Courting Mae West.” I began my Mae West Blog in 2004 during auditions when it became obvious that the cast did not know Mae West, Beverly West, James Timony, Texas Guinan, and other characters they were playing were real people. At the time (14 years ago), there was only one Mae West fan site online; it praised her Hollywood films and offered nothing about the police raids and legal skirmishes. Additionally, I began a Texas Guinan Blog, a Jefferson Market Court Blog, and I put other details online to give the actors reliable source material that would familiarize them with the 1926—1932 events and personalities in this Prohibition Era play.
Any time there was a reading or a staging, certain remarks astounded me. For instance, “Was Mae West really a man?” and “Wasn’t Mae West from Los Angeles?” and “Did Mae West write two plays about homosexuals because she was gay?” In addition to helping fans get correct information about all things Mae, The Mae West Blog was a conduit.

Thanks to my blog, for example, in 2013 I met actress Darlene Violette, who had a strong interest in playing the Brooklyn bombshell, and who was reading my posts in order to develop a cabaret act. It was decided that I would write “Diamond Lil, Queen of the Bowery” and she would star and co-produce it. We archived a full performance at Don’t Tell Mama’s and I have the Estate’s permission to go forward with another production. I’d love to find the right team again.
Meanwhile, the Mae West Blog is now in its thirteenth year.

The cast of Diamond Lil’ in 2013

L’Idea: Do your plays have roots in real life facts or are they fantasy?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: “Courting Mae West” is based on true events. “Diamond Lil, Queen of the Bowery” is a trimmer, tighter 90-minute version of Mae West’s sprawling 1932 novel. “A Worthie Woman Al Hir Live is based on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath Tale. But most of my plays are fiction, spun out of thin air.

L’Idea: Do you believe your writing of short stories is paving the way to write a novel?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: Yes. When you write every day, creative muscles get stronger, the reach somehow gets longer. When my novella is completed, my focus will be back on the screenplay I’ve started. Most of the story is set in 1990 on a dilapidated British estate, where a portraitist has been invited to meet an art collector uncle she barely knows — — except the genial host who greets her is an impostor and an art thief.

L’Idea: How much do you believe being an Italian American influenced your writing and your writing style?
LindAnn LoSchiavo: All four grandparents were born in the meridione, so I’ve embraced the Neapolitan and Aeolian Island culture, whose oral poetry I have translated. When it comes to writing about it, I limit myself to articles, personal essays, and poems.
The reason for that is the stubborn lack of support for Italian-American authors by the major Italian-American organizations. I wrote a chapter on this topic for the book “Anti-Italianism — —Essays on a Prejudice,” co-edited by W. Connell and F. Gardaphé, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

L-R: Professor Fred Gardaphé, Dr. Elizabeth G. Messina, Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, LindaAnn LoSchiavo and Professor William J. Connell

Maybe one day that will change. Meanwhile, the characters in my screenplay are British, Pakistani, and Polish. The characters in my novella are Scottish and French. However, the poems in my chapbook “Conflicted Excitement” (forthcoming from Red Wolf Editions) are Italian-American.
And so, to the nice people who are reading this interview, if you have an audience for Italian American literature or are interesting in hosting a reading, please get in touch with L’IDEA.

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Author’s Birthday Party Hosts A Pre-Publication Presentation Of “Gilda, Promise Me”

Written By:                 15 March 2018

Author’s birthday party hosts a pre-publication presentation of “Gilda, Promise Me”

On March 10, 2018, there was a marvelous celebration of Cav, Gilda Battaglia Rorro Baldassari’s birthday at her residence in Hamilton, New Jersey. Friends, mentors, students, and “arguably the finest oenologist in USA” Vittorio Vettori, as the graceful host introduced him, had the opportunity to talk about Gilda, her achievements, her wonderful personality and, why not? her upcoming memoir, “Gilda, Promise Me.”

Vittorio Vettori offers his wonderful “Brindisi” to Gilda.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena, her editor and editorial director of Idea Press, her publisher, gave a brief presentation of the book, announcing its official publication by the end of March 2018. The celebration continued with marvelous music by Fred Proulx and plenty of food, Italian style! Present at the party, besides friends, family and many personalities of the Italian american world, we recognized the Chair of the NJ Italian American Heritage Commission, Robert DiBiase, Dr. Jill Simone, the author and lawyer Albert Stark, the renown oenologist Vittorio Vettori, the president of Mercer county Italian-American Festival association, Cav. John Scarpati, and the writer Frank A. Campione.

Click on the picture below for a  link to the presentation:

Tiziano Thomas Dossena and Cav. Gilda Battaglia Rorro Baldassari with a poster of the book cover.

Gallery (Photos WD for L’Idea Magazine)

The “brindisi” by Gilda Rorro

Renown author and lawyer Albert Stark reads a dedication speech to Gilda.

Dr. Mary Rorro, daughter of Gilda, plays the viola for the mother.

Dr. Mary Rorro plays the viola.

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Jamie Lynn Macchia, From Miss New York To The Campaign For #MoreThan4: A Young Woman On The Path Of Success.

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena (as appeared on L’Idea Magazine, Jan.29, 2018)

Jamie Lynn Macchia is a 26-year-old Magna Cum Laude graduate of Wagner College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Arts Administration and Marketing. While in attendance, she was a Competitive Dance Team member, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority sister, and part of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.
When she was 17 years old, Jamie Lynn began competing in the Miss America Organization to obtain scholarships for college. She is the only woman to achieve the Miss Staten Island title twice, in both 2012 & 2014, and is also the former Miss Greater NY 2013 & 2015. In 2014, Jamie Lynn was invited to represent New York in the National Sweetheart Pageant in 2014, a long-standing tradition created in 1941, which is open to runner-ups from the Miss America state pageants. Out of the 43 contestants from across the country, she was named first runner-up – the highest placement ever for New York. In June of 2015, Jamie Lynn won the prestigious title of Miss New York and went on to compete at Miss America in Atlantic City.
Jamie Lynn works with many different organizations, but after loosing her best friend, Dominic, when they were 15 to leukemia, she dedicated her volunteer efforts to her personal platform: Inspiring Action Against Pediatric Cancer.  Alongside the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Gianna Nicole’s Heart of Hope and The Truth 365, she is a force in making a change to bridge the funding gap, raise money for the necessary research and give our kids a fighting chance.  She campaigns for #MoreThan4 percent, which is the only amount of federal funding for cancer research that is allocated to all childhood cancers.
Over the years, Macchia has raised over hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charitable organizations, served as co-chair of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk and created and received numerous prestigious awards for her work including: Miss America Organization Community Service Award, Miss America Organization Academic Award, Children’s Miracle Network’s “Miracle Maker”, SIEDC’s “20 Under 40” Award, Star Network’s “Stars Under 40” Award, and the Rotary Club of Verrazano’s “Women & Children’s Award.”
Jamie Lynn now works as the full-time Development Officer for Staten Island University Hospital, Northwell Health and is a consultant for Rodan + Fields. In her free time, she likes to do yoga, travel, go out to eat, and spend time with friends, family, and her cats – Jynx & Meeko. Jamie Lynn loves The Wizard of Oz, is a shoe fanatic, and is an expert on all things Disney. She has always believed, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” & looks forward to making the “impossible” a possibility. (From http://jamielynnmacchia.weebly.com)

Meeting Jamie Lynn was both an incredible honor and a pleasant surprise. Her savoir faire and radiant beauty polarized the room where she was speaking to a group of women participants of the Floral Park Lions Just 4 Women Expo. Her speech was impeccable and delivered professionally. As an observer I was shocked to find out the young lady speaking so assertively that day was only 25 years old. Since then, I learned a lot more about her and I am very proud to offer our readers the opportunity to learn more about her too. She is a delightful and altruistic girl who spend a lot of her time to help others and she might inspire others to do so. Here goes then the interview that I had today with her. (TTD)

L’Idea MagazineYou campaign to let people know about #MoreThan4. Could you tell us what this campaign is about?
Jamie Lynn Macchia: Cancer is the #1 disease killer of children and each year about 10,380 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed. Treatments have not changed significantly in more than a decade. In fact, most medications used to fight cancer in children are designed to combat adult cancers and three out of five survivors develop side effects from receiving treatments that are too strong for their small bodies to handle. Yet, insufficient efforts are being made to help those who are fighting the hardest battle of their young lives.
I always take the opportunity to spread a message many people are shocked by: Of the already small amount of federal funding for cancer research (both adult and pediatric), only 4% is allocated for all childhood cancers combined. This is where the #MoreThan4 movement comes in: to raise awareness of the horrific statistics, and to emphasize the gross inequity of cancer research funding, the #MoreThan4 (percent) movement was born.
Our children deserve More Than 4 percent of the federal funding for cancer research. Only then will they stand a fighting chance with new treatments and a healthier future – free from side effects. “More Than 4” has become the rally cry for the pediatric cancer community and #MoreThan4 is used on social media sides to show the desperate need for more funding.
In order for effective change to occur, childhood cancer needs to become its own entity in the eyes of the government. It can no longer be lumped in with adult cancers. However, until the government increases financial support, and provides the amount necessary to find treatments and cures, it is up to us to bridge the funding gap.

L’Idea MagazineYou are a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Wagner College, you were Miss New York 2015 and you are only 26 years old… So young and successful, what made you volunteer to help raise money for pediatric cancer research?
Jamie Lynn Macchia: Thank you for the compliment! My passion for my pediatric cancer work unfortunately came from a deep, personal connection. My best friend Dominic was diagnosed with leukemia when we were 10 years old. I witnessed the trials he had to endure: the side effects of medication, the struggle to find a bone marrow match, and the lack of updated and effective treatments. After a valiant battle with this disease, Dominic passed away shortly after his 15th birthday. I was heartbroken. I was frustrated. But, most of all, I was determined to inspire change through action. I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far, but there is still so much to be done.

L’Idea MagazineYou are the development officer for Staten Island University Hospital, Northwell Health. What does this position entail?
Jamie Lynn Macchia: As a Development Officer I take part in all fund raising related activities for Staten Island University Hospital. This includes event planning/assistance and securing donations with a focus on building, maintaining and enhancing donor relationships. It is wonderful for me that, after my year as Miss New York, I still have the ability to continue raising funds for a worthy institution as my full-time job.
What’s even better? Staten Island University Hospital is currently working to building a brand new Comprehensive Cancer Center, to include a Pediatric Oncology Unit! It has all come full-circle.

L’Idea MagazineYou have won many prestigious awards, including Miss America Organization Community Service Award, Miss America Organization Academic Award, Children’s Miracle Network’s “Miracle Maker”, SIEDC’s “20 under 40” Award and Star Network’s “Stars Under 40” Award. Is there one that is the most significant for you and why?
Jamie Lynn Macchia: I am honored to have received a number of awards for my charity work, academic achievements, and contributions to the community. It is difficult to pick one that is most significant to me, but I was particularly shocked to have been chosen to receive a “20 Under 40” Award from the SIEDC. This award, given to 20 people under the age of 40, recognizes rising stars in Staten Island who are making a difference in their respective fields. For me, it was humbling to have been considered ‘accomplished in my field’ for my dedication to philanthropy thru pediatric cancer at the young age of 25. It definitely puts more pressure on me to keep achieving and reaching for new heights in the future, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

L’Idea MagazineHow positive was your experience, first with participating at and winning Miss New York contest and then participating at Miss America contest?
Jamie Lynn Macchia: I competed for 7 years in the Miss America Organization, holding 4 local titles (Miss Staten Island 2012 & 2014, Miss Greater NY 2013 & 2015) before I finally achieved my goal of becoming Miss New York on my last shot. I could not be more grateful to this organization for all of the experiences I have had and for the scholarship money I obtained which has allowed me to be debt-free after 4 years of college. The Miss America Organization has empowered me, given me lifelong friends, and offered me unique opportunities and experiences.

My time as Miss New York included fashion shows, school visits, galas, fundraisers, mentoring, television appearances – I experienced it all. But I have to say, of all my events, the hospital visits were some of the most memorable. Through Miss America’s partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, I had this wonderful opportunity to connect my own platform – Inspiring Action Against Pediatric Cancer – with the organization I loved representing. Walking into a hospital room to visit a child and seeing their face light up because “a princess came to visit” brings a feeling that’s difficult to put into words. For one moment, they get to be a kid again, and I gave that to them. I will never forget those faces.

In total I traveled over 17,000 miles for more than 230 events, bringing attention to a multitude of causes and meeting hundreds of people from Paula Abdul to Nick Jonas. Just one of those incredible experiences was competing at Miss America, representing New York. It was surreal to be in an iconic theater (Boardwalk Hall) in Atlantic City, performing on the biggest stage of my life! I will never forget those moments because it is something I never thought I would get the chance to do. After all, you’re more likely to have a son compete in Super Bowl than a daughter compete at Miss America! How cool is that!?

L’Idea MagazineYou were a member of the competitive dance team in college. Do you still dance at that level?(talk about you being a dance instructor, if you want)
Jamie Lynn Macchia: At Wagner College I was a member of the competition dance team. In addition to dancing at both the football & basketball games, we competed in Disney World every year! It really was an incredible experience. Unfortunately, after I completed my time in the Miss America Organization I didn’t find many more opportunities to dance at that level. As a certified dance teacher, I was teaching part-time, but I took this year off to focus on other interests. I would love to return to the studio and share my love of dance with students!

L’Idea MagazineWhat are your plans for your immediate future and your long range goals?
Jamie Lynn Macchia: I am so proud of the life I’ve created and where I am right now at 26 years old. In my immediate future, I hope to continue evolving in my current position at Staten Island University Hospital, assisting in the current goal to build a new Women & Newborn Center, Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Hybrid Operating Room. I’m also excited to be running my own business for the first time in my life as a Rodan + Fields Consultant! Looking further into the future, I plan to continue my work with pediatric cancer advocacy and hope to become more involved with Miss New York Organization – helping other young women achieve the personal growth that I did while paying for their college educations.
Oh, and as a recently engaged woman, I’m planning a wedding for October of 2019 with my high school sweetheart. The future looks bright!

L’Idea MagazineCongratulations on your future wedding! Any suggestions for our young readers?
Jamie Lynn Macchia: I always have two pieces of advice for young people today. First: Perseverance is key. Though it may be easy to look at another’s success and feel discouraged, you have to remember that everyone’s path in life is different. A perfect example for me was becoming Miss New York – it certainly wasn’t something that happened overnight! It would have been easy to get discouraged and give up, but when you truly have a goal, you have to go for it with everything you have. Second: Use your voice to make a difference. All too often I hear, “Well, what can I do about it?” or “I can’t change that.” But, you can! You have to the power to make a change where you see a need. Go out there and make a difference in this world because the world needs more dreamers.

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Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon: Master Goldsmith And Artist In NYC

Article and interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena (as appeared on L’Idea Magazine, Feb.3, 2018)

Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon, Master Goldsmith and artist, philosopher of life and amiable character of New York’s cultural elite, met us in the Upper West Side for an exclusive interview. His creative energy is felt only to hear him speak and can be observed in his gaze, which reflects his love for life. With a recent past full of successes, both as an artist and as a goldsmith, with international collaborations that have distinguished him for his professionalism and originality (Scanno Award, Daikin Orchid Women’s Golf Award, etc.), this Italian personality is bringing his great cultural contribution to this intricate metropolis that always needs new voices. Here’s what he told us.

Symbol for the Premio Scanno Award created by Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon

L’IDEA: Who is the person that you think has had more influence on your artistic activity and how did it happen?
Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon: Certainly Maestro Valerio Passerini, but now I have to say that all the people I met were inspiring for me, some on an artistic level and others on a human level, two things that I wrote separately but that are not. Anyway, I met Maestro Valerio Passerini in June 1997, after a year living in Florence, where I had done an Engraving and Repoussage course; I went to meet him personally in his studio in front of the Sanctuary of Santa Caterina in Siena. With the Maestro I have to say that there was immediately a certain feeling that led me to move to Siena in his studio as an engraver. He did not pay me but gave me the chance to start my artistic life in the field of creative jewelry; in fact, seeing him make some Etruscan earrings, I asked him to teach me the goldsmith’s art, which was for me immediately easy to interpret and realize.

I was in his studio for a year. After that period, I moved to the studio I had at home and from there I continued to work for an exclusively private clientele, which I created in the year spent with the Maestro in his studio. Sincere thanks, then, to Maestro Valerio Passerini.

L’IDEA: Do you have an artistic ideal as a Master Goldsmith to which you aim? Who is the goldsmith/artist you most admire and why?
Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon: I do not have an artistic ideal or a Master by whom I am inspired, and I say it with great humility, in fact, looking at my Work you can go from modern to classic, ethnic to contemporary to sculpture; I mean, that mine is a constant search day after day through daily life that I then transform figuratively and materially into jewels or sculptures, so I think that life itself is the greatest teacher.

Fortunately I have been able to travel a lot and in cultural, linguistic and food diversity, I have been able to learn a lot, but above all it has given me the chance to see things from different angles and perspectives and understand that there is a right and wrong for each one of us and that all preconceptions bind us and do not free us from what we are in nature, that is, we are pure creation and from this we just let go and feel part of the universe and become like the tools I use when I have to create a jewel or a sculpture. So there are fortunately many Masters, and if I think of a future this excites me and inspires me even more.

Bracelet from the Etruscan Collection

L’IDEA: Why do you use silver, bronze and silk thread in your sculptural works?
Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon: I started using bronze, silver, silk thread and other materials, since I felt the need to get out of the usual canons and rules of jewelry; I needed to experiment, to know myself and get to know my creativity better. I felt the need to construct an object not contained in space but to use the same space and fill it harmoniously and with balance, but still considering the creative aspect. So the first object was made of pure 925 silver and blue silk threads, a ring that I called Throne. From there, slowly, I moved on to make larger sculptural objects, however always keeping my Goldsmith background. For this reason I use materials that bring me back to the color of yellow and white gold, but the thread comes from the need to give shape without too much invading the space that surrounds the same object; it is as if there were so many pieces, one independent from the other but put and seen together form a shape. This is connected to the first question, all the people and the coincidences of life are like a puzzle that in the end takes ever more form and meaning.

L’IDEA: You often work coupled with artists (painters and sculptors), creating jewels that recall their art. How does this combination work? What difficulties did you encounter in these projects?Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon:The collaboration with artists was born with the art gallery INNER ROOM OF CONTEMPORARY ART of Siena, whose president and founder is the artist Federico Fusi. The gallery invited various artists every month and commissioned me a piece of jewelry that would reflect the same theme of the show, the collaboration consisted of talking with the artist and understanding what he wanted, even if I have to say that most people let me interpret their art in extreme freedom and with trust in my work, so it is always easy to work with great artists because they are also always the most humble; I must say that this collaboration gave me the opportunity to wander in conceptual jewelry, which led me to collaborate with artists such as Lucio Pozzi, Gilberto Zorio, Alfredo Pirri and Jan Fabre. At this moment I am collaborating with the artist Dove Bradshaw;  I carry out her ideas, suggesting the type of material and the working methodology for the replication of her concepts; also, in this case, her full availability, humility and trust in my work, makes the collaboration constantly creative and a mutual exchange, therefore constructive.The difficulties in the job, sometimes, are in finding the right balance between imagination and possibility of realization; I must say, however, that having a strong old-school artisanal base, I have always managed to satisfy the creative need of both the artist with whom I collaborate and mine.

Jewel based on the sculpture s byi Jan Fabre

Original design and jewel from the Etruscan Collection

L’IDEA: How much influence have you had, both in your creativity and in the production itself, by the places where you lived? New York, for example, how much did it affect your Work? 
Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon:
 Tuscany gave me the Classic, the Renaissance, the sense of balance of eternal beauty. Japan gave me Modernity, Contemporaneity linked to a past full of sense of honor. My first line of modern or contemporary jewelry, as we want to call it, was born from a trip to Japan in 2005. I went to Nagoya for the Expo; entering the railway station of Nagoya, I saw a chandelier with glasses cut perpendicularly and with the light that brought me back to the florescence of the diamond under the sun; from that experience, after a year and a half, I created the first ring inspired by that wall lamp, and so the Nagoya collection was born.
Here in NYC I’m dedicating myself to refine the completely different typology and production process, including material and equipment, from the creative and design one I was doing in Italy; here it is much more technical and based on speed; I would say at the moment I am in a phase of learning rather than creative, since I believe I still need to have even more knowledge and background. However, I think that a city like NYC, so dynamic and in constant change, can only add important information to my cultural background that, mixed with everything, can only give good results.

Earrings from the Nagoya Collection

Earrings from the Nagoya Collection

L’IDEA: Could you explain to our readers how it works, in general, the production of a jewel designed and produced by you and which tools do you use?
Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon: The realization of an object starts from the client who orders me a jewel to make; first of all, I try to identify the person in front of me and understand which jewel is best suited to his/her personality, after which I make project drafts until I find the subject that inspires me and that satisfies me most of all, because, as I always say, the realization of a jewel starts from your ego and in the need to satisfy it, and I say this in a positive sense.

Using the inspiration from a painting of Matisse (the leaves) Mazzon created a,pendant and a ring with white gold, turquoise and diamonds, for his customer Franca Maffei

Found the right design, I start with the work phase, which is still very artisanal. I take pure gold and bring it with a copper and silver alloy from pure to 18K, then, according to the jewelry I have to make, I laminate it and work on it. My work is always and directly done with the metal in an artisanal way, I do not use wax nor I prepare models before the realization of the object itself, so for me it is like sculpting directly from the material and then arriving at the final result; this implies really small margins of error, but at the same time it leads you to confront yourself. I like to consider making a jewel as a metaphor of life, in the sense that every time I create a new jewel it’s like taking an introspective trip with all its difficulties, victories and secrets that I find when I’m in the creative and working phase.
The tools I use are from various pliers to torches, and I work with the microscope. For some jobs I have to use a specific tool for that job, such as a hacksaw, etc.

Original design and bracelet from the Buccellati Collection

L’IDEA: Which projects are you currently working on? 
Enrico Giuseppe Mazzon: Now I’m working on a couple of orders from Italy, a pendant with opals, tourmalines and diamonds, and a series of rings with diamonds; here in NYC, as already mentioned, I am in constant collaboration with the artist Dove Bradshow, a collaboration born in 2014 after my visit to New York, and now, after having made a golden reproduction of a broken goose egg, I am reproducing, from a pyrite, a pair of earrings in pure silver; I am also producing a copy of a silver earring by the artist Berridge, and completing the reproduction of bullets fired by NYC police in pure silver, plus other projects of which we are still discussing the details in this period.

Bracelet Gallery

Ring Gallery


Pendants and Necklaces Gallery

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