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Sea Sculptor Elena Puntin

Elena Puntin’s bone pendants are designed around objects and symbols from the sea. They are sculpted from bone that a local butcher saves for her and are then lovingly carved, polished, and worn. Upon arriving in Puerto la Cruz where we had taken our trawler Swan Song to spend the hurricane season, I chanced to meet this talented and dedicated sailor who lives and works on her sloop Mabel with her partner Andrea Legoni.

Elena hails from Cervignano, Italy, where she grew up in an artistic family. Her mother Loretta is an artist and teacher. Her father Ennio is an architect with a passion for all forms of creative endeavors. One of his interests was making jewelry for Elena’s mother, which inspired her passion for jewelry.

“I always was surrounded by artistic tools and books so it was only natural that I would love art. Cervignano is a town filled with artisans and this influenced me a great deal as I was always surrounded by beautiful things. We had very old antiques that my father would acquire from his clients as they were modernizing their homes. He is also interested in photography and had a great deal to do with teaching me the special art of “seeing” as an artist. He is currently restoring a 13th century mill in Italy.”

Elena attended the Gorizia School of Art for five years and graduated when she was 19. Originally this school was for carpentry, which she studied, and as the years passed other forms of art were added to the curriculum.

“I loved wood from the beginning. When I returned to visit my teachers ten years after graduation, they were still using my joinery as examples in their carpentry courses. As a certified furniture designer I went to work with my father. Then Andrea entered my life—he had always entertained this dream of living on a boat, so we planned our life around buying a boat and sailing away. We drove our motorbike along the coasts of Italy and France and finally found Mabel, a 10 metre sloop that is very seaworthy and made for cruising throughout the world.

“At the time we owned a French restaurant in Italy and didn’t have a lot of time for sailing. We would close our restaurant in the summers and cruise the Mediterranean. In 1998 we sailed to Turkey and then left the Med for the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and across the Atlantic to Brazil. We enjoyed cruising the Caribbean, skipping the tourista areas, and now live in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela.”

I watch carefully as Elena displays her many works of art at a local show. She tells me, “I discovered that the coconut is a beautiful material to work with so I started carving small bowls and salad servers as gifts. I have always collected seashells from the beaches, without knowing what to do with them, so I started adding shells and began making jewelry. At the beginning I was only working with files, sandpaper and handsaws. Now I work also with a Dremel and will include client’s gems in my carvings upon request.”

Elena always carries her design book with her. Ancient Maori designs inspire her most beautiful pendants. The eye of her seahorse is a sapphire and her dolphins have zircon eyes. “Creating with my hands is really gratifying. Making new designs, working with bones, and seeing the results give me a great deal of satisfaction. I am very lucky, as Andrea loves to cook, take care of the boat, and also of our two cats, leaving me the time to carve and create.”

Elena’s beautiful designs, including cus tom orders, can be purchased from her directly at postadimabel@yahoo.it.

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