Arielle de Pinto’s crochet chain jewelry lives on the skin like a protective symbiont. There’s liveness to her armour-like ornaments: they shape-shift, unravel, mute tone, and warm to the wearer’s temperature. Out of her signature technique, she makes earrings, necklaces, bracelets, shoe uppers, and masks—the works. Arielle refers to all of it, her work, as “it.” I only noticed Arielle’s “it” when I played back our interview recording. We had talked about it in her new NY studio, in Chinatown on a hot August afternoon. There was little else in the space, but on the table between us there was plenty of it. She handled it as she spoke, so I felt entitled to as well. It was cool and pliable, weighty and tender.
When did you develop your crochet chain technique? I have vague memories of watching you work on it at Café Olimpico in Montréal. That would’ve been several years ago now.
I started doing this technique when I was going to Concordia University, I think I figured it out in my third year. I was pretty driven to develop and fine-tune it, to make it my own. I had a lot of time to work on it, and I was really bored. I love Montréal now, but at that time, I just wanted to get out.
Did you grow up there?
I grew up in Toronto, in North York.
How long had you been in Montréal at that point?
What year would that have been?
2006. I was doing these print internships and they just didn’t work properly for me. I wasn’t learning anything new. I was going to New York often, and I started interning for the artist Peter Coffin—I was his first intern. He would bring me to openings in New York, and this sparked interest with my first customers there.
Like in galleries?
Yeah. Because the thing was—nobody had really seen anything like it at the time. I had never seen anything like it. By the time I graduated, I had features in Nylon and the New York Times. No.6 was the first store I started selling at. After I did my first drop there, Claire Danes bought a piece, and it was in the New York Times within like three days. It was totally exciting. Like, fast! It happened fast!
You spent some time in New Orleans. How did you end up there?
I ended up spending time there because of my friend, Delaney. I met her because she worked at the No. 6 store and we were neighbours in Greenpoint. And then she moved back to New Orleans, and she was like, “You have to come, you’re going to love it more than anyone.” I went down in 2009 for Halloween and it was insane. The costumes—never had I ever experienced such suspension of disbelief. I came directly after the Paris shows and I was really sick, I had no time to prepare my costume. Delaney was like, “Well, I’ve been working on my costume for the past month. You better figure something out, cause you’re gonna look a fool.” So I figured out my stuff, and I made an eel costume. But actually, the reason why I went down originally was because I did a party with Assembly at this place called Arlo and Esme, and I brought Sissy Nobby and Big Freedia and Altercation down to perform.
Yeah, so I just started to spend time there at a point when I was also spending most of my time in New York. I love New York, I really love it, but I felt like I was going out to parties and people were like, “Come and talk to me about clothes,” and I hated it—I do love clothing, but it’s not what I want to talk about. I don’t want to talk about shopping. You know, I just don’t. And that was happening all the time, and I guess I hadn’t really found my friends yet. I had some really good friends, but they weren’t there all the time, especially for spontaneous fun, and New Orleans was just so refreshing, nobody gave a fuck there. I loved that costuming was something that was given a special credibility, because I don’t think that dress has to be something that’s really superficial. I think that it’s very powerful. I think it’s the way you choose to present yourself.
In the world. Yup.
In the world, to the world. And maybe it’s being from Toronto, I always put a lot of thought into my dress, and I would wear something different every day, but it’s not about showing off, you know?
Yeah! It’s communicating, but I think it depends on where you live and the people you’re around and whether they’re like, “Why do you dress so crazy?”
Well that’s communication. It’s like dialects.
I felt really criticized, and in New York, so much of it was about, like, not just brand names—
It’s about status.
It is about status. I love the idea that it’s costumes, that you can be really channeling something.
It sounds more like performance than like some pose of authenticity of self, or something.
In New Orleans I felt very accepted. You don’t even have to wear clothes. People just wear full-time costumes and nobody bats an eyelash. It’s just fun.
This article has been edited and condensed, originally appearing in Bad Day Magazine, Issue 18.