Maja Paunovic-Maricic unpacks a large, square block of clay from a box on the floor of her basement studio. She removes a small piece, and after rolling the clay between her hands, presses it against a three-dimensional mould imprinted with a lace pattern.
Separating the mould from the clay, Paunovic-Maricic places the piece with a dozen others to be fired in a kiln, glazed and fired once more before being strung on a cord or chain and made into jewelry.
“I’m definitely a cross-curriculum artist,” said Paunovic-Maricic from her home studio in Ottawa. A selection of her acrylic and watercolour paintings are on display at the Cambridge Design Gallery in West Wellington.
Before moving to Ottawa in 2001, she left Bosnia and moved to the United States, where she studied art and art education at Frostburg State University in Western Maryland in the 1990s.
“I ended up in Ottawa as a result of a beautiful, bumpy, long love relationship. I started dating my husband, a year before the war started in my hometown, where he was a refugee. We had a beautiful, serious relationship and were supposed to get married. However, the war did its deed and we unwillingly separated. After another year of distance dating, both as refugees in Serbia, we abruptly broke up. We spoke to each other few times during the seven-years-long breakup, but there were many misunderstandings between us.”
When he moved to Canada in May 2000 the two clarified their misunderstandings and a few months later were reunited in Toronto.
“In August, I moved to live with him in Ottawa, and in March 1999 we got married. We have two wonderful children, an 11-year-old boy and six-year-old girl.”
Traces of heritage, culture and tradition from Paunovic-Maricic’s hometown of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina are present in all pieces of her work, from still-life paintings to pottery and sculpture.
Throughout her home, tables are accented with ceramic bowl arrangements, each bowl larger than the one beneath it, stacked to resemble the petals of a flower. The smooth inner surface of each bowl is contrasted against its rough outer surface, which like the jewelry, reflects a three-dimensional lace pattern.
The pieces are Paunovic-Maricic’s own work, and represent some of her pride and joy.
“Lace has always been present in my life,” she said, turning one of the bowls upside down and smoothing her fingers over the edges. “It’s so intricate. If you think about every single stitch and how it evolves one from another, it’s almost like dancers dancing, going from one move to another, or like life going on and developing.”
Paunovic-Maricic created her first bowl as a personal project in early 2012, inspired by a lace tablecloth given to her by her grandmother as a wedding gift.
“Every time I put it on my table, I would always want to do something more with it,” she said.
Paunovic-Maricic decided to make a mould of the lace and used the mould to transfer the lace pattern onto a bowl she designed. The bowl itself is made distinct by its organic curves, said Paunovic-Maricic.
After receiving a positive response from other artists, she started selling the pieces at craft shows and other events. You can see her work on her website at majapaunvoic.com.
Glazed with deep browns, reds, greens, yellows, and creams, she said the pieces are decorative and functional. She suggested using them to serve food at a dinner party and said the smaller bowls can be washed in the dishwasher.
The original bowl inspired by her grandmother’s lace still sits in her basement, a crack from firing making it unsellable.
“Accidents that happen always turn into something good,” she said, and explained it was fragments of a broken bowl that inspired her to use the pieces to make jewelry. “I’m not an absolute manipulator of my pieces. I let them happen on their own.”
According to Paunovic-Maricic, women 20 to 60 have expressed interest in her jewelry and are attracted by the powerful and unique nature of the pieces.
“There’s a touch of antiqueness in it, but it takes on a different look when you put it on,” she said, gesturing to a selection of necklaces on display in her studio.
“It looks so elegant and it almost gives a feeling of power. Even if you don’t have that traditional look to yourself, the jewelry will still compliment modern style.”
Paunovic-Maricic’s jewelry ranges from $30 to $100, and selected pieces are on sale at Art & Soul. Bowls range from $20 to $195 and are on display, along with a selection of her paintings at Cambridge Design Gallery, also on Wellington Street.
Works can be found at Art & Soul, 1207 Wellington St. W. and Cambridge Design Gallery,
1282 Wellington St. W.