ARTIST OF THE MONTH - GRAVEL
ARTIST OF THE MONTHEvery month we introduce you to one of the Canadian artists we represent. There is no salt and pepper, we reveal the rawest story on our artists' creative journey. How they met and fell in love with jewellery? What inspired them and how? What was the making process like? What are the tips on being a successfully established jewellery artist? Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages to stay up to date on our latest collections. Go to INTERVIEW ARCHIVE to read more stories.
BIOPHILIA - Featured Artist : Claudia Gravel
October 2nd, 2018
Claudia Gravel is a Montreal-based jewellery artist whose work seeks balance, between both light and dark, geometric and organic. Since 2008, Claudia has been creating sophisticated, yet practical jewellery with a focus on silver and gold with gemstone details. Her collection 'Digital' focuses on the marks left behind when an artist folds and forms metal - fingerprints.
Q: What is your origin story?
I was born in 1982, in Montreal. My mother is from Magdalene’s Island (Iles-de-la-Madeleine), Qc and my father is from Montreal. I grew up in the suburbs. My interests were very eclectic. I played flag football, studied drawing, loved reading, I even joined the army cadets for a couple of years. Life was good, until I become a teenager, when suburban life began to seem very boring. Being a teenager, in Pointe-aux-Trembles, with no real cultural life, I wanted more. I moved to Villeray, my current neighborhood. I traveled in many different cities through North America and Europe, but Montreal is the place where I love to live. It is a wonderful place.
Q: How did you get started in the jewellery business?
My story isn’t very original! The first time I made jewellery was for prom, when I made bead jewellery for all of my friends. I didn’t know what I liked. I wanted to be a police officer, a cook, a lawyer… I went to college (CEGEP) in a general program with visual arts concentration, thinking I would study later to become a French teacher. But two years later I applied at L’École de joaillerie de Montreal. I didn’t know what the details of the program were, but working with my hands, playing with fire, made me love it instantly.
Q: Tell us about your work process - what materials and processes do you favour?
Learning new techniques is the best way to explore new aesthetics, new shapes, and create new collections. When we worked on the collective exhibition RESONANCE in 2015, France Roy and I traded techniques. She taught me how to use the hydraulic press, and I showed her my old metal mill with imprinted rolls. So, I shaped the metal, I soldered pieces together, and kept only parts of it, and finally I added my signature texture. In creating my Cerf-volant earrings I put these empty shapes in groups of three, and I decorated the chain with triangles that looked a bit like the decoration you find on kites. For the necklace, I wanted to repeat elements, so the piece of jewellery would have a fluid movement. A cascade of textured elements. It is very hard for me to incorporate color. But I am happy with the result of this pieces. The soft peach pink of the pearls against silver is elegant and feminine. Creating a unique master piece is a struggle. You think, you are unsure, unsatisfied, until finally, you find something pleasing, Alleluia! Then you release the stress and you begin to play.
Q: What do you think makes your work unique?
The search of balance. Balance between darkness and light, organic verses geometric shapes and an equilibrium in weight- so that you can feel the jewel that you are wearing but in a comfortable way. A balance in style, creating a look that is both elegant and sophisticated, noticeable yet practical enough to be worn every day.
Q: Where do you gather inspiration?
People in this industry are very inspirational. You meet generous teachers, and masters. When you take a class or a workshop with someone like Phil Poirier or Matthieu Cheminée; when you hear people like Lynn Légaré or Christine Larochelle and have the chance to admire their work.
I get inspired by learning new techniques. It opens new worlds. Or by looking at great pieces of jewellery. I remember thinking that I loved the way Christine Larochelle repeats elements in her necklaces, making metal look like textile. I asked myself, how can I add movement in my jewellery like she does, with my own sense of aesthetic, my own conception of jewellery.
Q: What artists have inspired you the most - who do you look up to?
I would like to name someone that is not in the jewellery industry. She is a fashion designer. Marie Saint Pierre creates wearable art, for corporate women, for bridal, every day or extraordinary day. She works with textile like no one else. She washes it, beats it folds and cut into volumes and amazing shapes. Her clothing is the perfect combination of elegance, beauty, movement and originality.
How can her work be so bold and modest at the same time?
Q: What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from working in the industry?
I learned that the best way to clear your mind is working with your hand. If more people applied that to their life, I am sure they would be happier.
And another thing. We are not defined by our job. What defines us is our passion, the way we share it with people. Unfortunately, we must make sacrifices. Some jewellers work 70 hours a week, some live on a very tight budget, others, like me, have a part time job to the pay the bills because making jewellery isn’t enough. Having this side job allows me to go to the studio without worrying too much. I chose this discipline because it fulfills me and making less money than most people isn’t the end of the world.
Q: What tips do you have for aspiring designers?
When I was still at school studying jewellery making, my fiancé told me once, if your teacher says it’s not good (he said shit…), don’t try to defend yourself. Shut up and start over. Yes it’s frustrating, but stop losing time making a big deal out of it. My fiancé is a cook…A big thank you to Claudia for inspiring us with their design journey! For more examples of Claudia's work click here. Claudia is part of the exhibition "BIOPHILIA: Expressions in Metal", click here to find out more.