O N N O W
I N T E R V I E W
S E R I E S # 2
published by Naz Kisnisci
18 November. 2020
WITH CLAIRE NORMAND
1. Who are you and how do you describe your brand?
I am Claire Normand. I am a 25 yo lapidary artist and jewelry designer living and working in Paris. I’m the maker of all the jewelry pieces of my brand, which I created 1 year ago.
2. Could you tell us a bit more about the process and culture of your brand?
Stones are at the heart of my brand. I have an obsession about them. My jewelry pieces are handmade with lapidary technics. Although I follow traditional technics, I allow myself a lot of freedom in the process and the final result. One year ago, I was expecting receiving stones slabs from my supplier, which arrived broken in hundreds of broken pieces. What could have been a disaster and money loss actually inspired me a lot to create from the broken forms and playing with its rough textures instead of forcing my ideas and calibrated templates on it. For example, when cutting a beautiful orange flintstone rock in slices, I discovered a vivid red vein which I decided to enhance by marrying it with a red jasper stone. It is quite an impulsive process, and a game of composition.
3. You are designing unique pieces of jewellery but as I consider you and your work I see an artist rather than just a
designer. Do you agree and do you think this affects the perception of how people see the brand?
I am not a jeweler at first, nor do I have a fashion or marketing background. I followed an arts & crafts education and I do consider myself at first as a sculptor who specialized in gemstones and hardstones. I see my jewelry as wearable sculptures. Stones change so much with the light, and it’s beautiful to see people wearing it. I see stones more than just a material and I think we can have a special relation with them.
I guess my pieces are quite mysterious yet, especially the Duos series. So it’s my role to talk more about the process and my vision. To explain that no piece can be the same, even if the model has the same name.
4. Could you tell us about how did you decide to go the direction with lapidary? It is not very “common” to choose this kind of material, how your journey began and how do you feel about this?
I first met the now deceased glyptician Claude Delhief (the glyptic is the art of gem engraving) at 17 yo in college. I was following applied arts education but felt frustrated not doing with my hands. The ambiancy in his workshop and his tranquility blew my mind. I loved the figurative sculptures he did, and decided I would also like to create physical objects that are timeless. I learned about modelling, molding and sculpture, which are kind of the preparative technics before a glyptic work. However, with the years, I let it to a side of my mind as I didn’t find any internships because there’re like 3 persons in France doing that. As a scholarship, I went in China to study ceramic. I discovered a jade carving workshop and took it as a sign to finally learn. I’ve spent my nights in the workshop working and bought myself a little engraving machine... I met there the carver Andrew John Shaw, and then his friend Ric Moor in New Zealand, from whom I learned so much and I feel so grateful for what they brought me. Less in a figurative work at the moment, I explore the materiality of the stones, compose with it, and I like the idea to bring this very slow craft to the fashion world.
5. What are your inspirations? Is there a mission or aim for the future when you think about your brand?
I am really inspired by the stone itself. It’s a very interesting element I feel is alive although it’s immortal. Here for millions of years, they have a lot to tell.
I can contemplate it for hours and like to observe it transforming itself under my tools, revealing its hidden secrets. I love the writings of stones of Roger Caillois. He has a very poetic point of view about stones and big sensitivity. The birth of the stones as well inspire me as it’s an invisible geological process I can fantasise on.
I want to make beautiful pieces that last in time and that we will cherish like plants.
My aim is to enhance natural stones, especially those that do not have a high value at first or are not used in jewelry. That’s why I’m developing a collaboration with a marble industry.
6. Do you feel successful and what do you think about success?
I feel successful pursuing my passion and exploring my sensibility. For me, success is being able to do what makes you happy and put you in an exciting state, and make your turn other people happy. I also really feel success is made with the people you surround yourself with. Each step is inspired, stimulated or even initiated by the people you work with. Just an advice can be so important and changes your perception and your “fire” to keep going.
7. What are the challenges that emerging brands are facing? Do you think there are any solutions?
I think emerging fashion brands have to face a saturated market. We’re all working in between 2 realities, the physical and the digital. I guess we all kinda have to work with social media, as you can reach out to a community, find customers, collaborators… A lot happens on the internet, everything becomes accessible which is amazing. But it also is frightening. Every brand is in this big digital wave in which we can be lost and not seen. To do its place, brands really have to show its uniqueness, assuming their own choices of making, and creating according to the time we live in.
Speaking for a very small brand, as we’re two working, Theodore Famery on the business side and artistic direction with me, I would say being well surrounded and identifying the roles and qualities of everyone. Also, targetting what makes you create, what you wanna bring to the scene. Being transparent, showing vulnerability. It’s very easy to compare to each other but I think we’re all in the same basket, and we should help each other by working together, creating collabs of creatives.
8. Your IG profile looks quite minimalist but artsy at the same time. How much do you think social media affect your
It is pretty minimalist at the moment as I showcase my work as sculptures, or even mineral specimens.I post photos of my work and stories of the process directly from the workshop. Social media is amazing to share that. Also I met people whom I‘m working with thanks to it. I am just a bit afraid of it as it’s easy to feel frustration. We can always look for more, there will always be someone better, with more followers, with very cool recent projects. But all is just images.
9. What do you think about the new way of productions when you consider the new digital age?
When pursuing my arts & crafts education, I’ve been teached very specific hand engraving techniques which were existing for centuries. Digital controlled units were already replacing all engravers in companies. So I’ve been quite worried about the digital for years. However, I recently met people who introduced me to 3D work with a totally new perspective. I now see it as an amazing tool which can help you to dream and modelize your most crazy ideas without physical limitations. I like you can play with the perception of realities.
I would find amazing collaborating with 3D artists.
10. When we consider the new world, we are seeing that the usual fashion industry is changing, which we were already expecting and now we are seeing more positive and in a way more “human” changes. What do you think about this new normal and are you preparing the brand for the new normal? How do you feel about it?
I feel like we understood “superficial”, kinda out of reality brand images and the desire to always do more and produce more weren’t helping any one. I think there’s more dialogue, brands want to be more active and transparent in their productions. Everyone is undeniably touched by the current environment and political crisis, so designers and makers are showing more vulnerability which I find very good. I don’t mean we should be an open book about our feelings, but it definitely feels more human. People seem to be more careful about their choices of buying.
So I think it’s my role as well to be more transparent in communicating why I do what I do and how I do it.
11. Would you give any advice to the jewellery designers who are trying new ways or materials?
I would recommend looking everywhere, and what’s made in other industries. I would say trying and accepting not being perfect at the beginning of the process, and looking for professionals who’ll be happy either to teach you or better, collaborating with you. Also, being open to advice and being attentive to what you really like in the process as it’s every one's own vision and even “naive” way of doing that is interesting.
12. We are going through some challenging times with the environmental crises, political injustices, and many more when you think the current situation of the world, how do you consider situation? Do you think these kind of events are shaping or affecting the fashion industry? And is your brand taking action?
Current situation is definitely crucial. We’re forced to reconsider our perceptions of the world we live in and how we act in our daily life.
In a capitalist world, everyone is touched as money rules our society. The fashion industry is affected by these events. However, I think it’s a bit of a blessing in disguise. Question is why you’re creating if it’s not for money ? If you produce something, what do you wanna tell and are you helping in any ways ?
The fashion industry is forced to review every aspect of its process to recreate other systems. We can see emerging very inspiring ways of working and new economic models such as fully digital campaigns, pieces made by demand by example...
I never really followed the system’s philosophy of being speed, and to delegate my work so I could produce more and sell more. Having followed and arts & crafts education, my philosophy is to create quality pieces. I do it myself because I feel a lot of joy in doing with my hands. Every collection consists of limited quantity pieces and each is very unique because of the material. As stones are at the heart of my creation, it is really important to think of my sourcing. There would be no sense for me in importing from the other side of the globe.
That’s why I’m working with marbles industries to work on their scraps. One is situated in Idar Oberstein, a german city which is very active in the gemstone cutting for the luxury world. As they’re working on big production, they get lots of scraps.
I also just began working with a marble industry which is 10 min walking from my house. I am working according to their production for my marble models. When I go, I’d get so excited by the vision of buckets of green marble scraps. I’ll evaluate how many pieces I can carve thanks to it, and begin to produce. Then they’d tell me that if I come back in 3 weeks, as they would have cut tables for a client, they will have scraps of black marble... I really like the idea of working with them and to create according to an existing production and not initiating new ones. I like that it tightens the creation. It is challenging and exciting to be looking for enhancing an unused, even broken material in beautiful pieces, instead of looking for the perfect material to fit your ideas.
Photographer by Anatole Chartier
Model by Aurore Franche