He welcomes you in his shop gallery of the Marais, in Paris, with a smile of a rare gentleness and the infinite sensitivity of his gaze. Your history, your desires and your dreams, your jewels too, all is set there, with an instantly receptiveness. Thierry Vendome is an artist-jeweler of fierce uniqueness. Deeply human and humble, he makes us think about Earth – both mineral soil and vegetable earth, which receive and capture everything to reproduce beauty in return. Managing his art with extraordinary talent and poetry, his creations are so powerful, striking with truth and emotions, and going beyond the limits to sublimate with materials and forms in our world today. All the forms are considered in his work, the rarest and the most precious, but also those which no one looks at, such as rust, which finds in his eyes the first place and in his fairy fingers, the expression of an aesthetic Ode to the existence, movement and life.
At the right school with Father Jean
Thierry is the son of Jean Vendome, reputed to be “France’s father of contemporary jewelry”. An illustrious heritage that he assumes with honor, but without an ounce of pride. “My father is a special person, with a strong character and his mark will remain unique in the profession”. Of international renown, Jean Vendome is indeed considered the pioneer of modern jewelry, having since the 1960s introduced the aesthetic principles of abstraction to the art of jewelry. Decorated as Officier de l’Ordre et du Mérite and then named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France, he accumulated the most prestigious awards and prizes and exhibited his creations all over the world. Thierry will grow up with his elder brother in this family of jewelers, being strongly influenced by his visionary and forward-thinking father who overthrew the codes of his time. “I learned with him to consider jewelry as a work of art, a miniature sculpture that is worn. Also, to give it a strong expressive value, updating it in its time.” First settled boulevard Voltaire, the shop will move in the very chic neighborhood of the rue Saint-Honoré, of which he will keep a special nostalgia. “I had only one hurry, it was leaving school to find my father in this beautiful and historic animated quarter of Paris”. At the age of 16, his dream will come true and he and his father Jean will start teaching him about the jewelery trade with a training far away from the academic and traditional schools of Fine Arts. “My training will last for 6 years. Through working, I will learn all the codes and I learn to create”. Thierry will remain with his father for 23 years, while creating his own collections and will branch out on his own in 2003.
Finding his own identity
The artist acknowledges “that it took him a decade of practice before finding the joy for a truly free and personal creation.” In his family home at La Hague in Normandy, he used to fixed down with a contemplative gaze, all the materials and forms along shorelines. “I started picking up the raw and natural materials, and I was attracted by the woods of haul-outs, that are true sculptures of the sea.” From the age of 20, he began to mount these shells, pebbles and even glasses transformed by the waves, in jewels. He successfully launches a collection made with salvaged wood, gold and silver necklaces. “But I was still looking for something else, because these materials were not long-lasting, being too friable and fragile.” But this quest allowed him to gain the conviction of having found this call here. “Transforming into jewelry what nobody wants to look at; unused or dirty objects, items which can be found in garbage cans.” Then he started putting together opposite materials to emerge from the classicism and academic jewelry schools, mixing in the same piece of art the profane and the sacred, the old and the modern, the altered and the precious. His father introduced the abstract style and the contribution of minerals and crystals in the high-end jewelry. Thierry wanted to take a step further in the renewal of his craftwork approach. “The value of a jewel is above all the aesthetic work in itself and not the value of the raw material alone. And one can find a beauty in everything, including the wastes of society.”
From marine to rusty treasures
One day, he will have a new revelation while walking in the dunes of Normandy. “I saw shrapnel from the last war (because it was a former military training ground). And I have taken this matter, the oxidized steel – the rust, which I have found extraordinarily strong and of incredible beauty.” Thierry will assemble them with gold, diamonds and opal, “the fluorescent stone that carries on all the seashores ambiance”. He then audaciously launched his first collection of rusty jewelry, which will be a great success, including in the press. Named “the scraper of jewelry” by the trade people, the son of Jean will finally find there his favorite material, expressing all his art to play with shapes, colors and stones and to make jewels full of audacity, contrast and emotion. “The peculiarity of the touch and the color of the rust fascinates me and its alliance with the noble materials is so rich”. In his boutique, Thierry Vendome also creates unique models, collections in limited series and tailor-made jewels for any type of clientele: “I have famous people as well as very normal customers; from the wedding ring for a young man, to the transformation of family jewelry into new pieces, which will reflect our time and the taste of the person who wears them.”
Nature and exoticism, his sources of inspiration
Poet and contemplative, Thierry Vendome also creates collections inspired by the lines and themes observed in nature and during his travels. The artist lives a special relationship with the mineral of course, but also with everything that lives, vegetable and animal. “Nature has opened up creative ways and allowed me to make my wildest dreams come true. I will never thank her enough for so much generosity.” He captures a stone that touches him, a landscape, a living geometry, an unusual encounter and represent it into a jewel by associating it with matter. The artist also seeks for exoticism in his creations. His land of inspiration is Armenia, from his family roots, and he is particularly fond of his welcome and his Faith. He has launched a whole collection called “Aygedsor” in tribute to the valleys of the vines found in this little country. “Each piece expresses a unique emotion, like this yellow gold necklace, with tourmalines, turquoises and diamonds, inspired by the movement of vine trellises, as we can see a lot in Armenia; All this beautiful disorder, this delicious chaos”.
He will also set up collections inspired by his travels in China, Africa and the United States and a recent collection with a “wild and raw” spirit inspired by natural roots and barks. “I draw an idea that comes to me or a form that grabs me on my notebook. Then quickly, I have to realize the object since I have it on mind. I can also start from a color, a stone, then the creation comes by following the form”. The jeweler, however, admits that his most beautiful work remains to this day an academic sword. “It is an extraordinary jewel that I had a lot of fun to realize because one must sculpt all the symbols of the person on a handle.”
Thierry Vendome is now a man filled and serene, who would still like to meet other challenges: “freely create a collection for a great jeweler of the Place Vendôme for example, to bring them my personal touch while respecting their style.” Meanwhile, there is this imminent and promising journey to Japan, where he will draw new inspirations and express them again in his art with a new original and audacious collection, associating materials and forms in a singular alliance to reveal that behind each jewel, there is an emotion, a joy and a celebration that captures the timeless beauty of the world.
Interview with Carine Mouradian, on April 5, 2017 in Paris.