JEWELRY AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Outlining… Embellishing … Layering… This process was like a spell that I could barely escape, until an ornate butterfly was clearly streamlined on my sketch paper as if I conjured it up with soul and mind.
In an afternoon class of “The Gouaché in High Jewelry 1: The Light”, at L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts at K11 MUSEA, I celebrated every High Jewelry piece brought to life by elite designers. They earned my deepest respect for assembling originality and delicacy together in creation.
L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts (L’ÉCOLE) was established with the support of the High Jewelry Maison Van Cleef & Arpels. The only overseas campus, L’ÉCOLE in Hong Kong blended tranquillity and modernity upon introducing the world of jewelry arts. It was devised by renowned Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, playing with natural day light through organic shapes.
Walking down its spiral staircase, L’ÉCOLE felt more like a jewelry-arts school, where an underground classroom, an exhibition area, a library and a balcony that embraced the panoramic Victoria Harbour view, all lived under the same roof. My attention was nevertheless captured by the “Precious Art Deco Objects” exhibition – a remarkable display of close to 50 masterpieces from the collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan, at the aisle end along my way to the classroom.
“Welcome to L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts,” two french teachers, a jewelry designer from France and a visual artist based in Hong Kong, greeted me warmly with a smile. Each class was taken by at least two teachers from a team of experts in their fields: jewelry art historians, gemologists, master jewelers, designers, mock-up makers, stone setters and lacquer craftsmen. With the accommodation up to 12 participants, it was able to give participants the time each deserved to have one-on-one discussion with teachers in a small-class setting.
After being equipped with work essentials of jewelry designers: a white lab coat and professional tools for drawing gouachés, I was ready for my journey to the world of jewelry arts.
“What is gouaché?” It was sure to be a question I had before stepping into the classroom. A gouaché is the primary step in the creation of a High Jewelry piece: a painted sketch that acts as a guide for all the craftsmen involved: mock-up makers, jewelers, gemologists and stone setters. Progressing from the depiction of a flat object to one with three- dimensional volume requires a highly-skilled technique for sure; this was a challenge I was going to meet today.
Teachers began with a presentation of gouaché techniques. From learning how to position light and shadow to studying jewelry designers’ gestures, such as direction and speed, time was well-spent on painting a white gold piece in the shape of a bow. It surprised me a little that seemingly simple painted sketches in the world of jewelry arts concealed valuable efforts from designers.
Participants, including myself, joyously ended the day with our own gouaché and a class certificate. A list of books, podcasts, websites, museums related to the class were also provided by teachers to allow for further exploration into this jewelry-arts journey.
In fact, over 20 courses and workshops are offered monthly by L’ÉCOLE in three specialized areas: “Savoir- Faire”, “Art History of Jewelry” and “The Universe of Gemstones”, to promote the public education of art with a wide-ranging audience. “The Gouaché in High Jewelry 1 – The Light” is one of the two courses under “Savoir-faire”. But what makes L’ÉCOLE more special? It offers “Workshops for Young People”, aiming to stimulate the imaginations of children and teenagers from ages five to 17 in understanding the world of jewelry arts.
Back at home, I could not resist looking at my gouaché over and over again. It was not a painted sketch, it was a eye-pleasing butterfly. This butterfly was about to spread its wings and lend a sparkle to the night without saying a goodbye…