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or argent éthique bijoux joaillière Katell Leclaire

06 September 2021

Katell Leclaire – Ethical jewelry that suits you

Katell Leclaire is a jewelry-designer, she has a workshop-boutique, she is also the director of Les Ateliers K, a training organization that trains solo-entrepreneurs in the development of their creative activity. Katell is a very special jeweler, she only uses ethical materials! We spoke with her to find out more about her work…

After starting your career in England, you settled in Dinan, Brittany. Why this choice ?

Originally, I am from Saint Lunaire, it is next to Dinan. When I went back from London, I came back. But it’s a country town where not much is happening. I wanted a store with a storefront! So I was looking … And at a trade fair in Dinan, I met two sisters who run a clothing workshop-shop (Tartine de Laine) near rue du Jerzual. They told me that a place was going to become available. I went to visit it and fell in love with it! However, I did not dare right away. I didn’t feel able to take the plunge … And then life brought me back to it, long after. The store was still available. I confronted my fears and went for it! Sometimes life gives signs and if it is the right way, it insists. So we have to go!

You make jewelry in precious metals and yet they are ethical! Can you tell us more?

Silver is recycled. Often I am asked if I am the one who recycles it, but unfortunately I am not, because I do not have the material and it takes a long time. It is therefore my supplier who recovers and refines it. He then puts the silver in the form of primed metals that I use for my work. Silver is 100% recycled. Gold and stones are ethically mined as much as possible. I found a supplier who travels to Nord America (especially to the US) to look for small independent mines, which do not use chemicals but rather modern practices that respect environment and the health of miners, where the human rights are respected, and where there is no children exploitation ! Finally, the selected family businesses replant the trees once they have completed their extraction process.

When you say they are replanting trees, what do you mean?

In ores, most of the time, stone miners destroy everything. They deforest, use chemicals, then they leave the place abandoned when there is nothing more to take. And let’s not talk about human rights! For diamonds, we know the story of the Blood Diamond. Gold is the same, we call it “dirty gold”. When I started working, I traced the process for the diamond. Of course, there are the issues with mining, which everyone is familiar with, but there are also issues with the size. At the time, it was in India, they were looking for children with a “sharp” eye. They were 8-year-old children who worked all day cutting diamonds until the stone was the size of a grain of rice. At night, they slept on the floor next to their countertop. We called them the “Sharp”. There was a whole system based on the exploitation of these children. They had one day off per year, during which they returned to see their families. Since they did not have enough money to pay for transportation, they had to take out a loan from their employer. These debts, which they could never repay, were passed on from generation to generation.

For all these reasons, I don’t want to touch diamonds, which are not ethically mined or synthetic diamonds, and whose traceability cannot be followed. I want to have a clean process, from extraction, to size. For ethically mined diamonds, they really have to be well traced. I’m not going to tell you all the details, but even the certifications are sometimes misleading. For example, the Kimberley Process has been hijacked. It’s complicated, it’s very complicated to have 100% traceability. But there you have it, for gold and diamonds, you have to be very careful not to participate in a dirty and inhuman system. We must not believe everything that Marketing wants to instill in us, we must dig.

It must have been disheartening at the start of your career to measure the difficulty of having access to clean raw materials, right?

When I started in London, I was made aware, very early in my training, of all this. In England, they were ahead of France. They were very familiar with the channels that provide access to ethically mined stones and recycled metals. It was already something that was commonplace, and well known to people. When I returned to France, this practice wasn’t very common. I was lucky enough to know all of this and wanted to share it as widely as possible. I then started to raise awareness. For me, it’s important to educate people and make a difference in my making, to create value with metal and ethical stones. It is essential to avoid all the deviations that can take place in our sector, so that they do not persist.

katell leclaire argent éthique

Could you describe your creation process ?

Unfortunately, a lot of my time is taken up managing the store and the training organization, and that cuts down on my time in the creative process. This is a difficulty that many of us encounter: administrative time which spans creative time. However, I have moments of pure creation where I start with a photo, a theme.

I do moodsheet, and I develop an idea. There is also the creation by the psycho-appearance which allows in fact truly tailor-made pieces. For this process, we start directly from the individuality of the person. I also use a method I call “Bijou Essence”, which allows me to make truly tailor-made pieces. For this process, I start directly from the individuality of the person. I also work more instinctively from stones that I want to magnify. I also use more intuitive techniques that allow the material to speak. In this case, I work with a torch, or I use acid texturing techniques. These are not very precise or figurative techniques. This gives a somewhat raw rendering, but all in delicacy. My goal is to reduce management time to devote more time to developing ideas through design. To create, you have to have a super healthy lifestyle, you have to be in shape, you have to have time, to settle down, to put calm inside yourself. Meeting these conditions can be difficult when you are independent. Inspiration doesn’t come in a snap and the management is very time-consuming. But I want to come back to it. I like big pieces, I want to mix materials and learn new techniques, go back to the pure creative process. But you also have to take into account clients who have an average budget, and who don’t necessarily like very extravagant things. There is also this reality there, to be weighed against the creative desire which sometimes leads to art jewelry rather than everyday jewelry.

What are your sources of inspiration ?

Nature, sculpture, everything that has to do with structure. But here, what I have dreamed of for years, is mixed organic materials, for example leather, zebu horn, wood with stone and metal, used as a binder. I want to mix it all, make big pieces. I want to learn ceramics, to do sculptural work, volume. I want to go to other places, to discover other techniques and to reinvent myself. It’s been in me for a very long time, but unfortunately I had to postpone this desire. Right now, I can feel that this desire is very present in me and I try to organize my time in order to be able to respond to it.

What do you want to transmit through your creations ?

It’s funny, there are people who have told me that wearing my pieces makes them feel good. There is even a gentleman who called me to ask me if “I was a fairy.” Because since he wears my piece, he has the impression that he manages to overcome the obstacles of life better. We believe it or not, but it’s nice to hear these things. If we are open minded to this kind of things, we can say that perhaps the metal which is conductive and has a memory, will absorb the passion that was put in of creation. When I create, I put my pleasure and my emotions into my creations. I really want to bring value in the lives of people by my creations, by making good for people who wear my jewelry. That’s also why I use “Bijou Essence” method.

What is the “Bijou Essence” method? What does it consist of?

I followed a training in the “Awakening Path Clothing” method, itself derived from the “Psycho-appearance” method. I use this method as part of the tailor-made creation of my jewelry.It is a movement which is based on the idea that our interiority is reflected by exteriority according to three axes, color-analysis, morphology and the energies (water, fire, earth and air) which cross us and which will be transcribed by materials. Basically, it’s for clothing, but I wanted to offer it as a conversational reading grid applied to jewelry. The idea is that we are all unique because we have all of these things, within us, in different orders. We use a tree of life where there are four dimensions: a predominant energy, the space of loved ones, the space of oneself and the space of the soul. The four dimensions make up the tree of life and we can recognize personality characteristics which are transcribed by the elements of the 3 axes in each of these spaces.

When I make pieces using this technique, I adapt it and try to transcribe this symbolic portrait using the jewel. The idea is that the jewelry reflects the interiority of the person.

 

katell leclaire bijou essence psycho apparence or argent recyclé pierres précieuses éthiques

You have also created a training organization: Les Ateliers K. How did you come to this desire?

I have had a solo training center since 2011. In 2019, I worked on the expansion of the center with Lucie who is my collaborator. We have created a team of trainers, and we have opened training courses that offer transversal skills. I was already doing this as part of a business plan training course for jewelers who wanted to set up on their own business. Today, the training offered is more comprehensive. We train in the technique of jewelry, as well as the strategic dimension (entrepreneurial strategy, marketing, content creation, etc.) This allows to have a clear strategy, aligned with the values of the creator and with a strong digital identity !

And what are Katell Leclaire’s values ?

I hope open-mindedness. We are obliged to remain open, to adapt constantly, this is continuous improvement. Everything is in perpetual movement, we cannot remain on our achievements otherwise we could be obsolete very quickly in our strategy for exemple. We must always listen to new concepts, and imagine new ideas and new partnerships. I worked solo for a very long time and I got exhausted. Today, I really tend towards collective work. I’m learning to delegate and it’s great! It’s rich! We work in synergy and we go much further. We work hand by hand and it is a real pleasure. You can’t do it all alone. It’s impossible and it kills your creativity. It was really from the day I started working collectively that I flourished the most.

One last question : What piece of creation do you dream of making ? 

The jewel I dream to make ? This is really what I was talking about earlier this mix of lots of materials with zebu horn, stone, wood, … It would be a huge necklace! A piece that adorns the entire upper body. Not like a Christmas tree but something very… organic and mineral with metal as a binder!

bracelet sculpture katell leclaire éthique or argent recyclés

 

Find Katell Leclaire’s creations on her creator profil.

You can also book a worshop with Katell to create your own rings in recycled silver or your wedding rings !

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