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07 May 2021

Virgine Fantino, jeweler : the core of creation

Jewelry made of metal and cherry or peach pits? The designer and jeweler Virginie Fantino opens the doors to her world and tells us about her choice to make organic materials a basic element of her creations. Interview.

What immediately appeals to us is the originality of your work ! Where did the idea of using organic matter as raw material come from ?

Everyone has stories of walnut shells, collected pits. These noble materials touch everyone’s privacy, evoke everyday life. And they age well, over time the nutshells get a patina like leather.

So you create jewelry made from… organic waste?

Yes. It’s very poetic! A pit holds life in itself, it is not just an element that is spit out.

In fact, the idea for the “Cherry” collection came to me while eating a clafoutis by the sea, I watched carefully a pit and I found it magnificent.

How did the desire to become a jeweler come about?

I was in Applied Arts, and a professor asked me in which universe I wanted to evolve, in what place, with what type of people… A job is not only a technique and a knowledge-doing, it is also a whole world. Working in the workshop seemed obvious to me!

Since I was little, I have been observing, scanning nature with microscopes. And being able to go from drawing to volume using a material like metal is incredible. I always feel like I’m learning.

Maybe I did things a bit backwards. After a baccalaureate “Applied Arts”, I wanted to pursue and develop the artistic and creative dimension, I embarked on the “Sculpture of metal” diploma. For example, we had two modules, “Paper and Metal” and “The Movement”. From there, all of our creativity could take hold.

Then I did a CAP to perfect jewelry techniques, a less creative but more technical course.

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What do you like about working in the workshop? In what atmosphere do you work?

It is craftsmanship that I chose above all and metal as a material in particular. I like the cocoon atmosphere that the workshop provides me, a place where I will be able to transcribe the emotions or ideas that I have gleaned. It is also the idea of a relationship with customers, of transmission, of a constant search for new materials, new tools and techniques.

Craftsmanship is very complete, it is an emotion, an idea, a technique, a gesture, a way of putting your body in motion. There is almost something meditative about the gesture.

I work in a collective. This is important, it allows us to combine techniques and know-how, especially since we are in very lonely professions. In my workshop, I work with a luthier, a scenographer, a herbarium and a graphic designer. Our collaboration is more informal. We exchange a lot. For example, for my new pieces where I work with wood, it’s great to have a luthier to advise me on the tools, the gestures. Cherry pits are very close to wood. Conversely, I was able to help him with the metal inlay in the guitar necks.

How did this meeting between metal and organic matter come about? And how do you go about sourcing your raw material?

I use different means, but mostly my family and friends. I opt for short circuits 🙂

I have a friend who has olive trees around Nice and who produces olive oil and tapenade, she supplies me with olive pits. My parents have walnut trees, the apricot kernels are provided by my mother-in-law.

For flat peach pits, I have a market near my house and as soon as the season is good, I fill up!

I notice that there are nutshells that more or less work. For example, those bought in supermarkets are thinner, more fragile and therefore more brittle. They must have grown too quickly and do not offer the robustness of nuts from my parents’ walnut trees, for example.

Usually I use last year’s harvest, the pits should have had enough time to dry out. My crops are in jars displayed behind my workbench, it feeds my imagination …

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It seems that today, you express the organic dimension of your work, which is no longer necessarily the raw material but the very object of your creation, like an artery, a heart …

Yes indeed. At first, I was worried that I would be less followed. The “Peach” collection is more abstract, it can evoke the plexus for some and everyone can appropriate it in their own way. My creative path evolves, sometimes it can start from the material, quite simply by hammering.

In a way, you magnify what is hidden, by dressing the organs and not the body, as if the jewel became the body envelope, and this while the jewel dresses a body … an unexpected tangle …

The idea of adorning a body appeals to me, but that of adorning an interior even more. I like to get into the intimate, what can blood cells make you think about ? I reveal what is hidden by the body : the heart, arteries, globules, nuclei etc. I magnify them with metal.

Do you have any sources of inspiration?

A lot ! Everything inspires me! I am very emotional. Lots of little everyday things that may at first seem trivial, a new growth on a plant moves me deeply and it has to come out. I spend a lot of time observing plant, human nature. The raw material can thus become a source of inspiration.

I glean an incredible amount of things. I have a well-stocked material library! I like it when an object appeals to several senses such as sight, touch, but also taste.

I make long-lasting jewelry that does not go out of fashion. Also, my first “Nuts” collection dates back to 2012.

In addition, many artists and films can influence me in my search for form, but it is undoubtedly the works of Giuseppe Penone and the book Stones by Roger Caillois that I consult regularly that have so far been able to influence me the most in my artistic work.

Discover the creations of  Virginie Fantino on her kreamondo profil

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