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The story of Nicolas Favard - The jeweler from La Rochelle
I would like to tell you here my journey, the story of my passion, that for jewelry and fine jewelry of course, but not only that. What I would also like to share with you are the great experiences that my job as a jewelry craftsman has given me. Because jewelry has this magic, that of transforming raw material into a unique piece, thanks to a unique story: yours. To improve myself as a jewelry designer and open the doors of inspiration wide, at the age of 22 I packed my bags and left for the other side of the world. In Hanoi I learned ancestral carving techniques, in Beijing I designed pieces for people from all over the world and taught at the Beaux-Arts. After 15 years of expatriation, I returned to France with my wife and children. And it is here, in La Rochelle - in the La Pallice district - that gold, platinum, silver but also titanium, precious wood or brass will serve as a "pen" for the story that you please tell me.
The birth of a passion - Jewelry
I still remember the day I walked into a jeweler’s workshop for the first time. I was about 8 years old and my mother took me with her to get a necklace repaired. I see the room again. There was a dreamlike yellow light filtering through the tiles. This light gave an even more unreal aspect to all these shapes, these reflections, these materials. I had never seen that before. I wondered how anyone could be so imaginative. What particularly struck me was the wooden workbench at the back of the room and the fire from the blowtorch. When my mother handed her necklace to the jeweler, I saw her rough hands. We guessed that they were daily subjected to harsh tests, those of fire and metal.
Learning & Jewelry practice
I was 10 years old when I tried to make my first ring with copper wire. I remember the joy I felt hammering this cylindrical piece until it became perfectly flat. The satisfaction of seeing the material transform little by little under my fingers, but also the frustration of not being able to make it into a finished object. I had to understand, to learn the magical gesture that gives life to inanimate matter. My research and documentation on this profession have finally convinced me. In 1996, I started my CAP as a jeweler. During my five years of apprenticeship, I alternated between the Saumur Jewelry Institute and the Pinguet jewelry store in La Rochelle. My first mentor and master of apprenticeship was Francis Lecutiez. From him, I learned traditional jewelry. Then I went to Paris. At AFEDAP, thanks to Brune Boyer, I discovered all the possibilities offered by contemporary creation, conception and design. There, I acquired a completely different vision of my art.
Then by chance, an association (Mobil’asia) offered me an internship in Vietnam in 2002. You had to be between 18 and 25 years old and have expertise. We were around fifteen young people. There was a pastry chef, a cook, a stylist, a web designer, etc. Our jobs were different, but we were all driven by the same irresistible call to travel, discovery and freedom. We were given a few English lessons and presto, we were off! My internship lasted six months, it took place in a diamond cutting company. The manager, a Belgian, was returning from North Korea where he had set up a similar company before settling down in Vietnam.
My internship finished, I then worked for Mosaïque, an interior decoration store. The director wanted to set up a costume jewelry line and asked me to join her team. I found myself face to face with Vietnamese artisans who had never received academic training, but who had an absolutely impressive mastery of techniques (repoussé and carving). It was the D system as they say. Although they had three pliers instead of ten, the result was there. I later discovered that some of these traditional techniques were also used in China, among the Bai ethnic group in particular, with whom I acquired other artisanal knowledge in jewelry.
Another game of chance brought me to Beijing in the fall of 2004. The incredible dynamism that reigned in this city allowed me to open my first workshop, then a boutique with a workshop. The independent profession being totally dependent on clients, even in a large city of 20 million inhabitants, it takes a certain amount of time to build them up. This is how I had to alternate between my professional activity and teaching. I gave courses for two years at the Institute of Clothing Technology and then I was invited as a lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
During these thirteen years in the capital, I met people from different regions of the country, but also from the four corners of the world. Each with their own approach to ornament and aesthetics. This has even led to unique collaborations, like the fibulae that I created for Kathrin Von Rechenberg's outfits. There are so many other things to tell you about this city. Old Beijing with its narrow streets called hutongs, where several generations live in houses sometimes made of odds and ends, sometimes renovated with luxury and sobriety. The sparkling skyscrapers of Guomao, the trendy district of Sanlitun. And then there were the friends, the life that we had managed to build there... but not being from this country, one fine day we had to say goodbye.
Returning to La Rochelle to open the Nicolas Favard jewelry workshop
The exoticism that surrounds us and which we experience daily abroad ultimately encourages us, after a certain time, to return to our roots. Partly appropriating a foreign culture inevitably leads you to question your own, to want to know it better in order to put the different value systems into perspective. This is why after 15 years in Asia, I wanted to reunite with my family and friends who remained in France. La Rochelle, my hometown, with its port, its stone buildings and its seaside beauty, was an obvious choice. Six months after the big return I opened my workshop here, rue de la Muse. I immediately liked the beautiful volume and brightness of the room. But also the gentrified side of the neighborhood, a little marginal, formerly punk and now sanitized, revamped.
That's how, after many wanderings, I set up as a jeweler, creative jeweler and setter in La Rochelle. I have the chance to continue doing what I love. What has always touched and fascinated me since my apprenticeship in this profession until today is the spontaneity with which people open up to me. Without knowing me, they present me with a piece of jewelry that belonged to ancestors or friends, then end up telling me all the incredible stories that these small pieces of precious metal contain. Or on the contrary, they come to tell me about the highlights of their life that they would like to see embodied in a beautiful piece of jewelry.
I see ornament as a bridge, as a dialogue between two worlds. On the one hand there is the external world, coming from matter. Jewelry is a combination of several of them that I transform into objects of art, so that these creations beautify you. And then there is the inner world, in a way the first “sculptor”. It is the world of your feelings and your dearest memories, which will take shape in an object intended to last. Throughout the ages, jewelry has always symbolized a form of accomplishment and aspiration to achieve one's goal. Mine is dedication to my art, as well as to the mastery of its different techniques. I am here to bring your ideas to life through my knowledge of materials. Looking forward to meeting you in my workshop.
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