French jewelry designer & lapidary artist, Claire Normand, creates wearable sculptures from unique pieces of stone. Claire sees stones as having a life of their own, far more beautiful, powerful and long-lasting than us humans. After studying at École Boulle in Paris and learning crafting skills from artists in China and New Zealand, Claire founded her eponymous brand in 2019. Beyond the stunning designs, another unique aspect of her brand is that the stones are upcycled and repurposed from companies who no longer need the materials. Stylish and sustainable! Her bold, minimalist and asymmetric styling is what we love most about the brand (in addition to the amazing quality and attention to detail). We are excited to welcome Claire to the platform, and share this interview where we delved into her sources of inspiration, production methods and brand aspirations:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
At 17 years old, I met an old glyptician (a person who engraves very small gemstone objects like cameos). The ambiance of his workshop with all his tools and gemstones fascinated me. It gave me the desire to create timeless objects that have a story to tell. So, I followed an arts & crafts education, learning hand engraving techniques. I then learned jade carving with amazing artists in China and in New Zealand. Back in France, I worked as a crystal glass engraver to fund my machines and tools.
How did you start Claire Normand? Have you encountered any challenges?
So I didn't have a background in fashion. After my apprenticeship, I began to practice alone and develop my own techniques. To train to make nice cabochons (basic oval template for stones), I bought stones slabs from my german supplier. The stones arrived broken in hundreds of pieces. Very frustrated at first, it actually pushed me to explore my creativity and create something different from it. I’ve been so inspired by those broken shapes and played with the textures and its colours. While working on custom orders thanks to word-of-mouth, I began creating my first collections. All of this is pretty new!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
In my workshop, I feel as if I am in a laboratory. I am very inspired by the stones themselves. They have a very strong presence. They look inert but they were born before us and will still live after us. Like a visual meditation, I observe them a lot before any work. I also love reading poems of Roger Caillois. He has a very sensitive vision. Textures and patterns sometimes echo to a collective fantasy, like seeing winter trees in dendritic agates. It really looks like a joke of nature!
What is the concept behind the brand?
Showing the raw and bold nature of stones. The beauty in its flaws. Cut stones are vulnerable and fragile with its appearing crystals and veins. I’d like people to take the time to observe and take care of their pieces of jewelry which they can have a special relation with.
Can you share more about the production aspects?
Although I’m following traditional techniques, I now allow myself a lot of freedom in the process and the final result. I look at a stone and depending on its structure, I evaluate how I could work with it. I roughly draw the shapes on it. Then, I use diamond tools with water to cut and carve and the stones so they don’t burn as well as the tools. I sculpt the stones with a big diamond grit, then I use several flat discs or wheels with finer and finer abrasives to polish. It’s quite a long and laborious process.
What is your vision for the future of the brand?
Stones being the main material of the brand, it makes sense to think about the ressources. I’m developing collaborations with marble industries. Currently, I work with a German company which works for a big luxury production company, so they get lots of scraps. I’m also working with a local one, which is a 10 minute walk from my house. The idea is to work according to their production. For my marble models, I work according to their production. My current series of green marble earrings are coming from their table productions. In one month maybe they’ll work on pink bathrooms. I find it exciting and challenging working this way. I’d also love collaborating with designers and artists on one-of-a-kind creations. I’ll try to always be transparent about the process of the brand, and always keep it real.
Not only does Claire Normand blow us away with her fascinating jewelry, but also with her sustainable production methods. She manages to creates avant-guard pieces infused with meaning and authenticity, which are also sustainably sourced and environmentally conscious. Any time you pick up one of her pieces, you can feel the stones story as an undercurrent to the exceptional quality and refined design. We love the brand, and be sure to checkout her the full Claire Normand collection here.
By Juliette Eleuterio