Yet these achievements were dogged by terrible events. First, in 1973, Jean had a serious car accident. Then seven years later the family’s Paris boutique was obliterated by a bomb attack the day before Thierry was due to start working alongside his father. After loosing so much in an instant he could have opted to distance himself from the jewellery craft. However, this did not happen and the world gained a talented new jewellery artist.
From his father, Thierry learned about the importance of the kinetics of a jewellery piece, as well as how to identify a sense of balance in discord. His style has an underlying simplicity with forms being fluid and organic, compounded by a vital force (the components often jut out, while gemstones seem to break free from their metal shells). Thierry works a lot with Iron Oxide, this is what is left once a metal erodes – a new lease on life, a new form of aesthetic that challenges perception. Unearthing beauty out of chaos and thereby reconciling opposite forces is how one can describe Thierry Vendome’s jewellery philosophy.
Olivier Dupon: Is duality a core concept in your work, as seen in the combination of low with highbrow materials?
Thierry Vendome: I am indeed fascinated by unexpected marriages. In my work, contrast is often due to the use of unconventional components that are paired with gold and diamonds. I usually gather these along my travels. I love pushing my hands into the ground to get small interesting objects, no matter if they are dirty, used or oxidised. It is precisely their aged aspect that complements precious materials. Raw gold with poor metals is a signature that allows me to replicate how Nature itself mixes wildness with pure beauty.
OD: Can you please tell us more about your choice of ‘rust’?
TV: It took me a while before finding a ‘good’ oxidised metal and eventually settling for rust. In the meantime, I experimented with driftwood, bird bones, seashells and glass. I now source rust from an old disused military base. In fact, it comes from shredded fragments of bombs. Beyond its beauty, rusted metal is extremely solid and light. However, it is a difficult material to saw and file, and although a few other jewellers are now also using rust in their designs, I am proud to say I am the only one who can set rust with diamonds – a highly technical feat!
OD: How has your father impacted on your practice as a jeweller?
TV: Jean Vendome’s prodigious talent never prevented me from shaping my own creative path. I would add that at the time, in the shop, an entire window over rue Saint Honoré was always allocated to my work. Of course, after 23 years spent learning by my father’s side, I have definitely adopted the ‘codes of the house’ (rules of proportion, how to read forms, how to interpret Nature, etc.). It has been a rare opportunity to work with him, and I am grateful for what he taught me. I am convinced, however, that there are still numerous areas to explore in the world of jewellery making.
OD: Your family history is full of indescribable dramas. How does your work pay homage to this legacy?
TV: My renditions are sculptural, mineral and organic, always balancing abstraction with identifiable beauty. Having been profoundly marked by the Armenian genocide that has impacted so greatly on my family, as on so many others, I once created a piece made of rusted vestiges of war mixed with the remains of a gold cross and diamonds pierced with a bullet. I should add that my grandmother was a very religious woman, and I would accompany her to the Pentecostal church on Sundays. This has provided me with strong moral foundations to this day, which ultimately transpire in my work.
OD: Do you have an anecdote you can share with us?
TV: A client had just acquired a lovely hôtel particulier in Paris, and while the premises were being renovated she brought me a bag full of rusted tricentennial nails. She wanted me to create a sculpture with them. Three weeks later, upon returning to view her sculpture, she discovered that I had fashioned a sumptuous necklace with peridots, gold and all the nails instead. To this day, she says she still wears the piece with tremendous pleasure.