From Charleroi to Montréal
Armand Brochard was born in 1931 in Charleroi, Belgium. He studied humanities, then enrolled at the École des beaux-arts while working as a jewellery and metalsmithing apprentice. Between 1955 and 1957, he also attended advanced training courses in Belgium, France and Switzerland. During his studies, he collaborated in the research and writing of a publication on the history of jewellery, produced by the Ecole nationale belge d’orfèvrerie, de joaillerie et de bijoux. By the end of his studies, he was feeling the effects of European conservatism and dreaming of new horizons.
He arrived in Montreal in 1957, accompanied by his wife and their first child. He settled in the city with the intention of becoming a journalist. Through a contact in Belgium, he was introduced to a syndicalist paper, but funding was still needed for the position to be filled. In order to survive, Armand Brochard turned to the jewellery industry for a living. The income generated by a short-term contract in a professional enamelist’s workshop allowed him to purchase the tools he needed to start taking commissions from his own clients. He kept on visiting larger workshops and applying for jobs. He was finally contacted by Birks and offered a production jeweler’s position.
Given the speed and precision level of his work, he chose to be paid by the piece. A few months later, a significant drop in the workshop’s orders led to a considerable loss of income for craftsmen without a fixed salary. Armand Brochard decided to quit and try his luck in another workshop. He struggled from one job to another until he was contacted by Georges Delrue. With him, he discovered a creative mindset where working with metal took on a new meaning; the aim was no longer to explore a given style in all possible directions, but to work on the creation of new forms that would both fulfil the artist’s vision and meet high technical standards. Armand Brochard finds himself at home in this environment and will continue working there until establishing his own workshop in 1960. More than forty years later, he would describe Georges Delrue as a master at combining design, technique and craftsmanship.
Sustained corporate involvement
In the late 1960s, Armand Brochard became actively involved in defending craft practices.
In 1968, he co-founded the Salon des métiers d’art and in 1985, he co-founded the Conseil des métiers d’art du Québec, where he served as president from 1989 to 1991. His diligent involvement and numerous other activities led him to sit on various committees and to represent Quebec artisans abroad.
In 1976, the Quebec government invited him to the World Crafts Conference in Mexico City and, in 1976, to the Office franco-québécois in Paris. In 1983, he joined “Recherche 83”, a project initiated by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs aimed at stimulating research and creation, developing a market for one of a kind pieces, and promoting Quebec artisans’ talent outside the province.
Through over thirty years of dedicated work, Armand Brochard has contributed to establishing professional recognition for Quebec artisans. Always rigorous and devoted to defending technical excellence in the field of jewellery, he invested his expertise, convictions and efforts in transforming the collective perception of crafts from the idea of ” handicraft ” to the concept of ” fine craft production “.
The co-founding of a school and the professionalisation of the jewellery sector
By the mid-1970s, Armand Brochard has a long track record as both a fine jeweller and a representative for artisans. He had numerous exhibitions in Canada, Europe and the United States. His creations are well known and sought after. During Expo 67, the Quebec government commissioned him to create sculptures and jewellery that were presented to Queen Elizabeth II, Madame De Gaulle and other world leaders visiting Montreal. A few years later, he created pieces for the Empress of Iran. Thanks to the high quality of his work, he has earned an excellent reputation and a privileged place among Quebec jewellers.
In 1973, Madeleine Dansereau and Armand Brochard decided to team up in order to establish a jewellery workshop and school. From then on, his career as a craftsman and advocate for Quebec jewellery was complemented with another mandate: professionalizing the jewellery sector.
After the Atelier de joaillerie enr. (1973-1982), they founded the École de joaillerie et de métaux d’art de Montréal (ÉJMAM). In 1969, as co-founder of the Association des joailliers, Armand Brochard had participated in the development of a jewellery training curriculum. He proposed to offer students a six-level training program, which was inspired by this curriculum. His exchanges with students, his experience as a teacher, as a school co-director and as a jewellery artist led him to seek recognition by the Ministry of Education for this training program.
Retired from public life but still working as a craftsman
Armand Brochard retired from public life in 1996. The eight jewellers’ collective he was part of (with Robert Ackermann, Antoine Bassani, Antoine Lamarche, Lynn Légaré, Daniel Moisan, Gilbert Rhême and Georges Schwartz), which had the intention of presenting their creations to foreign markets under the signature “Comité Saint-Laurent”, did not achieve what they had hoped for. This was his last project in the field. Far from politics and new trends in jewellery, the 83-year-old craftsman still makes jewellery at home, in his studio. His love of jewellery still is very much alive. He still enjoys solving technical problems and creating special tools in order to realize his designs. His critical sense is just as sharp, but his drive has mellowed with time. The idea of having contributed to the professionalization of crafts and to the creation of jewellery teaching programs gives him a rightful sense of pride.
1. Secret, 1980, pendant, sterling silver, 18k gold, pearls.
2. Untitled, around 1972, ring, sterling silver, 14k gold.
3. Untitled, 2013, ring, sterling silver.
4. Untitled, 2012, ring, sterling silver, 18k gold.
5. Untitled, 1975-1980, ring, sterling silver, 18k gold and Untitled, 1975-1980, ring, sterling silver.
6. Untitled, around 1970, ring, 18k gold, sterling silver, emerald.
7. Untitled, around 2012, bracelet, sterling silver.
Text and research : Lyne Gagnon
Photo credits : Anthony McLean