In conversation with Aurélie Guillaume, winner of the François-Houdé Award

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Aurélie Guillaume’s work is well recognized in the field of contemporary jewellery for its unique combination of illustration with the long-standing tradition of enamelling. After graduating from the École de joaillerie de Montréal in 2012, she moved to Halifax, NS, to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Jewellery Design and Metalsmithing at NSCAD University. During her time there, she perfected her enamelling technique and found a way to combine her love of illustration and her interest for jewellery design. Before coming back to her hometown of Montreal, she spent a year in Chicago, at Lillstreet Arts Center as an artist in residence and instructor. Her career has ben thriving since then, and she was recently awarded with the prestigious François-Houdé Prize, which is offered by the City of Montreal and the Conseil des métiers d’art du Québec. She was kind enough to answer some of our questions on her career and future plans.

Over the past few years, your work has received a lot of international recognition. How does it feel to be granted with such an award here, in Montreal?

It is a great pleasure and honour to receive this recognition in Montreal. This is the city where I was born and where my friends and family are based. Montreal is also where I was first introduced to jewellery, and where I now have my studio, so it is a very big deal for me. I am also hoping to get a bit more recognition from the local artistic community and, through that, to help better define the presence of contemporary jewellery in Montreal. This award also gives me the opportunity to exhibit a brand new series of one of a kind works next fall, and I hope to provide visitors with a new vision of jewellery.  Magali Thibault-Gobeil (2017 winner) already made us discover her colourful world and her unique way to conceive jewellery. I am hoping to follow this path, and to build more interest for contemporary jewellery!

Entité 1, brooch. Enamel on copper, Sterling silver, fine silver, stainless steel, Cubic Zirconium. 2017.

It is the second year in a row that the François-Houdé Prize is given to a contemporary jewellery artist (Magali Thibault-Gobeil in 2017). Do you believe that jewellery artists are particularly thriving at this time, in comparison to what is happening in other fields of craft?

I have to admit that I am not that much aware of the current developments in other fields of craft, but what I am noticing amongst Quebec jewellery artists is an interest and desire to explore contemporary jewellery as a discipline, to push concepts and ideas and to venture beyond the confines of technique. In Montreal, we are lucky to have Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h, which offers an incredible window on what is going on in the field of contemporary jewellery and exhibits the best international jewellery artists. Noel Guyomarc’h also set in place the series of exploratory workshops Le Labo, which gather groups of artists every year in order to explore questions and notions about jewellery and what it can be. Outside of the gallery, the École de joaillerie de Montréal also has visiting artists offering unusual workshops, just like the one with Simon Cottrell, which led to a very special exhibition, and the ones with Shu-Lin Wu and Judy McCaig, two artists pursuing breathtaking careers. I believe that all of this helps create an effervescence around contemporary jewellery, and we have to take advantage of it.

We all end up at the bottom of the sea, brooch. Enamel on copper, fine silver, sterling silver, glass beads, powdercoat, stainless steel. 2018.

Early in your career, you gained recognition your unique combination of illustration and jewellery, and this specific aspect of your work was mentioned at the Françcois-Houdé Award ceremony. Can being associated to such a specific type of work become a struggle?

I don’t think it will become a struggle, because I don’t think my ideas will keep taking form through jewellery only. I am also interested in working with other mediums. I am interested in mural painting, ceramics, collaborating with clothing designers, drawing, and working with paper. I am excited to see how my illustrations can translate in other disciplines, and I would not prevent myself from trying other things even though I am associated to a very specific type of work. As for jewellery, I still really love what I do and I am noticing a slow evolution in my way of working with enamel and in the way I treat my illustrations. Therefore, I think it will take a while before I change direction completely.

Théodule Pillule, brooch. Enamel on copper, fine silver, sterling silver, 24K gold, powdercoat, stainless steel. 2018.

What is coming up for you in the following year?

A lot of exciting projects! First, I want to take some time for myself, and really get to choose which adventures seem to be the most exciting and benefiting for my career and personal development. I want to create a limited series of production jewellery, which will be presented in Chicago during the SNAG conference, for the organization’s 50th anniversary. I am also planning a potential residency in Beijing, where I will get the chance to visit cloisonné enamel workshops and perhaps work on objects such as vases, for instance. It is an incredible opportunity! And right after that, I will be back in Montreal to unveil a new series of one of a kind works at La Guilde, on the occasion of the next François-Houdé Award ceremony.


Photo credits: Anthony McLean


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