Now well recognized for his Rosemère jewellery boutique and for his great involvement in the Quebec jewellery industry, Dominic Dufour has twenty years of practice behind him, and these years have certainly been very busy! Having started his journey at the École de joaillerie de Montréal at the end of the 90s and obtaining his diploma in 2000, Dominic immediately established himself in the field as a craftsman, but also as an advocate and promoter for the work of many local designers. To celebrate his twenty years of practice, he presented the exhibition Il y a vingt ans… last spring at his eponymous jewellery shop. The exhibition brought together, along with his own work, the work of seven artisans who have marked the history of the ÉJM through their teaching, and who have therefore left their mark on Dominic during his studies: Antoine Bassani, Monique Giroux, Antoine Lamarche, Christine Larochelle, Lynn Légaré, Denys Michaud and Gilbert Rhême.
His sense of business having led him from one adventure to the next, he shares with us the meanders of his journey as a craftsman and entrepreneur, his practice as a creator and his passion for the craftspeople that make up our beautiful community.
What first led you to go into the field of jewellery over twenty years ago?
In 1993, I studied visual arts at Cégep de Joliette. As part of my academic training, my sculpture teacher Paul Turgeon had us make a ring in order to teach us the lost wax technique. Afterwards, for fun, I made several wax rings. Seeing my interest in small size pieces, my teacher suggested that I go study jewellery: an option I had never considered before. Since I liked to work in small format whether it be in sculpture or drawing, jewellery immediately appeared to me as a nice way to make a living as a designer. So I enrolled at the École de joaillerie de Montréal (EJM) from where I graduated in 2000.
We now know you not only as a jeweller, but also as the owner of the jewellery store bearing your name. Can you tell us what made you want to start your own studio-boutique venture?
I’ve always liked being part of a group and bringing people together. Already at school, in my business class, I had imagined opening a craft shop. As soon as I graduated from the EJM, I joined the cooperative L’Atelier Libre, a jewellery studio that I shared with Anaïs Beauchemin-Hétû, Annie Barette, Michelle Côté and Julie Mineau. A year later, with 12 other artisans, we created T.R.É.M.A. (Travailleurs renommés en métiers d’art); through this non-profit organization, we obtained the necessary funding to circulate our own group exhibitions.
When I arrived in the Laurentians, I joined Signature Laurentides, a group of professional craftspeople, which also included jewellers Georges Delrue and Lucie Veilleux. Later, I became a member of the board of directors and also sat on the board of Culture Laurentides, as a crafts representative.
It wasn’t until 2011, when I moved into the premises at 150 Grande Côte in Rosemère with my wife Mylène Blanchet, that I saw the opportunity to give a showcase to other Quebec jewellers. The space was too big for a single artist’s workshop and was more than large enough to accommodate my own creations. I then started to represent eight other jewellers and, it was also in this first year that the quarterly exhibitions in my jewellery shop started to take place. This great adventure came to life thanks to the work and support of my wife, co-owner of the company.
At the very beginning of our adventure in Rosemère, Mylène, who was then an artist consultant, editor and curator, had moved her consulting office to the space adjacent to mine. In this same space, she had opened an art gallery, which was later transformed into a craft boutique, which has since become part of my space: under the same roof, we now have a craft boutique, a jewellery store and a jewellery studio.
You show the work of twenty other jewellers in your store, not to mention the many temporary exhibitions you present. Is the aspect of inheritance and transmission important to you as a craftsman and entrepreneur?
I think you have to share what you have in life. As I mentioned, I am a person who brings people together and I find that, since making jewellery is a difficult profession in a market where customers have a wide variety of choices, it is essential to help each other in any way we can.
For example, during my studies, I asked a friend, owner of the Camélia Sinensis tea room, to set up a display in his shop to showcase my jewellery and that of my colleagues. Then, this display found its way to the hair salon KA coiffure on Sherbrooke. At that time, I was already committed to showcasing other people’ talent.
Since the opening of the jewellery store, I have displayed the work of more than 40 jewellers in my exhibition space. For the last two years, I have been giving EJM graduates the opportunity to present their first collection or one of a kind pieces in this space. Moreover, I am presenting works from 20 other jewellers that I represent on a permanent basis, which is a very important part of my business as it allows me to show the quality of the work and the great creativity of Quebec jewellers.
In my boutique section, I show the richness and diversity of Quebec jewellery; in my exhibition area, pieces of art jewellery are sometimes presented, and so I can participate in its democratization.
How did the idea of inviting your former teachers to present their work in the exhibition Il y a vingt ans… come about?
Since I had been presenting the works of EJM graduates for the past two years and had not received enough applications to mount an exhibition this year, I had a discussion with director Stéphane Blackburn to come up with a plan B. Thus, the idea of presenting the works of my former teachers came up. I had had this idea in mind for a long time, but the opportunity to do so was never there. Furthermore, this year marked 20 years in my career, and I thought this was an ideal opportunity to celebrate those 20 years while paying tribute to the work of 7 great jewellers/teachers. Two have now passed away, including Gilbert Rhême, from whom I had taken over the workshop-boutique at the time of his death in 2008. In the exhibition, I also presented some of my older jewellery, some of which I made as part of my academic training.
Mylène is now in charge of the jewellery and exhibition space. She used her curatorial skills to set up and document this superb exhibition which was presented until July 1st.
How is your work divided? Do you make mostly custom pieces for private clients, or do you create series of pieces and then display and sell them?
I like to arrive early in the morning (or leave late in the evening) so that I can work in a calm environment, away from the hustle and bustle of the day when the jewellery store is open to the public. Custom creation and remodeling are part of what customers come here for, so there is a lot of back and forth throughout the day. With a growing clientele, I would say that my time is mostly spent managing orders, meeting with clients for their creation and remodeling projects. Through all this, I also offer jewellery repair services. So I have little time to devote to creation.
As early as my second year in Rosemère, I had to hire another jeweller, Soëli Sieper, to assist me in the studio. For a few months, Deborah Rimbault, a former EJM student, replaced Soëli and assisted me in my studio work. As for the management of suppliers and subcontractors, Isabelle Palombini (EMSOM graduate) has been offering me her support for almost 2 years. Mylène acts as the boutique and gallery manager and takes care of exhibitions, communications, marketing, accounting and all other related tasks. Finally, Denis Lavertu, a cabinetmaker, is in charge of customer service.
The last few years have been dedicated to building a strong team in order to be able to respond to the exponential growth of our business. Over the past 9 years, 7000 customer envelopes have gone through my hands, so I have had to surround myself with the best people possible. Thanks to them, I hope to return to the studio to have fun and develop more collections. At the moment, I have a lot of ideas and some jewellery in development sitting in my cabinet…
In the past, I have taken part in several exhibitions with expression pieces. However, since my arrival in Rosemère, I have had to put this aspect of my career aside, but I plan to return to it very soon.
What influences you in creating your work?
Since I often create with clients directly, I adapt myself to their tastes while bringing my personal signature to the project. For creations using new materials as well as for remodelling projects using my clients’ jewellery, I act as a guide in creating a piece of jewellery according to their personal taste and budget.
For my own collections, things are more spontaneous. My creative process starts with a shape (Spiral collection) or a texture (Meteor collection), and all possible variations are derived from this source. When I meet with a client for a custom creation, I make several sketches to help them understand my idea so that they can visualize what their piece of jewellery will look like. Conversely, when I design my own collections, I do not draw at all. I work with materials directly. After working through my ideas, I only keep what I think is most interesting in order to create a unity between the different pieces of jewellery that will form my collection. Then I put them into production.
As for one of a kind pieces, they are much more carefully thought out and analyzed. Sometimes it all starts with an image I’ve had in my mind for a long time; at other times, I’m inspired by a beautiful stone: that’s what I prefer.
You have always remained connected to the École de joaillerie de Montréal community, now acting as chair of the board of directors, and you also regularly present the work of its recent graduates in your boutique. What motivates you to remain involved in the jewellery community in Montreal and its surroundings?
I have a great attachment to this school and, since I like to get involved, I accepted immediately when approached to join the board of directors. I think it’s important to give back to the school by devoting time to it. The jewellery school has been very important to me. It’s not a teaching institution like others; from the first semester, I felt at home there, in a big family where you feel comfortable: the kindness of teachers, the camaraderie between students. The school is for me the place that saw me blossom as a jeweller and that put a ton of people on my path that I still come into contact with today. On the other hand, I find it important that others can enjoy the showcase provided by my boutique. I am fortunate enough to make a living from my art, so if I can help consolidate the practices of other jewellers through my role as a gallery owner, I am more than happy to do so. Sharing is in my genes…