Some interviews take longer to complete than others. But, in general, when you get there, they turn out to be among the most exciting and enthusiastic. I met Karine Niemand a few months ago. We met at an exhibition at the Hôtel de Ville de Paris and I remember that her work was one of the most interesting to see on the evening of the opening. Today, I invite you to discover the career of this jewellery artist whose small workshop in the 12th arrondissement of Paris is well worth a visit.
Karine Niemand in the Atelier Envoûtant. Photo: Marie Chabrol
The opening of the workshop on rue de la Voûte dates back to September 2015, but the story of Karine’s love affair with jewellery began during a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam in 2005… This was the moment for her to fully embrace an artistic practice that had, until now, accompanied her since her adolescence in the form of extra-professional activities. For, before turning to jewellery, Karine had several lives. All of which have strongly influenced her approach to jewellery.
Sculptural bracelet in silver, gold, citrine and quartz with iron oxide inclusions. Photo: Marie Chabrol
The latter, an object of adornment but also an object of art, must transmit a message, carry a meaning and mark important times in our rapid passage on this earth. Karine thus manages, with a poetic vision of jewellery, to make the ephemeral durable. But let’s go back in time… To the early 90s.
Eros & Thanatos” brooch in silver and gold, quartz with inclusions. Photo: Karine Niemand
Karine Niemand says it herself: “Ihad a good level of education. I came from a working class background where you didn’t necessarily go on to long studies or artistic studies. Coming from an immigrant family, the question of integration through school was an important value. So when I had the opportunity to enter Sciences-Po Lille, there was no question of turning it down. She then went on to do a postgraduate degree (DESS) in urban planning at Sciences-Po Paris, also a multidisciplinary course, where she worked in collaboration with architects, which further enriched her professional outlook and which is reflected today in her jewellery. At the beginning of the 2000s, she moved to Montreuil to practice the requalification of industrial wastelands. At that time, the towns in the inner suburbs of Paris were undergoing profound changes. The increase in Parisian prices inaugurated the phenomenon of gentrification which was to have a lasting impact on Montreuil, Pantin, Les Lilas and the eastern Parisian suburbs. Karine saw the developers arrive, industrial wastelands being destroyed, office, social and private housing operations multiplying and certain precarious housing or artists’ studios being moved, often in a painful way for everyone. She stayed in this job for three years, which she describes as extremely formative. The rest of her career was spent in corporate real estate, on a more financial side that led her to understand the ins and outs of her first professional sector.
Textured silver and gold ring set with an Australian opal. Photo: Marie Chabrol
Born into a family of diverse origins: Italian, German, Polish, she quickly began to question this cultural mix. Her artistic practice started early with painting, crafts, theatre but above all writing. The latter still accompanies her today at the studio in the rue de la Voûte. In 2000, she began to travel. She visited countries such as Morocco, Cuba, Senegal and Benin, where the cultures and colours nourished her intensely. Then it will be South-East Asia. In 2005, at the age of 29, she left her job and went to Cambodia and Vietnam for six months. “I discovered gemstones on the markets of Phnom Penh and Pailin. My first sapphires and spinels came from there” explains Karine. She wandered around the Rotonah Kiri region and discovered the local crafts and the achievements of the men and women of this province in the North-East of Cambodia. “As a teenager, I read the works of Joseph Kessel, Marguerite Duras and Blaise Cendrars, for example. I wanted to experience these dream journeys through literature,” adds Karine, who discovered countries “very full of history” as well as other forms of spirituality that now guide her in her creations.
Karine during her trip to Cambodia. Photo: Karine Niemand
During her visit to Hanoi, she found coils of copper wire in the markets. It is with this that she will start to work with metal and to tame it. She started to crochet it and to include stones. In the meantime, a mutual friend put her in touch with the Director of the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, which led her to a humanitarian mission in urban planning, in cooperation with the City of Paris. After this experience, it was time to return to France.
Silver and gold ring from the “Pi” series. It is set with a quartz with dumortierite inclusions. Photo: Marie Chabrol
To return, yes. But how to make the experience of Asia and her discovery of jewellery as a privileged mode of expression a lasting one? Karine has already decided to train in gemmology, her encounter with stones in Cambodia having initiated a curiosity that she does not want to lose. She enrolled and passed her DU in Gemmology in Lyon where she worked on fire opals, a gem that also fascinated her. She continues to explore her practice with metal: “making, it was to confront myself with the material. It is not simple, it cannot be tamed with a snap of the fingers“. She then went on to take evening classes in jewellery at Nicolas Flamel/Ecole Boulle, passed the CAP Art du Bijou as an independent candidate, and set up her first workshop, all the while multiplying her internships and experiences in jewellery, goldsmithing and metalwork. It is in particular an internship at the Crédit Municipal de Paris that opens her up to the field of antique jewellery and gives her a glimpse of its expertise. The sales catalogues made her discover a world of signatures and influences, and she became fascinated by the work of Jean Vendôme, which was a real revelation for her.
Textured silver in Karine’s hands. Photo: Marie Chabrol
Now also mother of a little girl, and after her first exhibitions from 2010 – notably at the Arte Viva gallery in Levallois or in exhibitions dedicated to contemporary jewellery – she inaugurated her workshop in the 12th arrondissement of Paris in 2015.
La Rose” pendant in silver and gold, garnet. Photo: Karine Niemand
Karine’s creative proposals are different from traditional jewellery. This is precisely where the interest of her artistic approach lies. By constructing herself outside the system, she opens up an infinite field of possibilities where the jewel becomes an ornament, then an object, then a marker of its time. Textured gold and silver, oxidation, patinas, etc… everything interests Karine. To the more conventional stones, she opposes coloured agates, quartz with inclusions where “the stone is often the central soul of the piece“, which echoes the words of André Breton who considered crystals as the emblems of poetic creation.
The Dancer” brooch in silver, gold and quartz with inclusions is part of the “Curious Brooches” series, a set of jewellery that she is gradually building up as her inspiration grows. Photo : Marie Chabrol
She thus defends the “making” and the “handmade” far from the all-CAD which characterizes our current jewellery and which allows an “approach of the jewel in the manner of the automatic writing so dear to the surrealists” giving back to this medium the intrinsic fusional side which fully characterizes the first relationship of the Man with the metal. With “Etoiles Filantes” she tells a “lasting snapshot“. Here the quartz inclusions reveal all the poetry that animates them (from the Latin anima: to give a soul). The themes of transformation, time, memory and freedom also play an important and transversal role in her work.
Silver and opal ring from the “Les Ailes” series. Photo: Marie Chabrol
Robert Desnos said “A place for dreams, but dreams in their place“, which allows me to conclude this article. Karine offers jewellery where symbols resonate with the material; she takes a poetic look at the whirlwinds of life and translates them into jewellery. If there is a nice place to know in Paris, her workshop is one of them.
See you soon!
L’Atelier Envoûtant welcomes you by appointment at 34 rue de la voûte 75012 Paris. You can reach her by phone at 06.70.77.85.15. Finally, Karine will exhibit her work between February and June 2019 at the Pôle Bijou in Baccarat as part of the exhibition “L’Amour des voyages”. I can only encourage you to go and discover her on this occasion.