René. Talmon. L'Armée. A better name couldn't have been invented for someone creating such imaginatively strong pieces. It's a name that makes one dream and wonder. And so do the at times bold, then again delicate pieces. Recalling strangely beautiful finds from nature, using abstract forms and captivating raw stones the German fine jeweller with Hugenot roots (hence the name) is a master of his craft. He invited us to emerge into his fascinating world of traditional making to talk about his intuitive creation process.
LASTING COLLECTIVE: Hi René, please tell us a bit about your background and how you started your namesake brand. You told us you travelled quite a bit before you found the right place to nurture your creativity…
René Talmon L'Armée: It all started with my goldsmith apprenticeship here in Berlin. After I finished I wanted to collect experience abroad. So I went to Paris with an exchange program for one year and did an internship there. I added one more year before I took off to London where I stayed for 2 years. But somehow I felt that Paris was a good place for me so I returned and decided to start my own brand there. I discovered an old foundry with a beautiful old church right in front of it, nestled in a small side street of Le Marais, which was for sale. When I saw the place I immediately knew that this was where I wanted to settle. And it's my Paris base since 16 years now. It’s such a wonderful place to create. Here we have our whole production and build the mock ups for new collections.
LASTING COLLECTIVE: Would you say that Paris is your main source of inspiration?
René Talmon L'Armée: Partly. Paris was and is certainly a huge inspiration for me. There is so much energy in this city. You are always driven to create something new. Everything around you pushes you, you just have to be creative... But I also get a lot of input from my travels and the impressions foreign countries and cultures leave on me. And I love to rummage in the ateliers of my designer friends who work with leathers and exotic skins, where I collect pieces from the floors. When I stroll through nature I look out for random pieces. I am always searching for unique forms that I find by accident and shapes that i never saw before...
LASTING COLLECTIVE: Today we are with you in your Berlin store. What is different here? What does this city mean for your work?
René Talmon L'Armée: Here in Berlin everything is much more relaxed. But, because it is so much calmer, completely different pieces come to life. I am able to go back to the real goldsmith craftsmanship, where I only work with gold, with precious stones, with diamonds. I am able to go back to my origins, work the way I learned it in my apprenticeship, with my master. This is something I am here finally able to do again.
Berlin is today my first base, it's where
i can return to my origins...
In Paris I had to work differently. I had to produce much bigger numbers. I always had to keep up the pace. This took a lot of my energy. I needed to take some distance from this way of working. Here, my work became easier in a way. I have less pressure. In Paris I had to exhibit at tradeshows to be able to compete. Now, without this pressure, my work is much more enjoyable, much more creative, because I am able to experiment a lot.
LASTING COLLECTIVE: What do you mean when you say you return to the origins? How important is it for you to preserve the traditional craftsmanship?
René Talmon L'Armée: It means building pieces from A to Z, to really assemble the pieces, the way it's been done for centuries. I build from the base, I build the socket of the ring, the rail, I calibrate the stones, and finally I assemble all pieces. Today many people who work in the jewelry business don't have a jewelry background. The new generation is not interested in handcrafting any more, it's all about making fast money. They forget the importance of learning the base, the traditional techniques. For them it seems very easy to create with all the new possibilities of our digital age. Building jewelry from scratch out of metal is something you have to learn from a master. It's old knowledge. Today many creatives just melt pieces together from wax, cast them or use 3-D printing. Everyone can use these new technologies and with some good ideas a great collection can be created. Marketing helps them to create a hype around products that are easy to make. This is a great achievement, but we loose the connection to the old knowledge this way. It's too complicated and ineffective to learn the handcraft from scratch today.
You also create pieces for Ann Demeulemeester. What does it mean for your way of working? Is there any other collaboration you would dream of?
It was a completely new experience for me to work with a fashion house. It is a completely different rhythm. The pushing is a totally different form of motivation. The time pressure is sometimes not bad, it's almost like I need it. The pressure also makes me creative. A dream would be to create a collection for Sascha Walz' dance company. She is a very good client and comes into the store to buys gifts for her team. I would love to think of pieces they could wear during one of their shows. I would have to create jewelry that i light enough, is very close to and stays on the body during the performances. It means each piece would need to be build around the individual body parts of each dancer. This would be a great challenge. I can imagine to work the way i work when i use organic materials like leather which I bring in shape directly on the body, before i cast the piece and work further on it. Like that each piece would be made-to-measure for each dancer.
LASTING COLLECTIVE: And last, but not least: What do you enjoy creating most? What makes your work different?
My unique pieces. A special stone builds the centre of those piece, everything happens around it, the view shall only be directed towards it. You have to avoid distractions. It's easy to loose yourself and do too much. The art is to keep the focus here. I feel that i want to work incredibly free, without focussing on one style. With silver you can work very abstract, create heavy pieces, use a lot of material, while with gold this would be incredibly expensive. I also enjoy mixing oxidized silver and 22 karat yellow gold, the contrast between black and gold is beautiful. And I work a lot with diamonds, i like to use raw, black, champagne, cognac colored one, to give my pieces a look that is different from what you normally find in high-end jewelry stores....