Gaelle Khouri: The sense of beauty

It’s always a pleasure to discover something unexpected at a place where everything is about history, tradition and high (but well known) standards in jewellery. I talk about one of the most important exhibitions in the field in Europe – Gem Geneve, and about one of the brands I found the most authentic during the spring exhibition 2022 – Gaelle Khouri Jewellery. I met with Gaelle at her stand in “the Designer Vivarium” section, and we talked about her collection, the nature of inspiration and the passion that inspired her to radically change her life, pursuing an idea, a purpose, a dream to design wearable reflection of the beauty as she sees it.

“La Trahison de L’Objet”

Or “The betrayal of the object”. I chose a few jewellery pieces from the displays, and sat looking at them, so different and somehow connected, trying to decode the meaning of the collection’s title. Two “Bouquets” in my hand – two rings with flowers looking like day and night, intense, organic and firm, dazzling like they are covered not with gems but with dew-drops shining in the sun or moon rays.

“I called it “Éléments vivants”, “Living elements”. That part of the collection consists of tangible, organic pieces – floral and animalistic”, – explained Gaelle. – “First ring is bronze with gold, the second is silver with gold. I like to mix metals to add something to their aesthetic. If they were made only of gold it would be too heavy and opulent, but here it came out naturally with an arch and sharpness”. 

“Or, for example, take the earrings. I work a lot with animalistic forms” – Gaelle took off the Goat headed constractions from her ears and showed them to me.

“They are pretty symbolic”, – I touched the flexible, moving like bells’ tongues spiral horns fixed inside laced goats’ skulls. They reminded me of mediaeval manuscripts and occultic drawings.

“Yes. Though I didn’t mean anything. You can see the mechanism. That is what I like. The piece looks  like something from before, and the closer you get to it the more details you can see. Speaking of shapes…” – Gaelle picked an earring with a capricious combination of circles. 

“That is from “Repertoire du forms” – second part of the collection. – she continued. –  I study the shape. Everything you see here is abstract. Then I have geometric pieces, and more “instinctive” where the shape is very random. I call them “repetitive shapes” because one element keeps on coming again and again, repeating itself, like in that single earring. Or, for example, that silver with diamonds cuff that was inspired by a spine bone, but you see just a form not its origin”.

“Isn’t it beautiful?”

A couple interrupted our discussion. They were loudly discussing a necklace at the stand behind my back for the last few minutes so I turned around to see the object of someone’s desperate desire. Looking at the antique treasure in their hands and contemporary organic and geometric forms generously spread in front of me, I felt like a time traveller whose machine was stuck between two epochs – one wing is in the past, another – in the future.

“How do we look at beauty? – as if hearing my thoughts Gaelle asked the question philosophers tried to answer for ages. – Why do we look at an object and find it beautiful or not? Is it just due to a visual perception, aesthetic reflection? Or is there hidden meaning to it? Psychological components really impact the way our mind works. I think they’re exogenous and unconscious elements that play a role, and our mind is unable to control them. So the concept of beauty will never be fully understood. We have no control over how and why we perceive it”.

“And how do you apply that theory at your work?” – I wondered if there was an actual connection between Universal laws that have puzzled humanity since its birth and those various wearable pieces on the table. 

“I explored the process of creation. I think we always find inspiration, the process happens every day, every second, we just absorb the results. – she explained to me.  – My work is inspired by everything around me and by my feelings. I can tell you where I was going in my mind at the time I created one thing or another”.

“Was it a manual search for an art form, the shapes? Or was it based on computer modelling?” – my question suddenly opened another direction for our talk. 

Gaelle shook her head and barely gave me time to finish the question: “I don’t believe in 3d printing. I understand that it’s easier, cheaper and faster, but for me jewellery is an art of sculpture. Otherwise it loses its soul. Plus I enjoy waxing and carving the most”.

The path with no fear

“What was the most challenging for you?” – Knowing that Gaelle doesn’t have traditional designer education, I asked the question wondering how she, having a background in economics, came to the jewellery workshop and learned the basics that many “properly taught” contemporary jewellers have no time nor interest to study during their whole career.

Ghaelle Khouri, a jewellery designer

“I didn’t want to be a designer that just does sketches knowing nothing about how the production happens. – followed the reply. – I wanted to master that technical part so I had learned it. I think I was lucky in that aspect because coming from Lebanon, I had the opportunity to work with Armenian and Lebanese craftsmen who are among the best in the world. But the challenge was that the industry is closed, you don’t have access to it unless you belong to the jeweller’s family, which wasn’t my case”.

“In 2011 I was young and crazy enough not to think much about my choice. – she smiled, remembering something. – You know, it took a lot of guts. Today I wouldn’t do it. But at that time I had just thrown myself there. I started taking lessons, then I was told to take my sketches to the production. I was put in touch with a craftsman. I remember he showed me the neighbourhood, laid a diamond in front of me for the first time. I was so happy when I went to the meeting, but so depressed, when I returned home, because I realised I had zero knowledge. All those men in there looked like sharks of the market to me. But in a week I thought, “I’m gonna go again”. I think when you have a drive for something those who come your way help you. So it was, that person had patience to be with me on the bench, spending hours teaching. It took me 5 years to launch my own brand”. 

“Looking back I can say it’s the best thing I’ve done in my life. In a journey like that you learn not just about yourself, you push the boundaries when you go for things. I think you just grew into it, getting stronger” – Gaelle concluded her story.

And I couldn’t wish to find better lines to finish mine.