This camellia carving was inspired by the doorknob of the JAR store in Paris. I carved it from wax as an excercise years ago and this week I came upon it in my studio. As I cleaned it up with my chasing tools I thought back on my extraordinary experience at JAR.
It was difficult to even get the address for the store and I circled the block four or five times before finding myself standing with a friend as we stared at a tiny storefront virtually hidden in a corridor just off the Place Vendôme in Paris. The sign was almost invisible and it was private and intimidating at the same time. We saw a man in a black suit walk up to the door and pull the gilded stamen in the center of an exquisite bronze camellia flower and realized it was actually the doorbell. When the elegant gentleman opened the door he saw us standing there and invited us over. I tried to explain in my broken French that I was inspired by what I had read about JAR in an article in the New York Times and really wanted to see things for myself... I soon realized everything was done by appointment only and probably only for royalty so I just wanted to excuse myself and get out of that corridor fast.
He asked us to wait a moment, disappeared and then came back and invited us in. At this point I didn’t know what to do or how to get out of the situation! Obviously I am not a potential customer! Help!! I ended up in this tiny dramatically lit room among coral objet d’art blushing a lovely shade of beet red. I remember the walls were covered in mauve suede. Sounds awful but believe me, it was terribly chic. The man came back and informed us that JAR was not granting interviews but thank you anyway. He thought I said I was a writer for the New York Times and that is why he invited us in. He explained to us that they have to be very careful who they let in because they get copied and then he asked me if I was connected in any way to the world of jewelry…..I just wanted to leave. I told him I was a jewelry designer myself but from another planet in another solar system and he still invited me in even though at this point I wanted out because the whole affair was so nerve wracking. Somehow he invited me into the second tiny room and had us wait while he disappeared again. We nervously perched at our seats at a small elegant table while he brought out about 5 different pieces for us to see one after another.
It takes 6 months to a year to complete a single piece. It was a very hushed and sacred affair. He said he could show them to us since they were already published in the book that went with the London exhibition.
The lilac box in Jasper, garnets, and enamel; bronze, 2002
We were mesmerized at what we saw. The gentleman treated the work with such sensitivity and reverence as he told the story behind each one.
The zebra brooch, in banded agate and diamonds; silver and gold, 1987
When it was finally time to go he told us about the JAR perfume store around the corner off Rue St. Honore. He only makes 7 scents and that they are not for everyone, and in fact, some people absolutely hate them; or so he clandestinely told us... When we finally got out of there my nerves were shot. I knew I had just been through something amazing, but it took me a while to realize that I had actually just been allowed into the private atelier of the man considered to be the Fabergé of our time.