«Making art is like making love; it is carnal, physical – we all make love, but not everyone makes art». In conversation with the owner of Italian jewelry house Vhernier
Stop thinking, stop thinking, stop deciding what to think. Carlo Traglio was posing for Julian Schnabel, who asked him to stop thinking: «’Stop thinking’ Schnabel kept saying to me. Art, the bubble, speculation, diva-style behavior by artists and so many shortcuts – to get here you must be curious, you must have seen, you must know, cultivate rapid, motivated intellectuality, akin to culture, but more sincere. I thought that a collection, to be truly beautiful, must have a mistake». A mistake is a symptom of the heart. So many mistakes, so much effort, so many checks and double checks in the production of a jewel. «I asked myself so many questions before I created even one, just one, piece for Vhernier. I thought – I swore – that I would never make a heart for Valentine’s Day. I thought making art is like making love; it is carnal, physical – we all make love, but not everyone makes art». Others make millions thanks to the production of hearts in February. Apart from Jeff Koons’ heart, a technology that looks light enough to take flight if pricked with a sharp point, but which actually weighs tons. «Stop thinking». Schnabel repeats, again. «When I was a boy, I remember standing in front of a painting by Francis Bacon and being amazed at how ugly it was. Then suddenly, it wasn’t. You don’t like something and then afterwards you begin to adore it. Picasso usually produced three paintings a day, he was physical energy. More than twenty thousand and none of them thrown away, as if he had three premature ejaculations a day».
«Stop thinking», Schnabel wanted Carlo Traglio to keep still – something impossible. «An enormous piece by Takashi Murakami at Palazzo Grassi, something so arrogant, so painted – took up a twenty-meter-long room. I walked past it without noticing, not the slightest interest. I walked along it again, nothing, no delirium, I don’t know. I went to Punta della Dogana; there was a whole room of Murakami. One represented milk; the other sperm. Standing before the paintings, two statues in polystyrene. A man holding his erect penis in his hand, from which sperm was spraying everywhere. Opposite him, a woman whose breasts were gushing milk. It was fascinating: the impact, the poetry, the delicacy that only the Japanese are capable of. I thought about how many idiotic notions I was pondering, perhaps I am a fool. I thought that stopping thinking meant obeying».
Traglio remembers how Schnabel began to laugh. «David Hockney, the first work I bought with savings I didn’t have, at the age of sixteen. I went to my father to beg for a thousand dollars; he wouldn’t give me the money, I asked for loans. I met Hockney in Los Angeles, a simple wooden house, all painted blue and green, with an English garden that contrasted starkly with Bel Air. He smoked like a chimney, was as deaf as a post, had spent all his life studying the light. He knew the Flemish masters by heart. In London I went to the Tower to see the Crown Jewels, and suddenly felt a passion for Fabergé. Jewels and fashion are industries of art applied to the market».
Murakami, Raffaello and Steve Jobs. The sacred fire. Falling in love is a miracle. «I have no children, I could decide to give up work and travel the world. When one of my jewels is created, it is time to celebrate, so many have been discarded, years of life just thrown away. It’s worth it. My pictures, yes, my paintings. It is not a question of value – a sense of possession, not of ownership. An unexpected race, everything lifts up and don’t stop thinking». In 2001, when the turmoil in the West opened the doors to international financial instability, Carlo Traglio decided to take a risk with Vhernier, a company he already knew and esteemed, founded in 1984 in Valenza as a gold-smith’s workshop. Over the years, this new ownership, while not altering the traditional production process – the unit is still in Valenza, while the sales offices are in Milan – has brought Vhernier worldwide recognition as a top-end jewellery brand, taking turnover to 38 million euros and exports accounting for 50% in 2017.
The Blue Velvet necklace in titanium, develops as a series of waves edged with 16.76-carat diamonds. Working titanium requires great technique and if you make even a millimetric mistake in setting a diamond, there’s no going back, the jewel is no longer fit for use. There is the sculpture ring Eclisse, in 18-carat rose gold. Vhernier uses only white or rose, not yellow, gold. Goldsmithery meets architectural design: the cut in the centre of the ring is reminiscent of the rips in Fontana’s pictures. Another sculpture ring is the Tonneau, in the full pavé version, covered with natural black diamonds. Traglio finds his gems on his globetrotting travels, then analyses them with Angela Camurati, production manager and one of the brand’s founders. «The design of our jewels is based on the shape and colour of the stone. We were one of the first to use the mandarin garnet. Then the blue of the tanzanite, the green of emeralds, the various shades of red of spinels and rubellites». The colour is central, the new Calla necklaces and pendants are black, blue, purple, green, and red, thanks to the use of aluminium, «A difficult material to treat at the fusion and setting stage, but very light. The nanoceramic coating on the aluminium allows us to obtain different colours».
Linear and clean-cut forms. Minimalist design in via Montenapoleone: in the oval room along the cashmere-covered walls the glass cabinets displaying the jewels are set. The Calla is a flower: a cone, and archetypal form. Fifty-four versions of the necklace have been created in twenty years – there are drawings in the archive dating back to 1998. The latest editions of the Calla «with their dramatic effect, comprising different sized diamonds set in an apparently random pattern without the use of the classic prongs in white gold and colored with a rhodium-burnished process», explains Carlo Traglio. In the beginning it was rose gold, «then teamed with one of the simplest materials, African ebony aged for two years, and matched with the diamond. A game of high and low, our signature trademark». Without ever, truly ever, stopping thinking.IMAGE GALLERY
Vhernier is an Italian jewelry brand that draws its inspiration from modern and contemporary art. The brand was founded in 1984 with the vocation to create jewels that are brave, new, and unusual. From the beginning it has committed to its passion for the exploration of form, matter and color, and based its research and identity on the finest characteristics stemming from the legacy of Italian art. Vhernier’s creations have come to be recognized and appreciated for their use of bold volumes and color. Each piece is an entirely unique item, crafted by hand by highly skilled artisans in the workshops located in Valenza, in the province of Alessandria, Italy.