With his 21 red gold rings in abstract forms, the Franco-Lebanese designer Walid Akkad revisits the animal world. Their aesthetics – such perfect, ultra-pure lines – speak of a traditional work process that is on the verge of disappearing.
Sandrine Merle. It’s always hard to believe that your highly abstract jewelry is inspired by fauna and flora. But we can nevertheless make out a rabbit, a butterfly, a deer, an elephant or an owl!
Walid Akkad. My inspiration has always been animal or vegetable but I’ve always ended up with very remote, simplified and fluid forms. During these last two years, I had a lot of fun making these 21 animals, some of which are suggested by just a single attribute, like a deer’s antler. The bird piece, when worn, is nothing but a beak. And I intend to continue along the same lines with plants.
S.-M. This collection, presented last November at the Fine Arts show in Paris, marks the start of a collaboration with the Carpenters Workshop Gallery.
Walid Akkad. As usual with this type of writing, I stumble over the definition of the word artist… My work is often too much like jewelry for the galleries and too much like art for jewelers. It’s a bit like the left and the right in politics! This time, it fits perfectly into the jewelry department recently opened by the Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Selling for between 11,000 and 15,000 euros, these pieces fit perfectly with their contemporary art clientele. Another part of my work is offered at the Minimasterpiece gallery, such as the silver Wave ring, which seems to wrap itself around your finger.
S.-M. Whether in the form of jewels or of sculptures on tiny plinths, these rings show your complete mastery of the material. Does any of it involve using computers to assist with the design?
Walid Akkad. I only use computers to scan the wax model that I sculpt myself. From this matrix, a chain of traditional skills is put in place. First of all, the foundryman makes a one-piece mold into which he pours the metal: I don’t want there to be any welding – that’s essential for achieving perfect finishes such as a mirror polish. Obviously that increases the work and the cost… Then come the engraver and the polisher: without perfect control, the latter could have completely crushed the bull, for example, with these two opposite facets meeting on the fine ridge line. On the other hand, it’s always me who does the brushing of the gold with special tools that I’ve cobbled together
S.-M. Where does this rigor and love of expertise come from?
Walid Akkad. Jewelry is like architecture, my other passion: I construct my pieces like a building, step by step up from the foundations. This also comes from the Haute École de Joaillerie where I was taught a tradition to which I remain faithful. In fact, I don’t know how to do things any differently! I still often think of my drawing teacher who convinced me to make models that were as close as possible to my intentions. From this teaching, I also remember the solid aspect of the rings, which are never less than 1.6 mm whereas the norm is nearer to 0.8mm. They wouldn’t lose their shape even if they were smashed against a table.
S.-M. On these 21 pieces, there’s only one stone: a diamond mounted upside down, and almost invisible.
Walid Akkad. This single diamond is used to evoke the spikes of a hedgehog. In this first piece, the idea was to highlight the metal – in this case red gold – which I find softer and warmer. I love metal as much as I love stones, so I never try to minimize or hide it. Having said that, I will enrich this animal kingdom with more jeweled models. I don’t want to reduce my work to a form of writing.