Handcrafted by passionate people
Why should beautiful, hand-made things be expected to compete with mass production? That is the appropriate page and the perfect opportunity to share with you handcrafts that caught my attention during my journeys.
Sicilian crafts tour
The centuries-old art of pottery-making has been part of the history of Sicily since ancient times. Generations of craftsmen and artists have followed one-another, each interpreting in their own original way the ability of the potter to create shape and color. I really enjoyed my experience of meeting the artists, observing the techniques and capturing the typical colors of Sicilian tradition.
Special note: The Opera dei Pupi is a marionette, theatrical representation of Frankish romantic poems, such as The Song of Roland or Orlando Furioso, which is one of the characteristic cultural traditions of Sicily. The Pupi is a unique kind of large and heavy marionette, covered with knightly armor, made in wood most of the time and finished with hand painting. The Sicilian marionette theater Opera dei Pupi was proclaimed and inscribed in 2008 in the UNESCO heritage. Charming princes are everywhere in Sicily!
The wood marquetry in my veins
Family plays a big part in my life and work. My father is a master of wood marquetry, he is recognised globally for his precision, accuracy and style. Through observing him, watchmaking has naturally become a passion from early childhood, as I discovered the creations of various houses, the different artistic careers and the infinite possibilities of creation. My father has created pieces for several reputed companies such as Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Patek Philippe.
I'm glad to share some wood marquetry secrets with you.
The technique is known as marquetry and is most often found on furniture and items like humidors, clocks and other larger items for the most part. In contrast, watches are much smaller, with diameters ranging from 33mm to 50mm, and some with dials that are just about 30mm wide. The artisan in my family who creates these dials is my father Jérôme Boutteçon, an award-winning French marqueter. In his career, he has created pieces for all the best watch brands such as Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Patek Philippe (at present, he works exclusively for the latter).
To create the dial, he has to select the right veneers – slices of wood that are millimetres high – from his cellar. They need to have the correct color, contrast and grain. Color is important for obvious reasons, while the grain matters because it creates perceived texture. The veneers are his 'palette of colors'. But unlike paint, each piece of wood is unique, so a veneer sometimes waits for the perfect project. In total, 3000 types of wood can be used, depending on the dial aesthetics: holly, chestnut, poplar, willow, grey and pink maple, walnut and burr walnut, mottled maple, grey aningeria.
First, he makes a line drawing, essentially a template with which to cut the pieces of veneer, which are stacked up in ten layers high and cut together, into the right shape. This is done with a foot-operated saw, with the stacked veneers being carefully moved by hand according to the template. According to my father, the saw is so fine that it can saw through a pin head! This precision allows him to cut along the middle of the 0.13mm line of the line drawing, which allows the pieces to be fit together exactly - like a fine puzzle. After cutting is completed, the slivers of wood are pieced together. Some pieces need to be partially shaded for depth and shadow - this is done by heating the piece ever so slightly. After they are assembled, the entire dial needs to be polished and sanded. Because the dial is paper thin, this has to be done cautiously so as not to wear down the veneer excessively. The process is intricate and each dial requires hundreds of hours of work.
The delicate art of enamel
Due to the organic nature of the material and the manner in which it is produced — almost always by the skilled hand of an experienced artisan — I believe it's fair to say that every enamel creation is a unique piece.
The Enamel 'Grand feu' Vanessa Lecci enameler
This technique of decoration signifies the art of excellence. Enamel on watch dials is often the most unique and beautiful touch in fine watchmaking. Nearly all prestigious haute horlogerie brands produce pieces with this aesthetic. Due to my background in luxury watchmaking, using enamel on the dials, I decided to dress up the Bug Me scarabs with a touch of beautiful colors, emitted by enamel. The master artisan, Vanessa Lecci, does not paint the motif directly on the jewel or the watch dial but instead applies more oxides on it. Then, the enameller moves the dial into the oven (800-900° C) several times to allow colors to appear gradually. 'Grand Feu' enamel sets unalterable and refined decoration. Breakage and contingencies are common during the realisation of these masterpieces, which is why the work is entrusted only to proven artisans.
Next article about engraving
Is coming soon