Brittany-based ALIX DUMAS doesn’t see herself as a jewellery designer. Instead, she looks at jewellery through the lens of a sculptor. Her visually stimulating creations possessing undulating or structured forms are bathed in a palette of colourful gemstones. Alix is an adventurous and bold artist, a true-blue bench jeweller, she is a purveyor of slow luxury, who loves to ideate, design, and create each of her prepossessing pieces
After having spent five years at one of the world’s iconic French jewellery brands in southern France, Alix moved on to set up her brand Maison Alix Dumas (MAD Joaillerie) in 2020. While the experience as a bench jeweller with the renowned brand empowered and honed her skill sets, she opted to deliberately move away from the design aesthetics to make her mark – a reflection of her uninhibited spirit seeking freedom of expression.
Alix, who divides her time between two cities – the idyllic Brittany region and Paris, the cultural and fashion centre of France – has been winning accolades and awards, and her works are exhibited at the most coveted art and jewellery exhibitions visited by aesthetes.
Her eloquent artworks, which invite zealous appreciation, underscore meticulous craftsmanship, with a firm eye on quality; she is also sensitive to environmental issues, and likes being kind to the planet by using fairmined gold and ethically sourced gems.
Alix Dumas traces her interesting journey in an exclusive email interview with Solitaire International.
Tell us about your early years … What was the turning point for you to move on to designing?
As a child, I lived many years abroad, in Turkey and Romania, and later in my student years, in Spain and the USA. It broadened my sphere! My mother, an art historian and a painter, was always keen on introducing us to many artists, and have us roam museums and cultural places. Paris, where I lived when in France, with all its culture and atmosphere, has also been a huge playground! I’ve studied History, English, and Culture Industry at the Sorbonne University. I meant to work in culture’s “business” but understood that I needed to enter the world of art as an artist and wanted to do something with my hands! This is when I joined a jewellery school in Paris, the AFEDAP, specialised in Contemporary Jewelry.
As for my interest in art and tinkering, I’ve always indulged in both. As long as I can remember, I’ve been creating objects, furniture, jewels…with all sorts of materials and techniques. It is really a means of expression for me. And as a student, I would use my free time to visit exhibitions or make something. The field I loved most to explore with my hands was always jewellery.
You’ve always taken keen interest in working on the bench and being hands-on an artist.
I love working on the bench. It is where my ideas come to life, where I create. I often have an idea beforehand, but I make it real by crafting it, by moulding it like a sculptor. As I said, I’ve always had my hands busy, especially creating jewellery, but it was only after entering the jewellery school and learning more techniques, that I realised I was meant to embrace it.
You have worked with an iconic French jewellery brand in southern France. What were the learnings you imbibed there? And have you managed to deviate and develop your individual signature?
I’ve worked in a very important French high jewellery workshop, creating unique pieces for one of the most talented and important Place Vendome’s jewellery designers of our time.
He defines himself as an artist, and I agree! There is nothing in his work like seasonal collections and trends. In this exclusive workshop, where I worked on the bench, I learned all about high jewellery making, how creative and challenging it can be to craft each piece which is different one another.
There would be a wish, and then, we, as bench workers, would find ways to make it happen. It was a wonderful experience. But I always knew I would need, when I had enough knowledge and skill, to fly with my own wings, create my own designs and pieces of art. It is very challenging to be a designer, maker, and artist – all rolled into one!
Of course, my pieces bear the traces of how I learned my skills and are somehow “connected” to my background. But I am discovering my own path, bending some techniques away from the batted path, and forging my own identity. I think identity for an artist mustn’t be a restricting concept. I wish to remain free to create outside these boundaries, for I love experimenting.
How has the journey been so far? How have you evolved as an artist?
It only has been a little over two years, that I founded Maison Alix Dumas.
I immensely enjoy making each one of my unique jewels. It is great to see them finding and seducing their unique happy owner. I also have been very touched, since the beginning, by how people react to my jewels. It is a journey in itself to try them on, for their volumes and vibes are very strong…each piece has its own story. I think it is a bold journey that I am leading… it is unusual to aim high when not coming from a family inside the industry.
You are committed to sustainability in your business…
As an artist, I’ve chosen to work only with fairmined and recycled gold, trace the gemstones… but above all made the choice to limit the production to few quality pieces instead of serial producing, which, in turn, involves small consumption of supplies.
Your lines are more about interplay of colour and metal…
My basis is that I work like a sculptor, inscribing the volume into space. I often create a jewel around a special gemstone (or many), using the special “world” of a gem or a group of gems: what it tells me, what I want to share of the story that came to me. Intuition plays a big part there. Sometimes the piece is about a shape, a sculptural movement… and about how to place colour and light on it to make it come to life.
I use metal to define some lines or volumes, to give special character to some parts of a jewel (like when I create metal lace or a highly polished surface).
But where I only want colour and light, I work the metal to make it disappear … in my paves, for instance. It is all about how light flows, reflects on a surface or penetrates it. Metal and gemstones are two ways to keep the eye marvelling and travelling through an art piece.
How long does it take for each piece to come to life?
The timing of each piece is singular. Some come quickly, in a few weeks or months, others need much more time to come to life: in their making, in finding the perfect line, colour or system…
You also have an affinity towards gemstones. Any particular favourites?
I am passionate about gemstones in general. They are a never-ending colour and texture palette. I favour natural, unheated ones. I also love repurposing gemstones, especially Old-mined diamonds. I mainly favour powerful colours. It is wonderful, for they are all unique! For me choosing a stone is akin to a love story!
Did you expect your rise to stardom in the world of jewellery would be so quick? Is fame intimidating?
I am thrilled to see that quality craftsmanship and bold creativity have already won me a place in the jewellery world.
My desire is to follow my “artist’s way”, creating fewer pieces, carefully crafted and perfected, preferring quality to quantity … and to keep meeting art and jewels lovers who appreciate and collect and may allow me to keep climbing higher in my art.
I am fully aware that it has only been two years, and I am in the process of internationally broadening my audience… something that was hindered these past two years by the sanitary crisis.
Where are your boutiques based?
I work between Paris and French Brittany, where my workshop is. I mainly meet my clients in Paris, but I also exhibit in exclusive shows, like Gem Genève’s Vivarium, PAD, Timeless Jewels Fair, Paris…)
What is a day in the life of Alix Dumas?
Well, a day in my life is full! I have two young boys, who challenge me every day! I am a happy mother and wife, a passionate artist and jeweller, and I lead my brand and workshop… I love living in Bretagne (Brittany), where the everyday scenery is beautiful and inspiring! The horizon and sea feed my soul! I also love coming to Paris, enjoy the cultural life there and meet my contacts, my suppliers and clients. My life is all about balance, which is sometimes tricky! I tend to “live, breathe and sleep” on my main pieces at some points of their creation process, but my family is very understanding. We tend to live a simple life at home, in a sustainable way.
What are your hobbies?
I am a good French girl, love eating and cooking, inventing new recipes with healthy products! Mainly I marvel at nature… gathering flowers and growing vegetables, everything is an excuse to carefully watch my environment. I ride my bike every day, and I’ve taken to surfing too!
If you were not a jewellery designer, what would you be?
I can’t imagine not being a jewellery artist anymore. But I guess I could fancy being a chocolate maker, or a patissière, since both require a lot of finesse, tact, creativity and know-how … and supplies are delicious!
Do you follow any Indian designers?
Yes, I follow Neha Dani, who I had the great pleasure of meeting, Arunashi, Studio Renn and Saurahb Bhola. I am always looking out for other artists or designers, in many fields!