Choosing to become a gouacheur—a gouache painter—is still a rare vocation in the world of jewellery design; but as sister duo Hélène and Jeanne Karpov will tell you, the art form is lucrative and still relevant, especially for high-jewellery maisons.
In a digital age, where the stylus has replaced the paintbrush in the art fraternity, sisters Hélène and Jeanne Karpov patronise the dying art of gouache painting, offering online courses to jewellery enthusiasts at www.theartofthegouache.com
While many jewellery designers think of gouache painting as an obsolete art form, the sisters convincingly assert why high-jewellery labels are always on the prowl for gouache painters.
For the sake of the art amateur, would you explain what a gouache is?
A gouache is the meticulous and precise painting of a piece of jewellery in real size. It allows an atelier or a client to quickly understand all the aspects of the jewel drawn by a designer: the shade of gold, the gemstones to be used, the volume of the stone, and so on. Traditionally, it is the technique used by all the big maisons to represent their jewels in order to keep a record of them in their archives.
Gouaches are also used to produce catalogues (which are more art books really than catalogues) distributed almost exclusively to the most esteemed clients of these houses whenever they launch a high-jewellery collection. They are therefore precious, destined to stand the test of time and bear witness to the know-how and legacy of each joallerie label. They are all the more precious because they are not, or hardly ever distributed to the general public.
Tell us something about the courses you offer?
Our courses are open to everyone and to all levels, from jewellery students who want to perfect their technique, to professionals in the sector who want to discover this aspect, but also to anyone who wants to learn to paint jewellery and gemstones just for fun. We also offer a free course called “Diamond 101” which allows you to learn how to paint a brilliant-cut diamond.
Our courses are presented in the form of pre-recorded videos on specific themes, such as opals, pearls, pave setting, but also more global courses, such as our best-seller entitled “The Art of the Gouache”, which allows you to learn all the aspects that make up the basis of jewellery gouache: drawing the facets of precious gemstones, painting diamonds and coloured gemstones as well as gold, mother-of-pearl, and pearls.
We will also be offering training courses in jewellery design and technical drawing in the future, and we are launching a book of our most beautiful gouaches. Yes, we are busy! We believe everyone should be able to experience the art of the gouache!
In the digital age, what relevance does your art have?
It is true that digital jewellery design is developing and can be an advantage for some as it can save a lot of time. However, traditional hand drawings remain the most popular technique in the greatest jewellery houses because, well, it makes you dream! It is the perfect emblem of high jewellery and luxury: it reflects the exceptional know-how, the rarity, and the age-old tradition of the jewellery world: indeed, it takes a long time to master this art! This is why it is used a lot in the communication of these houses, especially in videos.
We are often told that it has a ‘hypnotic’, ‘fascinating’ and even ‘relaxing’ effect. These are gestures that have been passed down for decades and we are keen to be able to pass on this unique know-how, which is an art in its own right in this world invaded by technology.
What career prospects lie ahead after completion of your courses?
Many of our students want to make their own jewellery pieces or start their own brand, and therefore want to learn how to express their ideas in drawings so that they can be understood by the various people involved in the jewellery world such as gemstone dealers and craftsmen. We teach them our techniques in order to be more autonomous.
Moreover, the profession of gouacheur has been expanding rapidly for several years. Our training is therefore the perfect tool to acquire the highest level of execution because it is this level of excellence, and no less, that the major jewellery houses look for when they hire people.
How have your students been placed after completing said courses?
There are several people in the big houses who have learnt jewellery gouache with us, and we are proud to have been able to help make their dream come true!
However, we would like to point out that our courses currently only cover the basics of jewellery gouache. Once our students have completed one of our courses, they receive a certificate of completion, but our training is not a diploma course.
We cannot guarantee the placement of our students as it depends on their motivation and level of experience in many other areas: perspective, technical drawing, modelling, workshop fabrication, gemmology, jewellery history, communication, marketing, to name just a few. But we guarantee a more advanced, efficient, and accelerated learning of the subjects we teach because we give all our best tips, learned within the houses we worked at, or tips that we have developed ourselves and which are not taught anywhere.
Tell us your individual backgrounds?
We have both always been passionate about design and decided to study in a jewellery design school in Paris. We fell in love with high jewellery after seeing exhibits on this subject and our dream then was to work on the famous place Vendôme—dream we both achieved.
Hélène worked for Van Cleef & Arpels for 15 years, where she was involved in the creation of numerous high jewellery collections. I worked for a dozen of high jewellery and timepieces houses, where I specialised in illustration.
Today, we still both work for high jewellery brands as a designer or illustrator, manage our own jewellery brand as well – Karpov (https://karpov.paris/), and we also work, as you now know, on our online courses.
As a duo what varying skillsets do you have that complement each other?
We have the same background, but we specialise in different areas, and each have our own area of expertise. Of the two of us, I am the one who has mastered gouache to perfection and Hélène is the pro in jewellery design. We discuss each project together and this allows us to speed up the creation and illustration process.
As siblings, is collaborating together a wise decision?
Since we were little, it’s been our dream. In fact, there are a lot of working duos who are brothers or sisters: the Williams sisters, the Cohen brothers, the Olsen sisters.
We created our company together because we know that we can count on each other in all circumstances. It’s an extraordinary and unwavering support. The atmosphere is joyful, and we are happy at work. Conflicts are very, very rare. We are obviously the best team ever.