Carlos Pastor

The evolution of a jewelry designer

7 OCTOBER 2015
Carlos Pastor's work area
Carlos Pastor's work area

I am still surprised when I say I am a jeweller. As a child, I wanted to become a draughtsman. Drawing was a pleasure I used to escape from my studies and the little world of Calatayud, a farming and commercial town, 85 km from Zaragoza, which was my home until I was 19.

Since I was able to hold a pencil I have always drawn. I believe drawing is the core of all visual arts and, in my case, it was also a tool to think, to capture my dreams and communicate. At the same time, it provides an immediate, almost sensual feeling. With this vocation I moved in 1980 to Valencia, where I still live, and enrolled in the San Carlos Faculty of Fine Arts. I thought that was the place where I could fulfil my dreams of being an illustrator and a comic artist.

But the paths from our wishes to reality often turn in ways we don’t perceive at the moment. When the time came to decide a specialty I chose sculpture and that’s when I discovered volumes and dimensions: everything that, until then, I had imagined on paper, could actually unfold magically in space. Sculpture promised an infinite array of materials: clay, wood, stone, metal, plastics, fabrics, found objects…Through them I realized that my real vocation was experimenting (trial and error), finding solutions and, definitely, a dialogue with the materials in search of their unique soul.

Before my graduation I had become acquainted with the techniques of carving little wooden objects, although at the beginning it was simply a pastime that I pursued until shortly after receiving my degree, when I met, by chance, some jewellers from Barcelona. They seemed more interested in making objects whose value laid not so much in the materials of which they were, but in the message they transmitted. Some of them, like Ramón Puig Cuyàs or Carles Codina - whose influence I’ll never be able to thank enough - enjoy worldwide recognition. At that moment, I understood that my little wooden objects could also be jewellery. This opened a whole new universe waiting to be explored.

It is known that the homo sapiens used a variety of materials to craft jewellery pieces and, although most of them have been lost, we can get a general impression of what they were like from ethnical jewellery: shells, stones, feathers, seeds, bones, teeth, hoofs, flowers, wood, and so on.

Later, with the discovery of precious metals, these materials fell into the background. It implied a huge step forward in technology but it established some artificial hierarchies between some materials and others, and it actually impoverished the range used by jewellers. These prejudices prevailed until well into the 20th century, when a new generation of artists adopted concepts originated in the artistic avant-gardes and focused on the original values of jewellery which, beyond ostentation, lie it its power to communicate. Since the 1960s, jewellery has incorporated all sorts of materials; some of them primitive and others new, such as steel, titanium, plastics, rubber or synthetic stones.

Through time, I have learned to work with a wide range of materials. Wood is still my favourite but I also enjoy the classic ones and their unending technical possibilities. For over ten years my collections were based on silver, which opened the doors to the world of design and production. This valuable experience allowed me to widen my horizons regarding the whole concept of jewellery.

At the beginning of my career I believed that jewellery was just a portable ornament. Now I know that it is actually much more; on one hand, and as any other art form, it seems superfluous for survival. On the other it is a social and almost spiritual necessity, for we as humans live in communities and the objects we put on our bodies integrate us into the group and, at same time, make us different from other individuals. A jewel establishes a special bound between the creator, the object and the wearer, and also between the wearer and his or her social milieu. By reflecting upon this I came to understand that the established material hierarchies can be subverted and that the message was the essence. Therefore, the wider the choice of materials the better.

I believe that each material has its own voice, which the artist, or the craftsman, must find a way to make audible. Primary feelings such as the coldness of metals, the warmth of wood or the strength of stone interact with textures, colours and shapes to adjust to the frequency of our emotions. Although we share some biological and cultural foundations, each of us reacts differently to an object and this reality encourages all my work.

The last lucky turn happened fourteen years ago when I was presented with the opportunity to start the Artistic Jewellery in the Escola d’Art i Superior de Disseny in Valencia. From the beginning I intended to focus my teachings on what I had learned from my experience regarding jewellery as an art form that incorporates the expressions of contemporary art without losing sight of a millennial tradition that must not be overlooked. As cliché as it might sound, I have learned more than I have taught. I have enjoyed training people with amazing talents; I have met great artists, personally and through their work; and all the while I have been able to develop my own projects with total freedom. In parallel, I have collaborated with publishers revising translations of jewellery manuals and I have curated the book Éclat-Masters of Contemporary Jewellery, a book that includes many of my most beloved jewellers.

Currently I am very interested in researching the possibilities of raw leather, a material I became acquainted with through my fondness for percussion instruments. It’s the material used to make traditional drums and tambourines, but it has also been used for centuries in the manufacturing of parchments and lampshades. I had the feeling that raw leather had technical and expressive properties that could contribute to the field of jewellery, and it hasn’t ceased to surprise me. Its apparently infinite possibilities have inspired me to mix it with metals, wood and other materials. This is the main purpose of my work nowadays and I imagine it will continue in the near future too. Although, on second thought...who knows!

Text by Carlos Pastor, Valencia, April 2015
Courtesy of Promopress Editions