L’École de Joaillerie de Montréal: From a workshop to a school

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Last year was a big year for l’École de Joaillerie de Montréal. A birthplace to a spectacular amount of ideas, projects and international collaborations, the school celebrated its 40th anniversary.

by Véronique Dubé

To celebrate this milestone, l’École de Joaillerie de Montréal organized a retrospective exhibition to encourage and promote its founders, masters and graduates, but also to strengthen its cultural role within the community.

Four decades of history

The story of this jewellery school started back in 1973, when Madeleine Dansereau and Armand Brochard, two jewellers from very different spheres, created a vibrant, distinct and unique training centre in Quebec: l’Atelier de Joaillerie. In addition to their passion, it took quite a bit of audacity to dive into this adventure. It was the first school workshop entirely dedicated to the learning of the art and science behind jewellery making. But their project had proved its worth and in less than two years, they moved into a larger space. Later on in 1982, l’Atelier de Joaillerie became the École de joaillerie et de métaux d’art de Montréal.

In 1989, the Ministry of Education of Quebec established the technical craft program and the school, in affiliation with the Cégep du Vieux-Montréal, welcomed the first cohort of Cegep students registered in the jewellery option. Dansereau and Brochard became known for their high standards of education in jewellery making and gained recognition for their teaching skills while promoting the program. As a result, the arts community in Montreal and throughout Québec in general began to recognize their program. Known today as l’École de Joaillerie de Montréal, the school now accommodates more than 400 students each year, and is the only one to offer a complete range of instruction. In fact, the students are divided into three groups – continuing education, college-level instruction, and advanced training.

The talent behind the ideas

Born and raised in Montréal, Madeleine Dansereau is considered to be the first woman who became a jeweller in Québec. Metals fascinated her; she loved their aspect of constant evolution and the way she could transpose their beauty to others. Dansereau is the designer of the Ordre national du Québec’s insignia, a reward given to exceptional individual for their contribution to promote Québec. In 1987, the Québec government’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs enlisted her and seven other artists to review the proposal for the recognition of the status of an artist.

Armand Brochard, a Belgium jeweller, arrived in Canada in 1957. The exceptional quality of his work was the result of his meticulous attention to detail and technical expertise. During Expo 67, he was the creator of the sculptures and jewels that were presented by the Québec government to Queen Elizabeth II, Madame de Gaulle and visiting heads of state. Brochard also played an important role in elevating the Salon des métiers d’art du Québec to a world-class level.

Passing on the gift

L’École de Joaillerie de Montréal offers a high quality of education, largely thanks to the diversity of its teachers. Since day one, the school has greatly benefited from its teachers’ expertise. Over the years, they developed their knowledge by training in various international institutions. The artistic process of each teacher is unique, which brings a different approach and an added value to the school. Among the educators are Georges Delrue, Antoine Lamarche, Georges Schwartz, Louis-Jaques Suzor Christine Larochelle, Lynn Légaré and Pierre-Yves Paquette.

The results

The graduated artisans of l’École de Joaillerie de Montréal have been trained by master jewellers who taught them how to stimulate their creativity and excellence, with an understanding that keeping an open-mind and loving what they do are the things that produce outstanding work. Many of the graduates have received honours and awards, and have taken part in major international exhibitions. Creations by Josée Desjardins, Anne Fauteux, Aliza Amihude, Gabrielle Desmarais, Sylvie Mourocq, Lawrence Woodford and Esty Grossman, among many others, are all part of the exhibition put on to celebrate the school’s anniversary.

To set up the celebratory show, the curator at the school, Catherine Sheedy, had the mission of assembling the projects that reflect the institution’s development over the years. Being an artist and jeweller herself, Sheedy worked closely with collectors, museums and a special jury – made up of weaver Louise Lemieux Bérubé, cutter and silversmith, Chantal Gilbert, and art historian, Valérie Côté – to select the works for the retrospective exhibition.

This retrospective exhibition was first presented at the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec from September 25 to November 15 of last year with more than 2,600 visitors in attendance. Then, from December 5 to 21, the school was invited to exhibit at Le Salon des Métiers d’art de Montréal, which was another fantastic way to showcase the people and creations that contributed to the school’s success over a span of four decades. CJ

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