Tufts Magazine, "Creating Modern Heirlooms"
by Michele Gouveia, Summer 2001
Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but for Emma Villedrouin, J92, so are tulips and dogwoods. These are just a few of the flowers she re-creates in stunning pieces of jewelry that have been shown in numerous craft shows around the country. Drawing her inspiration from the botanical styles of the 1940s and 1950s jewelry, Villedrouin turns Gerber daisies, dahlias and other flowers into brooches, necklaces and earrings, creating "modern heirlooms." In April, Villedrouin's dedication to her art paid off when she was chosen to exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's craft show, 2001: A Craft Odyssey, the most prestigious show of its kind. Of more than 1,600 applicants, only 120 were chosen to participate.
Villedrouin, who has only been in the business for two years, was accepted to the show with her first submission. "The show was just incredible," Villedrouin said. "There was practically a riot in front of my booth." Not only did she sell a lot of her items at the show, it gave her a sense of belonging to a community. "At first I thought this was just a fluke," she said. "But after the show, it feels real." One of her pieces, a tulip brooch (see picture at upper right), was also featured the same month in Ornament Magazine, which helped her gain attention at the show as well.Villedrouin didn't always know that she wanted to create jewelry. While at Tufts she studied English and art history.
"Art history informs my work, especially my study of decorative and medieval art," she said. And although she found her education at Tufts enriching, she knew she had to do something more. "I craved a way to express myself in a palpable, material way." She enrolled at MassArt in Boston where she tried out painting and ceramics. But it wasn't until she stumbled upon the metals department that she knew she had found her calling. Of the medium she said, "As inflexible as it is, it appeals to me. I love the rigorous process required to build a sound piece." Villedrouin took her inspirations and began to create jewelry. She does not rely on castings; instead, each of her pieces is hand fabricated, ensuring that the work is fresh and individual.Drawing directly upon flat sheets of silver and gold, she imparts a heavy hammer texture before soldering parts together. "My aim is to create playful and carefully crafted modern heirlooms." Pearls and stones act as focal points to the pieces. Although she learned her craft elsewhere, Villedrouin credits Tufts for helping her achieve her goal.
"I was lucky enough to participate in the Paris program," she said. "That year proved invaluable in terms of the hours I spent haunting museums. I draw upon that experience daily." Today she is an active member of the arts community in the NOMA district of Washington, DC, where she operates her studio. Her pieces are also carried by boutiques in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. For more information about Villedrouin's work, visit www.emmaville.com