This year, artist and jeweller Paris Fontana was tapped by Jägermeister to be a part of their Meisterpieces project; an ongoing series which sees hands-on makers craft works inspired by the liqueur’s long-standing heritage and values. We spoke with Paris about her craft, philosophy, and the beauty of bespoke jewellery. This article is presented in partnership with Jägermeister.
Paris Fontana is a creative shapeshifter. She’s dabbled in fashion design, performing arts, and modelling, but looking back she can see that jewellery design was always her calling. She would raid her mother’s costume jewellery collection as a child and during her teenage years made her own DIY creations from store bought pieces, sitting in her bedroom for hours on end, deconstructing and reconstructing. She initially started creating her own designs out of frustration—she couldn’t find pieces that embodied her interest in the occult, her love of bespoke jewellery, and, on a more practical level, she couldn’t find rings that fit her fingers perfectly. (When we spoke, she counted out the rings she was wearing that day—there were 31 across both hands, all her own design.)
Originally from Perth, she relocated to Melbourne three years ago to study fine arts and gold and silversmithing. Armed with the drive and the technical know-how, she started her own jewellery label, Immortale. Her creations are hand-crafted using both contemporary and classic techniques, and her interest in symbology, talismans, and memento mori is present in each of her one-of-a-kind designs. A fascination with the state of metamorphosis is a common thread that runs through all of Paris’s creations. She’s intrigued by the permanent and the impermanent—the idea that a family heirloom can be melted down and reworked into something entirely new, or that a precious stone can be saved and reused decades later.
For Paris, the intimate relationship she has with her clients is incredibly important; she knows that she’s creating pieces that will be imbued with memories and meaning for years to come. She understands the true power of jewellery. We called Paris while she was working in her studio to chat about her earliest jewellery related memories, how she found her creative calling, and the
beauty of bespoke jewellery.
How did you first get started making jewellery? What about it captured you in the way it did?
So I started off self-taught and I’m from Perth… I’ve always been obsessed with jewellery and I wanted to make it for myself. I actually couldn’t find rings that fit properly. I’ve got really big knuckles. [Laughs] And [my rings] were always like swinging around and being kind of awkward, but I love wearing heaps of rings, so I’d kind of pile them all on. But then I was like, I can make these, I can do this myself. Because I have a bit of a dark fashion vibe and I wanted to tap into that and start making my own [jewellery].
What’s the earliest jewellery related memory you can recall?
Yeah, I totally remember going through this giant jewellery box of my Mums and just putting on the most ridiculous amount of stuff, layering pearl necklaces—I think it was mainly costume jewellery, but probably quite special stuff. And you know, dressing up in her clothes, putting her clothes on that were twenty sizes too big and coming down the stairs in them like “Look at me!” So it’s always been a fascination for a long time. I remember as a teenager I’d buy shitty bits of jewellery from Diva and Lovisa and stuff and pull them apart. I bought myself a little set of pliers and things from Bunnings, I vividly remember that as well, just sitting in my room pulling things apart and using jump rings to attach things. I was never very good, I was just fascinated with it.
I know when I’m writing or creating, I need my space to have a certain vibe—the right type of music needs to be playing, a particular candle needs to be lit. What’s the vibe of the space you create your work in?
Yeah definitely vibe is very important… I definitely like to get into the zone. I mean, I work full-time on my stuff, so that’s during the day, but at night it’s kind of nice too because there’s not a lot of people around and you can sort of get into the zone quite easily, without any white noise, [without] any kind of distraction, so it’s quite a mysterious, nice time. So I definitely play music and I’m obsessed with crystals and minerals, so I have a wide collection of them on my desk space. Yeah, kind of tapping into that celestial, that dark sort of memento mori vibe, a little bit ethereal. I definitely dress in that way and I guess my practice takes on that persona as well.
Speaking of personal style, I can tell that’s important to you. What role does jewellery play in your personal style? Is there a symbiotic relationship between your fashion sense and the jewellery you create?
Definitely, I think it all started from not being able to buy what I had in mind, I could never find exactly the vibe of jewellery that I wanted to buy, so I made it myself. So I think there’s a very strong correlation and that symbiosis and aesthetic filters into my jewellery, it’s kind of an extension of what I believe in and how I like to adorn myself. I would describe it as dark fashion, that kind of memento mori vibe. It’s definitely very unisex. I want whoever is drawn to it [my jewellery] to wear it—if you’re drawn to it, rock it, wear it. There’s no rules.
Your work is very influenced by the occult and this idea of memento mori. Have you always been interested in the darker side of life?
I definitely have. I have a fascination with the tarot and the occult, the more metaphysical side of life. I have my own tarot deck and I do that on myself and some of my friends. I think it’s just this belief, more of a spiritual belief, that we are one in the universe, whatever way that manifests for us in our daily lives. Believing that there are other energies and powerful entities that we can tap into that guide us on our path of creativity, and I think jewellery is my calling. I’ve figured it out in many roundabout ways, trying different career paths, experimenting with fashion design, but never really feeling quite at ease with it. There was always something lacking and I know that art has played a major part in my life but I kind of veered away from it for quite a number of years I think, and then I realised that the answer was kind of sitting there—the amalgamation of all these things that I love and sort of giving back to the world. I feel like making something for someone with your hands can be really special, jewellery can be really special, you know it’s for these special occasions in people’s lives, and making something like that can be quite cathartic, it can be quite healing to create these special pieces for people.
There’s been a real return to bespoke artisan creations and craftsmanship in recent years. As someone who creates bespoke jewellery, what do you think has led to this surge in popularity?
I think it’s got a lot to do with fast fashion and a rebellion against that because things escalated so quickly and there’s so much that’s available, and people have more buying power. You know the immediacy and the availability of that, sure it’s great, but we all end up looking like clones of each other and I think people are realising it’s really boring… I think it’s really important to slow it down and get it back to that handmade, artisan craft—slow fashion. I think that’s why people are appreciating it now. The ability to customise something or capture an essence or an energy or a memory or something and work one-on-one with an artisan is so special, and I think people are really appreciating that.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Follow Paris and her work here.