Photos by Fabrice Fortin for Paris By Appointment Only™
Just like her distinct, handmade jewels, Valerie Sloan’s shoebox of a boutique is striking despite its diminutive size. Maybe it’s because there’s usually no one in it.
When she’s not upstairs with her slowly growing clientele, the former sculptor can be found downstairs in her atelier handcrafting new pieces for her couture bijoux collection.
Looking for a way to transform her love of volumes and textures to a smaller, more manageable format, Sloan switched from sculpture to jewelry in 2000.
“Sculptors are often burdened by the weight and size of the objects. I quickly realized that I could continue making sculpted objects that were precious to me through jewelry,” says Sloan who opened her shop, Valslo, in early 2009.
Using an ancient technique called “lost-wax casting,” she first sculpts her design out of a block of wax, studying and smoothing its every facet with a battalion of tools. Then she carries her delicate wax carving to a nearby foundry, where it’s transformed into a one-of-a-kind jewel in silver or gold.
Since her brand is still budding, she produces one piece at a time, which means that the design on display is the only one in stock. If it’s not your size, Sloan has to go through the whole process again. This slow, non-commercial method would drive any ambitious entrepreneur nuts, but Sloan wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like to tailor-make things, the idea is for people to order something personalized and timeless,” says Sloan, who treats each piece like a future heirloom.The fit and comfort of the jewel is as important to Sloan as the overall aesthetic, which means that she’ll spend hours polishing the inside of a ring just to give it a silken feel. The shiny interiors also offset her predominantly matte surfaces.
“Unlike shiny metals, with matte surfaces you can see how volumes have been sculpted through the relationship between light and shadow. ”
Inspired by everything from a crack in the wall and a fleeting shadow to the rocks in her garden, her designs have a palpable personality to them. Physical symbols of passing thoughts and observations, the collection runs the gamut of emotions, from tender and romantic to raw and blunt. Even though there’s a coherent current running throughout, the range has three distinct styles.
The first is feminine and precious (both literally and figuratively) with light, delicate forms adored with Tahitian pearls green sapphires or specked quartz. The intermediary range consists of asymmetrical shapes with continual curves. The final unisex group in massive silver is the most weighty and industrial.
While there are occasional earrings and necklaces throughout, Sloan (if you haven’t noticed) is a ring lady with an incurable passion for wedding bands. “I like the idea of a symbolic jewel, especially one that represents the union between two people. It’s a beautiful example of idealism.”
Valslo: 10 rue du Perche, 75003 Paris
Prices: €500-1500, depending on design and material
Atelier visits: On request, contact me for details.