This year marks the 60th anniversary of Piaget’s ground-breaking Altiplano collection. We speak to Emilie Moutard-Martin, the feather artist who was engaged to help Piaget celebrate this sexagenarian milestone in utmost style.
Emilie Moutard- Martin is one of only a handful of feather artists in France
How did your relationship with Piaget start?
We met in 2013. I was doing an exhibition at the Grand Palais and some people from the Piaget team met me there. I was presenting some of my personal creations; a mix between jewellery and clothes, with feathers that had golden leaves. It’s a particular technique that I developed to be able to put silver or gold leaves on a feather. When the Piaget team saw my work, they immediately thought that something could happen between us. The first piece we realised was a bangle from the Secrets and Lights collection.
Tell us more about this gold overlay technique.
What’s really important for me creatively is that the texture of the feather still appears when I put the silver or the gold leaf on top of the feather. The silver or gold leaf actually accentuates the texture of the different feathers and the structure of the feathers. I developed a technique that is similar to how you apply gold leaf to an ornament where you use a kind of glue. But it’s not a traditional technique and I had to look at different ways of doing this. It took me a long time but once I found the right liquid and the right substance to use, then it was about the delicacy in applying the leaf on the feather.
How long did it take you to perfect this craft?
A few weeks of just trying and trying.
And now you’ve worked on the feather marquetry dial of Piaget’s 60th anniversary Altiplano collection. What were some of the challenges faced?
It requires very accurate work because of the scale of the dial. But I really love working in very, very fine detail so it’s work that really corresponds to my way of working and what I like to do even on big pieces; I always look into the details of things. The challenge starts from the design process: To express the art but also something new, something appealing on such a small surface. I was happy to be able to express myself on such a small scale. We always try to bring something new to the creations; something that hasn’t been seen before. Also, we look to find a good equilibrium and not have a catalogue of all the different techniques on the same dial; but to really choose what to put forward and what will be interesting to show.
How long do you take to complete each dial?
A good week—from selecting the right feathers to preparing them and then to gluing them on the dial.
What is the one lesson that you’ve learnt from this collaboration on the watch?
I didn’t learn anything in a technical sense but more about myself and my concentration. This is due to the fact that we’re doing a small series [of the watch] and I am more used to doing unique pieces; now, I have to repeat the same dial a few times. Also, I’m much more aware of all the constraints that we have in a watch in terms of dimensions. It has to be perfect. The height also has to be consistent because of the hands that pass over [the dial]. So there were the technical constraints which are much more present than in haute couture or jewellery or any other accessory.
This feather marquetry dial uses duck, peacock and rooster feathers