While growing up in the quiet coastal village called Brehal in Normandy, French jeweler Marie Lebourgeois received a gift from her parents called "Magic Plastic Jewelry." The five-year-old was smitten by the designs she created like butterflies and teardrops. Little did Lebourgeois know her child-like curiosity would ignite a passion for a career in jewelry. To date, she is considered a world class jewelry designer.
On November 2, Lebourgeois and her Trini-born husband Faoud Baksh were in town for the launch of Stechers Gulf City, La Romain,?San Fernando, outlet. Among the fetching pieces were necklaces and bangles. They had a twist of both antique and contemporary styles.
Asked about her work Lebourgeois said, "My jewelry is trendsetting and innovative. I am using traditional techniques and mix materials, cast found objects. I?use semi precious stones and work with Swarovski crystal elements. My jewelry is fun, 'a la mode,' made for any generation and match to any lifestyle.
"I?combine my creativity and artistic interests in designing jewelry with the focus on putting the fun back in fashion." Lebourgeois added, "At five years old, I started making my very first pieces. Jewelry has become my grand passion."?
She expressed pride in the programme of collaboration with Stechers. "My work is in sales in Stetchers in Trinidad. I am so proud to have my work in one of my favourite islands and in a great luxury retailer."
Living the American dream
Lebourgeois' workshop and home is in Manhattan, New York. When hurricane Sandy struck, she said she could not even go to her workshop. "I could not get a cab. It was bad." Despite the natural disaster, "I am living the American dream...My dream that came true because of my love and passion for jewelry."
Before sweet success, Lebourgeois paid her dues. At 15, she moved to Paris to study jewelry at the prestigious Ecole Boulle school. Patting herself on the back, she said, "I was one of the eight per cent top students to pass the jewelry entrance test to secure a place at the prestigious Ecole Boulle school. I was very excited to live in Paris and learn the art of jewelry."
After four years studying art history, gemmology, stone setting, jewelry design and making, she graduated. Lebourgeois took a bold step and applied to the famed Cartier Institute casting call. "I got accepted at the Cartier Institute and studied there to fulfill my skills for one intensive year course. "I came first at the Cartier Diploma and was transferred to Cartier jewelry workshop in London, England. After two great years in London, I started to settle down. "I was promoted to the Cartier Jewelry workshop In New York City. There, I was in charge of the High Jewelry Polishing and Quality Control Cartier,"?said Lebourgeois.
She also met her husband Faoud Baksh there. Though born and raised in London, England, he was tied to his Trini roots. The couple has a 17-month-old daughter Noor. Gushing about Noor, she said, "I speak to my daughter in french. She loves to wear the jewelry I make."
Lebourgeois also loves her younger brother Paul dearly. He is the head Sommelier at the Camelia restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, France.
She loves T&T
Asked how she felt about T&T, Lebourgeois said, "I fell in love with the island. I could have doubles for breakfast, bake and shark in Maracas beach for lunch and roti for dinner. "My favourite is jalebi for desert. I have a sweet tooth."?
She enjoys the Carnivalesque atmosphere.
"I had the best time there, great atmosphere, very festive. I love the costumes. It has been very inspirational."? Apart from perfecting jewelry craftsmanship, Lebourgeois enjoys travelling and discovering different cultures, and sourcing gem stones like diamonds, pearls and rubies.
Museums continue to fascinate Lebourgeois during her travels. "I like to spend times at the Metropolitan museum in New York when I am not at the Albert and Victoria museum in London or Le Louvre in Paris."?
Creating her own brand
She has drawn inspiration from the natural environment. "I?love the contrast between the city and nature, whether it is sailing a catamaran in the Caribbean, riding horses on her grandfather's ranch in Normandy, fly fishing in Ireland, mushroom picking in Germany, or visiting Switzerland for jewelry trade fairs.
"These have all inspired my designs in different ways; be it colour, shape and feeling."?Lebourgeois said her creativity and artistic interests lead her to design and make her own jewelry. She named the brand after her maternal grandparents Therese and Bernard Lebourgeois. "I sketch design and make all my pieces," she said.
"They are now living a peaceful life in the Normandy countryside, riding trotting horses in their well-known racing stable Du Vivrot," she said. She even boasts work experience involving over 17 companies like Van Cleef, Boucheron, Bulgari, De Beers, Louis Vuitton and Joaillerie.