Bénédite Séguin, Joaillerie Amulette
From Bénédite’s childhood home, mere metres from the Hautes-Gorges de la Rivière Malbaie National Park where her mother worked as a botanist, to today’s Joaillerie Amulette [Amulette Jewellery], the idea to gather, collect, showcase, and carry plants native to our region embedded itself in the entire artistic practice of this jeweller, who feels a deep connection to nature, the seasons, and the elements.
Amulette, a name that carries echoes of the past into the present…
Indigenous peoples made little decorated or unadorned drawstring bags to hold objects, often plants, that they wanted to carry with them as talismans, or for their energy or properties… This is where the word “amulet” comes from.
When I grow up, I’ll be…
It’s in the Charlevoix back-country, in the land of Menaud, the master log driver, at the gates of the Hautes-Gorges de la Rivière-Malbaie National Park that little Bénédite, as she got older, already enjoyed collecting, gathering and discovering little treasures that she found in this geologically spectacular forest, while pretending to be an Indigenous gatherer, a botanist like her mother, a catcher of crayfish, or an explorer…
One day, there was one find, an earring sparkling under the waters of a stream that, along with memories of pretend battles and treasure hunts, remained etched in her young mind. This idea of jewelled talismans in nature pervaded Bénédite’s imagination.
Mindful of preserving biodiversity since she was a child, her ecological values and her inclination for the sciences grew as she did.
Working with her hands and drawn to handling physical materials, she worked towards a career in the arts, making things by hand. A mix of preferences and sensibilities creating the fertile ground that would later give rise to Bénédite’s very specific process, she discovered jewellery while taking a course exploring different mediums offered by the École des Métiers d’Art de Québec. Here, she would go on to learn the finer points of the techniques of the craft that so fascinated her.
Assembling a silver herbarium…
Upon leaving the École des Métiers d’Art, it’s the spring buds she remembers from her childhood playground that first inspire the young artist to think about creating lost-wax castings directly from forms found in nature.
A technique she develops consists of very carefully covering the still fresh plant (picked outdoors and carried in an insulated bag filled with floral water vials she has customized herself) in a thin layer of carefully-poured hot wax that then enables her to create a plaster mold into which the metal, generally silver, but sometimes gold or a copper mix (as with the Japanese Shibuichi technique) is ready to be poured.
In 2009, Bénédite is awarded a Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec grant to create a massive Herbier d’Argent [Silver Herbarium] project. In doing so, she perfects this working technique with the help of other jewellers, and expands her knowledge of plants with the help of botanists.
At this point, the doors of Montreal’s Jardin Botanique [Botanical Garden] open to her, which allows her herbarium to grow, and allows her to include specimens from the world orchid collection contained in the garden’s greenhouses, where she set up her equipment to practice the art of lost wax casting, in situ.
The process of casting several species of orchid being a rare one, even in the botanical community, Bénédite discovers the international world of orchid collecting, providing opportunities for many meetings and for access to that world. But during a trip to Tokyo in particular, a level of awareness dawns, allowing Bénédite’s work to move to the next level: when asked “Are there any orchids that are native to Quebec?” she realizes that there is little known, or studied, about the matter.
Deeply moved by issues of preservation, outreach, and knowledge about biodiversity, the artist then seeks the permissions and contacts required to undertake the big adventure of the search for orchids in Quebec.
She conducts research in former university herbariums in Quebec City and Montreal, at the Herbier Louis-Marie and Herbier Marie-Victorin respectively, cross-referencing that work with more recent observations, and quickly finding her way north, lacing up her hiking boots for some trekking. With nothing but a few GPS coordinates and visual references in hand, Bénédite discovers, catalogues and immortalizes, through the casting process, local boreal orchids unique to Quebec’s ecosystems.
These are vulnerable ecosystems threatened by modern development, roads criss-crossing the forest, real estate projects built on dried-out peat bogs, or they are specimens that are simply trampled underfoot, thanks to the popularity of the outdoors.
As an artist, Bénédite works to collect impressions of a variety of plants, whether native to the province or from around the world, rare or common, building a library of plaster casts with a quasi-scientific attention to conservation, preservation, and passing down of knowledge to the next generation.
Among the issues and themes in Bénédite’s work, is considering the scope of human activity on ecosystems and biodiversity, side-by-side with the inherent poetry of casting an accurate impression of ephemeral and delicate plant matter in metal, for the purpose of remembering it.
Joaillerie amulette sells jewellery created from real plants gathered so as to be respectful of biodiversity. With sensitivity and artistic feeling, Bénédite joins these pieces cast from nature with stones (labradorite, amethyst and peridot), pearls (natural, pink, or gray) to produce creations that are sometimes unique, sometimes custom-made, or intended for production as a series, in the studio.
Firmly rooted in the Charlevoix region, Bénédite’s love of nature is something she feels every day: picking up cedar branches on a cross-country ski trek, finding a trillium on a canoe-camping trip with family… Art, family, landscapes, the outdoors, business, and love intermingle and co-exist alongside her blacksmith/artist partner, her daughter, her sisters, the team she calls her “friends,” and the wider community of enthusiasts that surrounds her…
Bénédite has invented something beyond a job, a lifestyle somewhere between fabrication and foraging, in sync with nature and its seasons!