In this interview, Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio shares with us his vision on the art of stone cutting, its nuances and peculiarities.
KP: Let’s go back to the moment when you fell under the spell of gemstone carvings…
LAQ: During my childhood, I visited my father’s jewellery studio every day. I must have been about 6 and I was nosing through one of his mineral boxes. I found this strange and beautiful looking piece – hollow malachite filled with black druzy crystals. I decided to make a tree with it and carved the trunk out of tiger’s eye. It took me two days to finish it, but the beauty of what I created was so personal that I kept it to myself. I thought this piece was something nobody would appreciate and placed it in my room.
KP: So you started at a very early age?
LAQ: Yes. I started carving early, but my first pieces were never sold or gifted to anyone. But my connection with them was too strong. How could I sell something that meant so much to me? Branded in my childhood memory is the feeling of taking the stone and pushing it towards the diamond saw blade, which was just incredible – the sound, vibration and the peacefulness were overwhelming. I think this is the emotion that engaged me and until today it´s always enthralling to cut a stone and see what´s inside.
KP: Unlike working with metal, one wrong move while carving can ruin the whole piece. I presume it happened to you a lot in the beginning?
LAQ: Of course! And not just in the beginning. Many years ago, when I started to carve gemstones professionally, most of the misfortunes were related to unclear understanding of each stone, thepressure I needed to apply and how the diamond tool works. It is in fact the fingers that suffer the consequences and I have had so many small cuts on my hands because of running a blade through a stone when I needed to be patient. Every time I look at my hands, I remember each wound with great fondness. However, stones quite often get damaged later in the career because you end up becoming too comfortable and confident: you get distracted, make a false move and the diamond blade cuts through the stone in the wrong place.
KP: Are you often on the edge when carving?
LAQ: That is exactly the intoxicating part and one of the things I enjoy the most. The adrenaline that is generated when you know you have something so valuable in your hands, something irreplaceable created by nature hundreds or thousands of years ago and which you are about to transform and bring to life.
KP: What are the key qualities a carver should possess?
LAQ: Patience. It is crucial, as you first have to study the stone, see its defects, colour patterns, cracks that may run through the stone and possibly ruin the piece as you carve it. Adaptability is a key quality; sometimes you have to change the design because you find a different colour, impurity or defect as you are carving the stone. Concentration is another important factor – you have to be able to forget about everything and enjoy the moment, as you make each “trace” in the stone with the diamond tool. And, of course, knowledge, as each type of stone has its own secret. You don´t cut ruby, rock crystal or obsidian in the same way; some stones could be cut dry and others require oil or water, silicon carbide instead of diamond and all this know-how is acquired through years of experimenting.
KP: So is it the technical skills that contribute to the beauty of the final design or the gems?
LAQ: I think that gemstones bring so much to a design. They are so rich and have intense colours, textures and flaws that add character to each piece along with a uniqueness that cannot be compared to any media an artist could use. I love stones so much. They are truly my passion and this is an art that is very niche, unexplored.
KP: I believe I may be right in saying that you opened up a new world to luxury goods aficionados…
LAQ: People in general don’t understand much about stones, their origin, mines, adventure or the story behind each piece. My art object can be composed of rubies from Tanzania, rock crystals from Brazil, Lapis Lazulis from the Kokcha Valley in Afghanistan, an Ethiopian opal and all of these gems are sent to my studio in Peru, where I transform them. Each piece carries a story and it is my passion to share these stories with people, make them smile and feel connected with the art object and desire it. Since everything is done by hand, each piece has a soul, which shines through when the work is done.
KP: How do you choose what motif to carve?
LAQ: It depends. It could be the stone itself ‘telling’ me what to do with it or something that made an impression on me during a trip, seeing a museum exhibit, while walking in the street, going to a flea market or even a conversation with a friend. It has to be something that touches me, something that I have a connection with and then a great idea comes up and I create my design.
KP: You studied International Luxury Brand Management in Paris. Does it influence the style of what you now create?
LAQ: Paris has been a big influence in my work, as it enlightened me with a world of possibilities and pushed me to be more creative, even daring, but keep my own personal style. Having spent time in the French capital prompted me to create objects that included jewellery as well as incorporate gemstone carving into all known luxury: silverware, writing instruments, cigar accessories, glassware, accessories for spirits, cars, table games, furnishing accessories. It is a concept that I like to call a “journey into the infinite world of gemstone carving.”
KP: Do you think things would have been different for you now if you had not studied in Paris?
LAQ: Very likely so, as the opportunity to study came at the perfect time. At that point, I was conscious of not having enough tools or knowledge to create a luxury brand that I visualised. With the ESSEC boutique MBA, wherein I specialised in International Luxury Brand Management, I had the opportunity to have a more business-orientated education and find inspiration in the incredible city of Paris.