Molding the Maker
My life thus far often reminds me of the tale of The Alchemist, journeys to far-away lands with lavish and rewarding adventures that, like the book, have led me to ultimately discover my own destiny. Born to a Greek-American mother and French-Italian father I was whisked away to the Middle East before I could walk. Childhood in these far off lands was painted with long walks in the Arabian deserts learning to crack open geodes as well as wandering through the vibrant, glittering gold souks filled with bold colors and rich cultural heritage. It was in these far-off mystical lands that this daughter of global nomads began her love affair with design and creating beauty.
My childhood summers were spent hopping between the various ancient Greek islands and visiting my father in the historically rich French countryside. During this time my creative appetite continued to be fed as I was encouraged to sketch the crumbling ancient ruins as well the simple yet powerful designs of the ancient Greek jewelry shown in the museums. I was hypnotized by the color of yellow gold. Its richness and luminosity shining like the sun made me want to work with this glorious gift from nature. I knew that I could make beautiful things when the medium itself was so spectacular.
Summers were also spent in the Loire Valley in my family’s ancestral home. This period of my life was pivotal for my design inspiration. I was intoxicated by the craftsmanship, design and tradition that surrounded me, including my own family estate with over 200 years of history. Treasure hunts included ransacking the attic where I would discover dresses packed away from the time of Napoleon, bayonets from World War I and miniature portraits of the family from the 1700s. What really got my heart racing were my grandmother’s gorgeous beaded evening gowns from the 1920s and the family jewels dating back to the 1800s. I couldn’t escape it: jewelry was imprinted in my soul. From under the watchful gaze of my ancestor’s portraits I vowed to continue my family’s rich legacy by continuing their patronage of the arts and dedication to European craftsmanship. However, I did not see myself as a patron but as the artist who was filled with artistic vision that was bursting at the seams.
At the age of fifteen, my life took yet another cultural turn and we relocated to the San Francisco, Bay Area. Here I was exposed to a whole new artistic aesthetic. Always true to my artistic calling I dabbled in almost every traditional medium available:charcoal, oil paints, calligraphy, print making and engraving. An avid reader and learner, I attended the University of San Francisco and, post graduation, was awarded a fellowship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy which proved to be one of the most profound and rewarding periods of my life. On a daily basis I was surrounded by one of the most important collections of Surrealist art on the planet. However, I wanted to explore more of the ancient city around me. I would escape the heat by sitting in the gorgeous churches and gaze at the ethereal paintings by various Italian masters like Canaletto and Veronese. I would also return to my Byzantine roots by watching the roof and facade of the Basilica of San Marco shoot into “flames” when the sun hit the golden facade at certain times of the day. My eyes blinded, once again, by the luminescent glow of gold molded by the hands of history and time.
Always exploring, I felt a calling to move to New York City in 2000 where I worked in fine art and pursued my Masters in History of Modern Art Form from Christie’s Auction House. The Frick, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA served as the museum backdrops for my studies. I loved that I was fully immersed in a field I adored, however I felt something lacking: I needed to create my own art. I returned to my first creative love of bodily adornment and to fulfill my creative pursuits I began taking bench jewelry courses at the Fashion Institute of Design and Technology in the heart of Manhattan. I was hooked.
A move back to the Bay Area was divinely timed when I met my now husband who was originally from San Francisco. I packed up my dreams of gemstones and design to make my way back across the country. Serendipitous events happened yet again and I met a master goldsmith from Athens, Greece with whom I immediately began an apprenticeship. Highly critical and trained by the great Armenian masters of his time, this master gave me the fundamentals of exquisite fabrication and design.
Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf Bijoux was born in 2010 in San Francisco. In my intimate jewel box studio you will find me playing with marvelous heirlooms, rare gemstones and stunning diamonds. It is here that I create fully bespoke, one-of-a-kind works of art that bring to life the artistic visions singing in my soul that display my diverse design and cultural background as well as my love for the wonderous world of art and the preservation of craftsmanship.