Fondation Bettencourt for intelligence of the hand

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At 27, Julien Vermeulen, won the prize for Exceptional talent as a plumassier (feather worker), photo Sophie Zénon

Every year, Fondation Bettencourt Schueller awards its prizes for “Intelligence of the hand“, one of the most original awards for artisans and this year again, I was flabbergasted at the range of laureates. The Manufacture of tapestries of Aubusson, a feather worker JulienVermeulen and three designers Mona Oren, JérômeMalbren and Lionel Bourcelot won in three different categories for their talent and originality. 

An Aubusson tapestry after Tolkien took five months to complete, photo Sophie Zénon

Based in the Creuse, in the center of France, Aubusson has been creating tapestries since the 14 th century and became a royal institution when minister Colbert founded the Manufacture. It is still one of the great tapestry workshops in France and the institution was recommended for the award by four qualified experts. It receives a prize of 50 000€ and will be accompanied for two years on its project of a series of tapestries based on Tolkien’s books. The manufacture of Aubusson has recently developed a program of weaving contemporary works with designers like Ymer&malta.

Emmanuel Gérard, director of Aubusson with part of his team, photo Sophie Zénon

The very young Julien Vermeulen started his career with Jean Paul Gaultier and has recently exhibited at Palais de Tokyo, “Black Ocean”, a 20 square meter room lined with over 12 000 turkey feathers cut in the shape of an arrow and dyed in jet black ink. He is a feather worker and with the award money (150 000 € over two years), he will develop specific tools and raise new birds in order to produce French feathers instead of importing them from South Africa.

Julien Vermeulen, Exceptional talent as a plumassier, photo Sophie Zénon

The third prize is given to “Vertez Eidôlon”, a speaker of the XXI st century. Its linear motorisation gives it exceptional audio qualities. Jérôme Malbrel is the scientist behind the project with Lionel Bourcelot, the designer and Mona Oren who sculpted the mould. They won the “Dialogues” prize.

Mona Oren between Jérôme Malbrel and Lionel Bourcelot invented a new kind of speaker for music, the Vertex Eidôlon

Next year the Prize for Intelligence of the hand will turn twenty and over one hundred candidates will have been awarded the prize by Françoise bettencourt Meyers. All the jurys are made of independent and International professionals. This year the president was Jean de Loisy who is leaving Palais de Tokyo to run the Ecole des Beaux Arts. The Fondation Bettencourt now has a partnership with Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice where the laureates of Prix pour l’Intelligence de la main were exhibited last September with a series of films describing their work.

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