An obsession with wearing jewellery and wanting to be involved in a creative process inspired Paris Fontana to start her own contemporary jewellery business, Immortale.
Known for its distinct style, the jewellery brand fuses oxidised metals and undulating texture, alongside geometric form and mirror-finish surfaces.
Fontana began her foray into creating jewellery in 2014, when she was living in Perth, doing a short course in jewellery making and discovered the craft of lost wax casting.
“That’s when I fell in love with the whole thing. And I was like: wow – this is that thing that people talk about when you get lost in a meditative state whilst doing something creative,” she said.
Keen to pursue the craft in a more formal capacity, Fontana looked for courses in jewellery making and eventually relocated to Melbourne to embark on a degree in fine arts, specialising in gold and silversmithing.
Even though she was always drawn to creative arts, it took Fontana some time to discover her true passion. She dabbled in photography and fashion design but said she could never pinpoint exactly what it was that she wanted to pursue creatively.
While she was working as a model, she realised she no longer wanted to be in front of the camera.
“It (modelling) was never fulfilling… it was always like you were the one bringing somebody else’s vision to life. And I wanted to be the one who was creating and directing,” Fontana said.
And so began the search for a profession that could fulfil her creative talents and tendencies.
Looking back on her childhood, Fontana said she was “always obsessed with jewellery”. She would rummage through her mother’s giant treasure box of costume jewellery and discover interesting pieces like 1980s clip-on earrings that she would pull apart and make new pieces from.
“Even back then, there was this fascination with jewellery, but I didn’t have any of the technical skills to back it up. As the interest developed further, it became more refined and actually turned into studying jewellery formally and being a jeweller,” she said.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be that would secure my attention for long enough. And then it was jewellery, and I found the process of lost wax casting. You start with a blob of wax and you form shapes and mini sculptures… and that’s how all my jewellery is formed.”
Fontana also created her own jewellery brand out of frustration – she was never able to find pieces that embodied her personal style.
“The reason that I started creating jewellery is because I was obsessed with wearing it, but I was never able to find exactly what I wanted,” she said.
“So, it’s definitely been bringing to life this vision I’ve had in my mind about personal adornment.”
Taking on the Meisterpiece project
This year, alcohol brand Jägermeister and Acclaim Magazine approached Fontana to be a part of their Meisterpiece project – a series where makers create works inspired by the liqueur’s heritage and values.
There were many different candidates in the running, but this was the first time the project featured a jeweller, said Fontana.
The project involved designing a collection of pieces focused on the style of the modern-day signet ring.
While the project involved a tight turnaround and working to a strict brief, Fontana said it was a rewarding experience that has fuelled her interest in collaborating.
“I love working to a good creative brief, and collaborative brief. When you work with other creatives… all these different people’s dreams, you can emanate into it and it evolves and turns into this amazing thing,” she said.
When considering whether she would take on the Meisterpiece project, Fontana said she weighed up whether it would be “a good image to be aligned with”.
“And I came to the conclusion that yes, it is, because it is essentially a creative amalgamation of different forces bringing something to life,” she said.
“They loved the idea that I carry out this thing of memento mori in my work. All of these things aligned and that’s what made me think it was befitting for us to collaborate.”
Collaboration is now a key focus for Fontana’s career and she often takes on bespoke commissioned jewellery pieces.
“It’s often the most rewarding thing because you’re coming in there with your style and what you do, but then you’re listening to another creative or another person’s idea of what they want, and you’re amalgamating the two and bringing something new into the world,” she said.
Growing a business
Fontana has come a long way since starting her jewellery brand from her bedroom in Perth more than five years ago.
When she was studying at Fremantle Arts Centre, she built a good rapport with some mentors at the school and asked if she could use the workspaces after hours, which formed a makeshift studio for a while.
When she moved to Melbourne, Fontana found a co-op working space for creatives in East Brunswick, called Real Job Studios, and has been based there for three years.
Several creatives work from the studio, including jewellers and graphic designers. Each creative operates individually and runs their business from the space, but Fontana said a huge advantage was having access to like-minded people to share ideas with.
“When I was younger, I was a very solo worker and didn’t want any distractions. But now I know how important it is to bounce ideas off other creatives, and have that be a collaborative process in itself, because sometimes you just need to talk things through, and it helps so much,” she said.
This year has involved a particularly big jump for Fontana, as she has branched out on her own to solely focus on her business, without the safety net of other part-time jobs.
“It’s being built from the ground up; it’s just me and I don’t come from money. So, you have to hustle. But I think that makes you that much more determined and strong, as a human and as a business owner, because there is no safety net, there’s no fall-back… you just have to make it work. So, it drives you to be very dedicated, focused, have a lot of tenacity, have a tough skin,” she said.
“In saying all of that, you do need to have a balance. You need to make sure you see your friends and make sure you still do things that are fun. It can’t be all about the work.”
Looking to the future, Fontana plans to expand her brand and secure more stockists in Melbourne and abroad, while growing her client base of commissioned and bespoke pieces.
Beyond that, she simply wants people to enjoy her jewellery creations.
“The reason why we adorn ourselves with clothes or tattoos or jewellery is to be an individual. So, I want people to wear and appreciate and love the jewellery in their own way, that it feels symbolic to them,” she said.
Learn more about Immortale Jewellery here.