Francis Mertens from Antwerp, Belgium is a real innovator and visionary within the art and design circles that I’m currently working with, as a writer on his online shopping platform that offers to a very sophisticated audience beautiful, collectible items (art, interior, jewelry) based on artisanal and avant-garde techniques, including the Japanese Urushi lacquer technique by Fritz Frenkler and Dieter Rams following the school of Ettore Sottsass.
Above all, he is a cutting-edge fine jewelry designer delicately mixing titanium with diamonds and other precious gems with a top-tier clientele, and equally impressive collaborations. He is always interested in finding the best of art and design talent for his platform, and he is quite a multi-layered personality.
His cutting-edge online art & design shopping platform, GAR 131, is showcasing rare techniques, collectible items and artists with a very special contribution or twist. His own pieces are a magical blend of tradition and latest technology applications. He has the modern touch and a new vision on how to produce luxury today. It doesn’t have to be that fussy, better quiet and sleek.
Artists and designers working with titanium, for example, are very few and usually lean towards the perfectionist side of the spectrum. The process of transforming this cool metal into the hottest creations is long and demanding. Yet, the possibilities of ending up with something unique are only limited by the designer’s imagination! Titanium can be found on earth in abundance, so it’s less expensive than other precious metals. This raw treasure is then processed to produce a whole range of designs, from the simplest and lowest-maintenance rings to the most exquisite gem-decorated necklaces, cuffs, and brooches.
GAR131 recently took the journey to the most idiosyncratic and cohesive culture in the world. The trip to Japan was a revelation. Covering breathtaking moments in this path, the platform’s video focuses on the connection between the past, the present and the future, featuring centuries-old traditional techniques surviving in a speedy and futuristic urban setting that shows respect to exquisite craftsmanship. People trained in Urushi add multiple ultra-thin lacquer layers, painstakingly smoothing them out to produce an impeccably lustrous surface in black, mahogany and red on simple geometrically-shaped masterpieces. It takes time and patience, but in the end both the shapes and the process replicate the serene elements of nature. The story talks about success to be achieved through great effort and the value of spiritual wealth.
As Francis Mertens describes his initiative: “We are an open collective of luxury artisans passionate about exploring new applications for the finest materials and expert techniques sourced from all corners of the globe. Our belief is simple: Integrity, authenticity and transparency, this is the new luxury.”
You definitely realize why I’m so proud working with such people!