Create the Smallest Artwork in the World on a Diamond?
Collaborations between brands and artists are very popular nowadays. Looking for new and unique ways to sell products, brands realize that collaborating with famous haute couture fashion designers, popstars, or contemporary artists can give their image some edge while potentially reaching new audiences.
Dutch-born artist Pablo Lücker is no stranger to this phenomenon, having collaborated with countless international brands himself. As a seventh-generation artist, Pablo identifies as an autonomous contemporary artist creating artworks such as paintings, sculptures, prints, and much more.
Using his playful and positive designs to invigorate the likes of W Hotels, Heineken, Formula 1, and Uber, one of the latest to add to this list is luxury jeweler Gassan Diamonds. We sat down with Pablo to find out how he finds inspiration for these collaborations, and what goes on behind the scenes during the challenging development process.
How do you find the right brand/artist match?
Switching things up to offer something different is one of the biggest motivations for brands to partner up with artists. But for the artist, it’s also a chance to step out of their comfort zone for a new type of challenge.
Pablo Lücker: “I believe in pushing myself as an artist because art has no boundaries. Everything around us is art. It would be a shame to limit it to one discipline, thinking art can only be a canvas or sculpture. That’s why I love how working with different brands allows you to enter new worlds. This inspires you to create something totally new on a creative level too.”
Boasting quite a portfolio of collabs, Pablo credits the high number of requests to his broad background. After graduating from the prestigious Design Academy in Eindhoven, he worked as an Art Director. This allows him to approach projects in a multifaceted way in contrast to conventional artists; many of whom wouldn’t know where to start when asked to customize a product.
However, he also believes his positive artistic style plays a big role in attracting brands. Pablo Lücker: “There’s so much negativity in the world already, so my art is always very positive, in the sense that it’s not heavy. Art can be very racy or controversial, but spreading positivity is my motto and it’s definitely something brands want to attach themselves to.”
But Pablo emphasizes that you shouldn’t just wait around for brands to approach you. Pablo Lücker: “Always vocalize your dreams. I have always said out loud that I wanted to work with Formula 1, and by nurturing my thoughts, it became a reality. I firmly believe that if you vocalize something, it exists and it will happen.”
How do you make sure you don’t compromise your artistry?
A common conception that makes artists weary of working with brands is having limited creative control over the project. Pablo recognizes this, noticing a common fear that brands will interfere too much, deciding what an artist can or can’t do. He stresses, however, that it’s up to the artist to set ground rules.
Pablo Lücker: “I have one golden rule for collaborations; I never provide sketches.” This puts an important emphasis on the difference between brands working with a designer versus an artist. If a brand wants three different sketches of a design to choose from, it would make more sense to hire a conventional designer.
On the other hand, a collaboration with an artist requires a lot more trust in the artist’s creative vision. Pablo Lücker: “I don’t even sketch for drawings or paintings, I let my emotions guide whatever flows out spontaneously. I always remind brands; you chose me out of millions of other artists. You have seen my previous works, so you can expect something along those lines.”
How do you find inspiration for a brand collaboration?
Behind the positive vibe of Pablo’s art is his ability to connect and empathize with the story behind a brand, and then take inspiration from that. Comparing himself to a funnel, he explains how he takes the time to absorb everything around him, processing it in his head before passing it through his heart to his hands, where it all comes out.
A great example is his project for Uber, in which he completely reimagined their Amsterdam headquarters. Again without providing any sketches, Pablo revamped the office by redesigning the meeting rooms and common areas, adorning the walls, and placing custom pieces such as 3D artwork.
Pablo Lücker: “Spending three months there, I had coffee with everyone to discover who they are, where they’re from, and what it’s like working for Uber. Someone mentioned a specific bird species inhabiting their native area, so I incorporated this bird into my art. That’s how I created an interior that reflects the vision of Uber, while also connecting to the people who work there. Art is a fantastic tool for connection.”
The project with Gassan Diamonds spanned an even longer period of time after Pablo was approached by one of Gassan’s executives, Calvin Jong-a-Pin. The former footballer was hired to bring some innovation to the company and appointed to head their ‘Trophy’ brand of personalized jewelry. This jewelry line can be completely customized, translating customers’ passions into iconic pieces.
After abounding brainstorming sessions with Calvin, the values of the ‘Trophy’ line inspired Pablo to use "love" as his theme. Pablo Lücker: “Because I feel like we should all have a lot more love for ourselves, and for each other in the world.”
With thirteen patented, laser-enhanced GASSAN 121 diamonds offered as canvases for the project, Pablo developed thirteen different love stories, interpreted into tiny designs. Pablo Lücker: “Something on such a small scale requires a design that clearly communicates straight away. So the outside layer is heart-shaped while bearing the love story that’s inside of the heart.”
One heart is about the love for traveling and staying in connection when you’re not together, while another is about the love for food, wine, and all the good things in life. A design showing a hand on the heart represents self-love and staying true to yourself while doing things with passion.
Pablo Lücker: “I had to make some concessions this time. Finding a way to reproduce the designs on such small surfaces really took some experimentation and testing.”
How do you engrave a design on something as small as a diamond?
Knowing that Gassan frequently uses laser techniques to create the perfect cut for their diamonds, Pablo and Calvin realized they might be able to draw with the laser too. Supported by a technical team, the research process to find the right technique took almost eight months.
Diamonds are cut into shapes that create maximum clarity and brilliance, so they had to prevent the drawing from blocking too much light. Not an easy feat, as they planned to laser it onto the top surface of the diamond where most of the light shines through.
Pablo Lücker: “We kept testing the laser intensity, as it can laser very dark or light. We continuously tried to find the ideal method. This also meant we had to test on different diamonds in a range of different sizes, to see how small we could possibly go and what the different laser techniques would look like on them.”
The diamonds were sent to a lab with a special microlaser, after which Pablo and Calvin would examine the results. Together they would check the extent to which the design was visible to the naked eye, and how it looked through a microscope.
Pablo Lücker: “The way we lasered the artworks really requires you to discover them, as if the diamonds behold a secret. It takes some effort to find the right angle to view them, but once you do, you can’t unsee it.”
The limited series of laser-engraved diamonds, titled the HE(ART) Diamond Collection, debuted at the trade show Masters of Luxury in Amsterdam in November of 2022. At the time of writing, the single larger gem is still available for a whopping $134,000. Ten of the twelve smaller diamonds are already sold, going for $31,000 apiece.
In lieu of the Trophy line’s aim for customization, it’s up to the consumer how the diamonds can be enjoyed. One buyer decided to keep their diamond under a glass bell jar in their living room for a while, before deciding which type of jewelry they want it placed into.
Pablo Lücker: “There’s a couple who decided to replace the stones in their wedding rings with them, while another buyer wants to create an engagement ring with the diamond. I see these things as an amazing compliment.”
As true collectibles, the diamonds come in a beautiful box with a small blacklight inside that helps you discover and view the engraving. Moreover, the official certifications come with a print of the design too, which has never happened in the history of diamonds either.
How can brands and artists keep pushing the boundaries with collaborations?
With the HE(ART) collection almost sold out, another project in collaboration with Gassan Diamonds is definitely a possibility. Pablo Lücker: “Something cool is coming soon, so keep a close eye on my Instagram.”
Pablo also reveals he would love to collaborate with a high fashion brand, on the level of Dior, Hermes, or Louis Vuitton. Something we see more often lately, like the artist Virgil Abloh appointed by Louis Vuitton, or the artist Daniel Arsham teaming up with Kim Jones at Dior. But besides fashion, luxury jewelry, or any product for that matter, Pablo sees a much deeper purpose for art.
Despite coming from a family of artists, Pablo still notices people having a condescending attitude towards art. Often rendered a luxurious extra, many still think art can only be a painting or sculpture. Even though we are living in a world where – perhaps because of social media – everything is becoming more visual, making creativity more important than ever.
In that sense, creativity is also just a state of mind and a way of looking at things. Whether you’re an individual, brand, or business, creativity helps you step out of your comfort zone to look at a problem or challenge differently, leading to unexpected results. And the more unconventional the match between the artist and brand, the more special the result might turn out.
Pablo Lücker: “Children are often told to pursue certain careers, for financial stability. But so much can be achieved with creativity if you find a way to integrate it into society. If you can do that, there is always money to make.”
We were all born as artists. It’s quite true that absolutely everyone used to draw and color when they were little. But Pablo points out how we all start to think more in rules as we get older, losing the playfulness we had as a child, and the nonchalance of creating things because nobody needs to have an opinion about it.
Pablo Lücker: “I don’t necessarily need to like everything I create. I can let it go, acknowledging them as mere expressions.”
Pablo Lücker: “When you were a child, a cardboard box could become a spaceship. And this boundless imagination can also be used by companies, to come up with new ideas and solutions. So I feel it's a beautiful mindset to try to hold onto as adults, something we should all appreciate and cherish more, and pass on to our children.”