Jean-Pierre Weill: “Being an employer doesn’t come naturally to me”

I believe in the small reminders that help us stay on track to being the people we want to be. I hope that the messages that we send out to the world — whether through a painting hanging on someone’s wall, a book shared between friends, or an emailed correspondence with a customer — are ones that bring good […]

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I believe in the small reminders that help us stay on track to being the people we want to be. I hope that the messages that we send out to the world — whether through a painting hanging on someone’s wall, a book shared between friends, or an emailed correspondence with a customer — are ones that bring good energy, beauty, and big-heartedness into the world.

And, even more important than the stories and messages that we imbue in our artwork are the loving relationships in which the paintings play a role. We offer to customize every purchased piece with a name or meaningful date because our work is often given as a gift. The art of gift giving is a magical one and we want our paintings to touch people’s hearts and be a personal story of connection and beauty.


As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jean-Pierre Weill.

Born in Paris, France in 1954, Jean-Pierre grew up in a home steeped in the arts that held creativity among the highest values.

In 1979, he met sculptor Rachel Rotenberg in the School of Visual Arts in New York. Four years later, they married. Together they have five children.

While experimenting in the visual arts, Jean-Pierre developed a distinct technique to paint in 3D by designing a single image over multiple panes of glass and layering them in a shadow box frame. He termed his method vitreography and trademarked the term in 1992. He founded Jean-Pierre Weill Studios, where he developed multiple collections of artwork in this style, distinguished from one another by dimensions, price, and edition size. His paintings offer both the artist and the viewer an additional axis of expression and interpretation through 3-dimensional space. Jean-Pierre’s artwork has been well-received, selling in hundreds of galleries.

In 2014, Weill and Rotenberg moved to Israel, following their two eldest children, who were starting young families. Shortly after, Davida and Safira, their daughters, joined Jean-Pierre Weill Studios, bringing new color sensibilities and perspectives to the unique artwork they grew up with. Since Covid19 hit the world stage, they have worked to create artwork that is both uplifting and affordable.

Jean-Pierre wrote and illustrated a book, The Well of Being, which was met with critical acclaim. It is a sparsely worded visual exploration of the search for happiness. Each page is a work of art. A sequel is in the final stages of editing and will be coming out in 2021.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

In 1992, I had five children and had been working for my father for years. I wanted to strike out on my own, I wanted to create art and I needed to support my family. I had started attending classes at Columbia University but quickly realized the academic route was not my path. My wife (who is herself a phenomenal sculptor) and I agreed that I would dedicate 3 months to experimenting in my studio to see if I could find a way to achieve those goals. I had been playing with 3D elements for years, stretching canvases over wooden shapes that curved forward and back.

One morning — I remember it clearly — I hit on it — glass! 
 With glass, every point without paint would be a window to the sheet of glass behind it. And then again — to the one behind that. In short, I discovered 3D painting on glass. This technique allows each painting to be enriched by elements of light and shadow, and creates a delightful sense of movement. Incredibly excited, I made a series of designs and applied to a local craft fair. My small booth sold out. I have been most blessed to be able to live the American dream in this way.

Can you share a pivotal story from the course of your career?

My identity as an artist has developed in many ways. I jumped into art making only after completing an undergraduate degree in the Classics at St. John’s College, and only felt myself able to commit to creating artwork fulltime when I saw that I would be able to satisfactorily support my family. Even though success was almost immediate, for years I felt insecure about the quality of my work and fearful about being identified with it. Ironically, it was when people complimented my work that I most felt the need to disengage myself.

I learned something about giving myself permission to hear people’s appreciation from an employee named Don, who travelled with me to art shows.

One weekend we had driven out to the Midwest for an art show. Don was an older man, maybe 15 years my senior. He was full of energy, though he had had cancer and other health issues. He worked by commission and he was selling a piece, New York Jazz. At the time, it was one of our higher end paintings.

A customer wanted to buy the work. As they were exclaiming over it — the intricate crisscross of fire escape lines and the intuitive understanding between the musician on the street corner and the woman dancing on her balcony — I started disrespecting the work. As I recall, I told the customer, “There are two times you are going to enjoy this piece: right now, and when you find it in the back of your closet and decide to throw it away, and that will feel really good.”

Don made the sale despite this. And he asked me to leave the booth. I knew that I had been immature and unconscious. I had undermined my work and my worker at the same time. I never repeated that behavior again and started to practice listening and really taking in positive feedback about my work and — by extension — my abilities as an artist.

We are all more than the things we do, more than the art we create. But I needed to learn to honor what I do. Only then could I see that people truly were in love with my work, and instead of responding by pushing that away, I learned to embrace it. To enjoy it. When I opened my eyes to that reality, and quieted the critical voice inside me, I could feel gratitude that I am able to contribute to someone’s home, to someone’s life. I could hear (and really take it in) when customers told me how they look at a painting every morning and enjoy it in their life.

I am grateful to Don for his ability to mirror to me how unfounded and damaging my critical voice could be and for opening the door to respecting my work and honoring myself for doing it.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

3D painting on glass is a simple concept, but one that requires subtle and complete understanding of how the 3D painting is constructed. When my daughters, Safira and Davida, joined Jean-Pierre Weill Studios, we started to rethink our entire raison-d’etre.

The work — personal, emotional, and artistic — that gave rise to my book The Well of Being, was central to our home. We decided we wanted to do more than create beautiful artwork for people’s homes; we wanted to give expression to our shared desire for personal growth, wellbeing, and relational health in the studio. So in addition to the new visual tastes and creativity that Safira and Davida have brought, they also inspired an orientation towards messaging that encourages people to look inward and open up. A good example of this is Water Yourself which carries a message of the importance of nurturing ourselves.

How do you think this might change the world? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe in the small reminders that help us stay on track to being the people we want to be. 
 I hope that the messages that we send out to the world — whether through a painting hanging on someone’s wall, a book shared between friends, or an emailed correspondence with a customer — are ones that bring good energy, beauty, and big-heartedness into the world.

And, even more important than the stories and messages that we imbue in our artwork are the loving relationships in which the paintings play a role. We offer to customize every purchased piece with a name or meaningful date because our work is often given as a gift. The art of gift giving is a magical one and we want our paintings to touch people’s hearts and be a personal story of connection and beauty.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The 3D quality of my artwork is what makes it stand out. It is fun, playful, even magical. However, it is a challenging element to convey online. Unfortunately, since Covid-19 hit, the galleries where my paintings were displayed have been forced to close their doors. The silver lining is that every time someone makes a purchase on our website, they find the artwork even more beautiful than they expected when it arrives on their doorstep, and we have a high rate of happily returning customers.

This is particularly marked since we upgraded our Gift and Mini Collections with personalization options, a custom-designed gift box, and gift card. So what we really need is more exposure — to introduce more people to our 3D painting on glass designs, the color, the playfulness, and the stories they can bring to your home.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

When international travel slowed, we started reaching out to subscription box companies, offering to create a Mini Collection 3D painting on glass for their subscribers. Thus far, we have sent thousands of pieces of work in such boxes, with very positive reviews, and are looking forward to continuing that work. 
 We have also started conversations with a few organizations, such as the Medical Doctors Union in Israel, regarding gifts for their members.

We are currently in our second national lockdown. As we are all “stuck” in our respective homes, we have initiated some new projects on which we can work fairly independently: Davida has started a YouTube playlist in which she shares snippets from her life as a working mom and reflections about how to grow as a person through them; Safira has poured herself into her work with oil paints on canvas; and I am making final edits to my second book.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I recently uploaded a YouTube animated reading of my book, The Well of Being. During my reading for this project, I was reminded of my father, who was an actor. He supported me from the very start of this project. I am grateful to him for the 10,000 dollars loan with which I was able to start my business.

I am grateful to my wife, who encouraged me all along the way, and taught me what partnership means.

What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. It would have been nice to have a realistic sense of how long it takes to create new work. I needed to constantly revise which element of the image appears on which level of glass. But I’ve learned to have patience for the process it takes to bring a new painting to completion.

2. Being an employer doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve needed to learn how to balance my instinct to develop friendships with my employees with the professionalism and responsibility that is necessary. It’s an art in itself to know how to give each worker both the autonomy and the structure they need to bring the best of themselves.

3. Most importantly, I wish I knew from the outset the importance of fully expressing appreciation for what each person brings — whether they are working in the studio, a customer, or family and friends who enrich my life with love and support.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to be part of a movement in which people turn their attention to their attention to personal growth and engaging more deeply in the relationships in their lives. For me, life is about connection and relationships — everything else is context for those relationships. This is true for our connection to ourselves, other people, and the world at large.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The noblest art is that of making others happy” P.T. Barnum
 There’s a stereotype out there of the self-absorbed artist who spends their days expressing themselves through their art. Far more valuable than that and a far greater service to one’s own art, is the ability to be open and responsive to the people around you.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We have Facebook, Instagram and a blog on our website. We also send out a newsletter every once in a while, keeping in mind not to clog up our subscribers inboxes, but only to send out exciting updates and promotions.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you for this opportunity to meet your readers. I look forward to hearing from them.

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