Category Archives: Jewellers

Expensive blue and burnt money.

As you already know, the most famous material using in jewellery by Chinese, through the centuries, and since 5000 BC is Jade. You also have heard about coral, pearls, turquoise and precious metal such silver and gold. But today I want to highlight a material not well knew by western people, and which I was really amazed by when I discovered it.  Another material used a lot during many years and really expensive is the kingfisher feather. The Kingfisher bird is highly esteemed by the Chinese for its colour and celebrated in poetry and song by Chinese from ancient times. The feathers were mostly used to give colour to tiaras and other head pieces. Over the centuries, the Kingfisher’s blue colour feather became highly prized and extremely sought after as an inlay in decorative arts. Kingfisher feather were used by the Chinese to denote status, wealth and royalty. Today prohibited, the kingfisher bird was killed in order to collect the precious bright blue feathers. When you know how tiny the animal is, you understand why after many years of hunting mostly during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) the small bird has almost disappeared in Asia. The technique, called tian-tsui, means “dotting with kingfishers” that involves using glue to adhere the feathers onto vermeil, or silver. The technique has disappeared during the Chinese Revolution in the 1940’s.

hair-ornament-kingfisher1 headdress photo credit national museum of scotland hair ornaments

But if I am talking about a technique not used anymore, it is obviously to introduce an artist who’s related to it. In 2006, after her master in Fine art, Tzu-Ju Chen, an American jeweller has researched and experienced the lost technique. The jeweller has been an artist at residence at Xiamen University, Fujian Province, China and also a lecturer at the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing, China. Both places allowed her to be in the country of the origins of the kingfisher feather tradition.

I like her whole work, but here I want to focus on the series called “China, silhouettes of memory». Tzu-Ju Chen uses the famous bright blue feathers with Chinese paper money, coral, turquoise, old found photos of Chinese families… She also used peacock feathers into a piece instead of the kingfisher ones. The result is really different, darker! You realise how the kingfisher blue is bright when you compare with the peacock! In Chinese traditions, paper money is burn during the funerals (with other objects).

Chinese mourners have been burning funeral paper — known as joss paper, or dzi-dzat — for centuries. Traditionally, stacks of bamboo or rice paper bank notes were burned in braziers before the body of the deceased was lowered into the ground. Practitioners of the ritual, derived from a mix of Taoism, Buddhism and regional folklore, believe that burning paper money equates to making advance deposits into an afterlife bank account that the deceased’s spirit can access in heaven.12/02/2008, Tiffany Hsu , Los Angeles Times

burning paper money. photo credit wikipedia

I first thought the paper money used into her pieces was metal! That is what she wants! She wants us to look closer to the objects to appreciate the details, the techniques and the materials! Paper money which is normally burnt is using here as a new material to make jewellery. Because of its meanings, the jewellery with paper money is telling us something. Something about death, something about Chinese traditions, something about mourning. I think it is also a way to interest western people to Chinese culture.

I really love the details! The combination with small and tiny coral or emerald beads. The different layers of paper money, the thin lines draw by the feathers! The colours and the technique use to link and set the different parts and materials together. Tzu-Ju Chen melts monofilament wire (the one using in fishing) to bind beads, etc. When I’m watching her work I really want to see more details, to get closer and closer to appreciate the materials. I want to touch it as well, to feel the various surfaces and aspects of the jewel: the kingfisher feather, the beads, the paper money, etc. I think I would be really interesting to manipulate the pieces without seeing it.  All the bumps created by the melted monofilament to connect the different layers of paper money could be seen as a “Braille drawing” onto the jewel surfaces!

I also appreciate to see a face in black and white hide behind a paper money phoenix into the piece titled “Shanghai Girl”. She’s like a ghost, and she wants to tell us something. The silhouettes using into “Dragon Entourage”, are not using in the same way. Here the people have been contoured and used more like patterns on the surface of the necklace. At first I didn’t saw it was an old photo! I thought it was only black and white paper. And same effect for the pair of earrings “Golden Flower”. Again, you see how it’s important to be close to Tzu-Ju’s work, every detail telling us a story about China, its traditions and beliefs!

“I work with intrinsic materials, combining the traditional with the unexpected to elevate their status and reassign their function as jewelry. […] I also reference familiar symbols like the phoenix which are rearranged to create new silhouettes and meanings. Graphic elements, for instance, are layered to create textures, while old photographs may portray events but as well as a sense of action. Through these methods, I create new context.”

You can also see the rest of Tzu-Ju’s work on her website.

paper money, found photography, monofilament

paper money, found photography, monofilament

paper money, found photography, coral

paper money, found photography, coral

paper money, coral, found photography, silver, monofilament

paper money, coral, found photography, silver, monofilament

paper money, coral, turquoise, monofilament, kingfisher feather inlay

paper money, coral, turquoise, monofilament, kingfisher feather inlay

paper money, coral, monofilament

paper money, coral, monofilament

paper money, monofilament, peacock feather, emerald beads, silver

paper money, monofilament, peacock feather, emerald beads, silver

paper money, found photography, coral

paper money, found photography, coral

(more details and names of the pieces if you go on the photo.)

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Asian obsession

I might be a bit outside my topic, but doesn’t matter. Zara Collins is Australian, living in Sydney, where she has also been graduated in 2001 with a bachelor of visual art. You’ll ask then: what the point? If she’s not working in China… Well, since a trip at 14 years old in Japan, she’s obsessed with Asian culture. Recently, she traveled during two month in China, Hong Kong, Macao and India. After this trip, she made new work based on her memories and discoveries from her journey! Zara Collins is not only a jeweller, she’s also the curator of many exhibitions and events which make relations between China and Australia.

In her work she uses chopstick! With her “ChopSuey Stretch Bracelets” she won the Talente Award & Exhibition in Munich, Germany, in 2004, by giving new life to common chopsticks! She also makes earring by using those famous asian tableware, by silverplated them and transforming them into jewellery! Once again, I very appreciate work with ready made objects! I like how designers, jewellers, can see the potential of every day objects in order to make something different, unusual! Because it is jewellery with an artistic approach behind, artists make the everyday object precious! Her latest work is made with ceramic, glaze and chinese caracteres.

In 2004, Zara was an artist in residence in Beijing. Her trip was supported by the “Australia-China Council”. An organisation which permit to people to going in China for difference purposes (business, studies, research…).If you want to know more, you can go on the Autralian gouvernment’s website.

Here her website: Zara Collins, and she also has a blog for people intesrested by Asia!

necklace earrings silverplated chopstick earrings lost in translation stud earrings Chong_long_pendant Chop_Suey_Silver_sml ChopSueystretch chop suey bracelets

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Precious rice / Zoe Lulu / Hsiang-Ling Lu

Since few month, I keep in my favorite for this blog a jeweller working with rice. Hsiang-Ling Lu or Zoe Lulu is from Taiwan, graduated from Birmingham (yes another one!) in 2010. Except from her master work in 2010, I can’t find any recent information about her and can’t send an email either. So I don’t know where she has been graduated before. Sometimes, I feel a bit like a spy, trying to find information about people, collecting every single details on internet… Anyway, her work is definitely something I want to talk about in my blog!

As you already know, rice is something very important in Asian culture. China is the biggest producer and seller of rice around the world. On the FAO website, People’s Republic of China is the first producer of rice with 197.2 million metric tons in 2010, followed by India (the next 8 countries are all Asian). China is also the biggest consumer of rice with 156 million metric tons (2009)! Rice is really cheap , and for many people in the world it’s the only thing they can afford to eat. For them, it’s a really precious ingredient, the one that can keeping them alive and feed their family! I still remember in primary school when teachers asked us to buy rice boxes in order to collect them and send them to poor countries.

In Hsiang-Ling Lu’s work, I like to see how, precious metal is replaced by rice. The main material is food! In my latest post I was talking about values, and valuable work. About the fact that Chinese appreciate skills, but don’t really understand critical thinking. Well this is a great example of someone from People’s Republic of China who’s been working on a conceptual way. Asking herself about what is valuable today; what make things valuable for people; and the relation we have in our civilisation nowadays with money and food! For poor people, when they received rice, it’s probably for them more valuable than any kind of gold or object! Her work make us (“rich” people) asking ourself about our consumption and waste of food… and also about our materialist society. It’s not only about making pretty jewellery with unusual material!

“Rice is cheap, small, but vital.
The definition of ‘ordinary’ and ‘luxury’ at different levels of social status is contradictory and interesting. I use this ‘ordinary’ material to describe opulence, and also explore the meaning of value and preciousness in different contexts.”

To make the rice stronger she add resin. Then it’s harder and she pierce it, saw it, etc. I find interesting how with her method, she keep the white and translucent aspect of the rice. As she said in her blog, she also keep the smooth texture of it! I like the patterns created by the grains!  The titles of the pieces are also interesting! With “Madame de Pompadour”, “Rococo frame”,  I can see she has been interested by the Rococo period in France. Which is a really interesting part of our French history. Fashion, architecture, furnitures, etc, were full of precious materials!  The movie “Marie Antoinette” by Sofia Coppola is a really good one to show you how people of the royal court were consuming. Meanwhile people outside Versailles were fighting to have food and survive! And I think it’s sad to say, it’s still the same today! Rich countries are consuming everything, when poor people are still craving for the most important thing: food. In her blog she explains, at first why she made things with rice:

“I just left my home country to a brand new place and my tool box was on its way to Birmingham. Than my mother send me a pack of rice. It was so precious that I would not even eat them.
Rice was my treasure at the moment.

rococo frame blue embroidery details rice piece2-2 Madame de Pompadour's ribbon Madame de Pompadour Large Image-Zoe

Here the link for her blog: Zoe’s Lulu wonderland, and her Flickr about her research.

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reflective thinking

At the beginning, when I’ve picked up the topic of “How is to be a contemporary jeweller in/from China” for my final year research I thought that I’ll have an overdose of contemporary jewellery. I thought that galleries, schools, and artists were probably a lot hidden in the middle empire! I thought that a huge country like China would obviously got a lot of people working into the field of “contemporary jewellery”. Well, actually not really!

China is the most populated country in the world, but quite far behind western countries (however much smaller) when is time to talk about contemporary art in a wide way. When I say contemporary art, I’m talking about reflective thinking, philosophic and artistic approach. There is a difference between mastering skills and making things by questioning the world arround us and ourself in order to create something with a meaning, a message behind.

During a conversation with my friend Patricia, from Hong Kong, she told me that: “Chinese people are reserved. It’s difficult for them to think in a conceptual way and to have a critical thinking. Contemporary art is not something really appreciate, you have to follow many rules and to stay in a right way. (eg: Ai Weiwei) . Nowadays, philosophy thinking is not something usual in art, Chinese likes pretty things with values, financial and social values!  Chinese are hard workers, they appreciate skills based work but most of them don’t understand what an artistic and philosophic approach is. Now things are changing a bit, people want to open their mind”.

So,  I’m not saying there is nothing, but in proportion of the population and the size of the country, contemporary art is something not widespread. During my research, I found out that new jewellers from China spent few years abroad to learn not at the first place skills, but learn to think! Creative and reflective thinking. Contemporary jewellery department in Chinese art schools are new ; and because being chinese involved that you’ve got a really strong history and cultural identity (even if teachers nowadays are trying to push new students to think by their own), it’s still difficult to going away from all the traditions. Also because some schools abroad China are well knowing internationally, Chinese jeweller students want to move away from the past to face new cultures and new ideas! Which I think, is good, even if students are not many staying in Chinese art schools (probably one of the reason why contemporary jewellery is starting slowly). Most of the time, once the students are abroad, they stay in the new country. That is because during your studies you start making contacts, connections, links with the people arround you. Your new country is now your working and social network! (And this is for all the foreign students, not only Chinese). So, it’s mush easier to start your own business in the country where you’ve been developing “a name”, knows as a contemporary jeweller. I think the number of jewellers working in China will not only pair with the number of schools and their reputation but also the international reputation of foreign schools (such as Birmingham). Also because Chinese have been stuck with the same art traditions since centuries and centuries, new artists want to go ahead in order to  create new things. I think mixing culture, traveling, is always a good way to bring new ideas into your mind.

About galleries; well, the few I found (hardly found with a lot of help I should say) are not properly in China! The first in China (not Hong Kong or Taiwan) has open 4 month ago and runs by a Swedish woman! To be honest, I was surprised, a bit disappointed and glad by that. I thought galleries will be many and that will be helpful for me to find new artists on their website. And I also thought it will be an interesting way for myself to make contact and connection for my future. This is for the disappointing point. At the opposite, I was glad to see a western person running a gallery specialised in contemporary jewellery in China. Which means there is a big potential for European people to share and build something over there! This fact show us actually, how contemporary jewellery is new! Except Ubi Gallery in Beijing and Twocities in Shanghai, the two others, Hammer gallery,  and Ame gallery (I’ll post an article later about Ame Gallery) are in Hong Kong!

I’ve also been confronted with the difference between China, Republic of China and People’s Republic of China. I’ve been asking arround me a simple basic explanation, and , it seems to be hard to obtain. Chinese from China told me that Taiwan is Chinese. Taiwanese told me they are not Chinese, and Hong Konger told me that it’s an intricate topic, not easy to understand especially for a foreigner who have no clue about asian politics like me! So, to be sure I’m not offending anybody, I’m talking about People’s Republic of China, not only China. Which means I’m including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Both of the two islands are nowadays connected strongly with China (without talking about politics), but many differences remain between them.

One difference is the internet. Nowadays in China you still can’t access to social networks. And nowadays, facebook and twitter are really useful to share instantly everything. Many jewellers and galleries create a facebook and a twitter account to stay connected with their “fans”, followers, customers, and people from the same field as well. The lack of such sharing platforms are also responsible of the slowness of the contemporary jewellery development. In a wide country like China, social networks would be a good way to share faster and to promote new designers! It’s a reason why Hong Kong and Taiwan are different from China. Internet in the two islands is not  censored. Western people can access to website over there and Hong Konger and Taiwanese can also see through internet what happening on the other side of the globe. I think, today, being on the web is one of the key to stay in people’s mind and also to stay aware of everything. Especially in the art/fashion field.

Another difference: Honk Kong used to be English during a  long time. And Taiwan used to be Japanese. The fact that they were owned by different countries give to the citizen a different way to think. Mainly for Hong Kong. Often described as the “East meets West”, Hong Kong has been  influenced a lot by the british culture, and Hong Konger are now very tempted by Western luxury goods. Many luxury brands such Cartier, Vuitton, Dior, etc, found a way to attract new customers in Asia! Because Hong Kong used to belong to the United Kingdom and got that “double culture”, it’s easier now to make relations and contacts over there, than anywhere else in China!

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nature digital embroidery

Over the weekend, I’ve been really suprised by the nice comments/tweets and facebook sharing about my blog! During summer I thought making a blog about jewellery might be a waste of time… So many interesting blogs about artists/jewellers on the internet, I thought people will be bored and not paying attention to it, especially because I’m not a good blog writer. Words are not coming easily, even if when I’m using French it takes a long time to organise my ideas, and it’s worse when I’m writting in English. Anyway, I’m not the best at blogging for the moment: true, but if I keep going, I do not see why I could not improve it!

Seeing good comments about my blog encourage me to keep writing and sharing! And it’s much better when you share about your passion! I was really pleased to meet through Facebook Heng Lee. A young talented Taiwanese jeweller. After a bachelor in art and design at the National Hsinchu University, he went to the Tainan National University of the Art. In 2011 he has been graduated by a Master of applied art, Metalsmithing and Jewellery.
After our “internet meeting” I was looking at his Facebook page and at his work more carefully. And  I was amazed! The technical skills, especially with the enamel work called “plique à jour” , “cloisonné”, and “champlevé” they are really difficult techniques which need a long time training! I think every kind of skills which involve fire process is quite hard to learn and to master!

Now, the enamel is replaced by embroidery! Heng’s work is a mixture between computer assisted digital patterns and traditional crafts skills. In the “Floral Embroidery Series” he takes inspiration from the Chinese embroidery, which is a very old fine traditional craft. When you see his work you obviously thinking of  pixels. It’s actually what he does: playing with photoshop in order to create a pixel mosaic. Then the shapes are cutting with a laser cutter. After using softwares, computer engineering and new technologies, Heng goes back to the traditional skills by using hand-embroidery to give colour and details to his pieces. I really love the contrast between hand crafts skills and digital patterns!

With the same creation process, he made the series “Download nature”. Here, Heng plays with butterflies images, first downloaded from internet. He compares the pixels grid to the butterfly wing grid, and uses it as  embroidery support for glass beads. The butterfly symbolised the beauty of Taiwan.

Once again, I’m really surprised how a jeweller uses his culture and mixes it with new technologies in order to create something unusual!

To discover more about Heng Lee’s work you can have a look at his facebook page: Heng Lee Jewellery

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paper landscapes

I have always seen traditional Chinese art as something really peaceful and relaxing. Maybe there is something related to the bouddhist religion, meditation? And I have always thought traditional Chinese art would be great to learn in our western busy and individualist culture as a way to be in harmony with ourself first but also with nature, people, different religions and cultures…Something in order to  have a better understood of the world around us. Well I say Chinese, but I could say Asian art. I’m not a religious person at all. I have no clue about what is yoga or relaxation, but I still thinking there is something quite therapeutic by making,doing art especially with old traditional Asian art.

When I first saw two years ago the work of Li-Chu Wu, it’s exactly what I’ve felt: relaxed, appeased. Contemplating the delicate paper layers, which reminds me landscapes and nature. The kind of maps with all the different lines to show the reliefs of the earth. Her work seems to be the final piece of a long repeating process: drawing all the different layers shape, cutting them and putting them together.

I was really surprised when I’ve read her artist’s statment on her website last week and discover that she’s taking inspiration in landscapes and nature!  Thereby, making a relation between the material and its origines. Li-Chu Wu uses the computering and laser cutter technologies to make all the paper layers. Again, the paper cutting art is on of the old famous traditional Chinese art! She’s another artist mixing new and old, contemporary and traditions! Her work is something between jewellery and sculpture : wearable objects. The opening shapes reveals other coloured stratums, it gives me that impression the object/sculpture is flourishing, blossoming: living! The intricate layers made with colourful quality paper give to the structured jewel a very attractive and beautiful appearance!

Li-chu Wu is from Tapei in Taiwan where she’ve been diplomed in metalsmithing and jewellery design at the Fu Jen Catholic University. She’s now based in Birmingham where she’s been graduated in 2010 with a MA in jewellery and related products (yes another artist from BIAD!). If you google her name, you’ll see her work is now worldwilde exhibited!

Here, her well presented website: Li-Chu Wu and her blog: Li-Chu Wu paper jewellery

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Zhezhi and Origami

You’ve been quite a lot interested by the article about paper folding and traditional art. If people still wondering “what is the difference between Japanese origami and Chinese paper folding?”, I’ll give a small explanation then. First overall, “origami” is the Japanese name for paper folding, in China they call it “Zhezhi” (摺紙). Another difference between those two countries is, in China, you’ll find representations of hats and boats, mostly objects. There is also a new type of Chinese paper folding called “Golden venture”, it’s based on one “triangle pattern” that you multiplie and organise together (really interesting to know more about this topic! If you’re curious, you really should google it!). In Japan, Origami art is more focused on animals and plants and you usualy start with a square paper sheet. Apparently, Chinese introduce the art of paper folding to Japan during the 6th century. Meanwhile that art was used only for ceremonial purposes in China, it becomes a popular “hobby” art in Japan. Then Japanese have developped this through centuries.

Maybe that explanation is a bit to short and simple, but you’ll find well documented blog and websites with google if you’re curious to learn more about paper folding and origami.

Origami

Detail of a swan: Golden venture

These days I’ve tried to find more artists/jewellers working with Chinese traditional skills and materials. I found a Taiwanese artist, now living and working in Birmingham, where she was graduated in  2010 with the MA of jewellery and related products. Yu-Ping Lin uses a wild range of materials in her creations like felt, silk, sterling silver, mixed medias… She works mainly with fabrics and textil design skills: hand-painting, dyeing, digital printing, laser cutter…  Her work crossed different art fields: jewellery, paper making, textil design! Also a mix of craft skills, Asian culture and new technologies. Yu-Ping Lin uses Chinese paper cutting tradition with Japanese Origami skills both blended with architecture inspiration. The result is a really structured complex work very colourful and quite fashionable! In the collection “Inherence in nature” the wearer can change the appearance of the pieces! After spending time learning and playing with origami, transforming flat pieces of paper/fabrics in 3D art, she just gives the relay to the wearer.

I really appreciate that kind of artist who works in different fields, mixing skills, materials; I think is how contemporary jewellery should be. We can’t be focused only on precious metal skills anymore with pretending we are doing something “new” and “unusual”! Or I would be really surprised to find someone using only metals (and precious stones) in a brand new way! Contemporary jewellery is not obviously about using new materials and new technologies. It’s also about how we can, as new designers, reusing our history, culture, old craftsman skills, personnal experiences and influences. Mixing all of these together in order to create something new! It sounds like we are recycling, but not only, we are creating.

To discover more about her work, it’s here: Yu-Ping Lin and here: Blog

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everything could be a piece of art

I’m not going to talk about another Chinese artist. Not today.

Anja Eichler is German. She has always been interested by art (painting, collage, sculpture) but it’s only in 2008 she choose to start jewellery. She has moved in Italy to join the Alchimia school where she has been taught by artists/jewellers like Ruudt Peters, Lucia Masei, Peter Bauhuis… Since 2011, Anja is an artist jeweller based in Shanghai.

She’s finding in our dailylife objects new sources of inspiration. She doesn’t really transform them, but Anja want us to see common goods with a new eye. She calls it the “loving eye”! Art can be everywhere, we are surrounded by art, but we don’t giving any attention to it. Why a glove couldn’t be a piece of jewellery? Well, that’s what she’s doing, she’s using gloves. One type of glove grey rubber on the outside and white wooly on the inside. Then she uses different techniques to colour them! At first it was for giving to the object a different life. It’s not a latex covered work glove anymore! It’s an abstract jewel, which people can have a different interpretation of it. Now she’s using her life experience in Shanghai to create pieces based on her emotions, feelings, and her surrounding environment.

I also found two really well documented articles about Anja here: “Fresh Talent: Anja Eichler” and “Anja Eichler: Urbanauts”

For her website, it’s here: Anja Eichler

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Silk, Paper, Bamboo….

Even if the Japanese are famous for their origami, Chinese are also well known for their paperfolding. Walter Cheng is one of those artists who works with the notion of delicacy. The materials used in his creations are symbols of lightness: the bamboo, the paper, the silk cocoon. They are also a symbol of the Chinese culture and history. Paper has been invented in China 105 AD (apparently more earlier since few archaeological discoveries). China is also the country where has been invented the silk fabric by using silk worms. About bamboo, it’s used in many different fields such as medicine, food, creation of tableware, paper making as well, etc.

After his studies in Tawain at the National Tawain University of Arts, Walter moved to Escola Massana (Barcelona, Spain). He’s now based in Barcelona and he’s giving paperfolding class at the  Arsenal Escola Municipal d’Art. His work shows a real sensibility and sagacity, probably influenced and learnt through his culture, he’s not only using the material as a random one, Walter manifies the paper, the bamboo, the silk cocoon. He gives them another function, another story between ancestral culture and modernity, between traditional and contemporary skills.

To see other pieces follow his blog: Walter Cheng

If you want to buy his creations: Walter Cheng Etsy

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update/// Tricia Tang

As I told you before, the work of Tricia Tang is strongly connected with her past, her culture, her life! I’ve just read today an article on a jewellery blog that Tricia and her father have been exhibited both at the Bishop Lei International House, Hong Kong, last June. As a famous calligrapher,Tang Cheong Shing, has influenced a lot his daughter and introduced her to the “art world”. This exhibition was a good way to show two generations working with the same materials (calligraphy, seal stamp…) but with a different approach and a different  conception of the chinese art traditions.

More about the exhibition? click here: Huh?!

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