Tag Archives: birmingham institute of art and design

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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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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2012 BIAD Master class

As I said in my previous post: one thing appeared clearly at the begining is that many asian especially Chinese and Taiwanese art students are going to studying abroad. The jewellers from BIAD (Birmingham Institute of Art and Design) are mostly Chinese/Taiwanese more than the half of the class is from China! I’ve found this morning the website/blog of the new graduated Master students. I’ve been reading  their statments, and a quite interesting thing is : they don’t seemed to be influenced by their own culture but instead they’ re going ahead, trying new fields,  with perspex, plastics, silicone rubber, steel and new materials/techiques unusual for jewellery! (And they also seemed to appreciate to work with bright/fluorescent colours! which I quite like! )

some views of their work:

If you want you can also go on their own websites by cliking on the images or going on the class’ website call: “Cast from different moulds”. You’ll find links and very interesting informations, interviews, photos of their design process!

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Did you say ugly?

Ming  Gu is a Chinese Jeweller based in Birmingham, UK, where she has just done a Master in Jewellery, Silversmith & Related Product. Her work is based on parasites and tumors, which are usualy quite repulsive. By using bright, fluorescent colours, she’s trying to change our perception of such unfriendly creatures and playing with humour on a sweet story telling of the cohabitation between humans and undesirable parasites.

Body Parasite

Body parasite

Body parasite

Body parasite
How friendly and beautiful they are, isn’t it?

For more photos and informations about her work, her website is right here: Ming Gu

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