Tag Archives: chinese art

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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Ubi Gallery

Lets talk about the other link sent by Anja Eichler the other day: Ubi gallery.

The place is located in the oldest part of Beijing, in south of Tiananmen: Dashilar. Dashilar is an attractive area for people who are interested in antics items and old chinese fashion brands. It’s also a place well frequented by the tourists, almost all the building are preserved from their origine. Charged of history, Dashilar has been during the last 600 years the most famous commercial street in Beijing.  The Ubi gallery is now situated in a  19th century Hutong, that place hasn’t been used during several years. After renovation, the old building welcoming since september the first gallery in China (if I’m not including Hong Kong) specialised in contemporary jewellery!

Yes, “the first gallery for contemporary jewellery in China”! Even my friend Patricia (from Hong Kong) was surprised when I told her! She knew that contemporary jewellery wasn’t famous as it is in Europe, but not that “new”! No needs to wonder why with all the time spent on internet, I didn’t found any other galleries (except in Hong Kong, and Taiwan)! Well, that is not the only surprise have got. The place is not run by a Chinese or an Asian, Machtelt Schelling is from the Netherlands! Here we are: a European person bringing her art and contemporary jewellery culture and knowledges in China. What a great idea! I love when people share and mixe cultures and experiences! Contemporary jewellery in China has just been introduced in art schools few years ago, it’s something new, the basis of this field in China are building right now, by artists/jewellers! It’s the right time to come with fresh ideas and new concepts in one of the most ancient culture in the world! Machtelt found here a great way to be part of the contemporary art in China! She has also her own contemporary jewellery brand: Finch Jewellery. She works mainly with precious metals and gems in order to create creative fine jewellery.
The first phrase of the description of the gallery reflects exactly what people  do when they are traveling, when they are sharing, the name “Ubi” is based on it:

Ubi means ‘where’, it refers to moving and arriving. It is about asking questions. The gallery offers a platform to those great designers and artists who through their work keep us curious.”

I see a platform as something which always moves, things are here only for a moment, then new things arrive… A platform is a place for discoveries, meetings, sharing…  Ubi gallery does not features only Chinese or Europeans artists, but international (I’m quite pleased to see two French girls featured in the gallery!)! A way to promote new Chinese jewellers, and also to show what happen on the other side of the globe! All the artists of Ubi gallery have in their background studied and exhibited in many different countries! China, Taiwan, USA, Italy, Australia, France, UK, Japan… It shows how today contemporary jewellery is: multicultural! A word came to my mind to describe it: Melting pot! I think art nowadays has to travel! Artists have to travel! Art today is made through the world discoveries, a mix of languages, cultures, religions, landscapes, human behaviours…. During centuries, each society and civilisations has built its history! Now we have to experience it and to share and spread!

The Ubi collection is wide! Unique art objects, jewels/sculptures, contemporary fine jewellery, but also a small collection of ceramics! The techniques and the materials used by the jewellers are various: rubber, gold, silver, gems, ceramic, paper, fabrics, concrete, steel, everyday life objects… Really different works are exhibited into the renovated Hutong.

Here articles about the Dashilar quarter: Dashila(b), Dashilar street

(all the photos are from the Ubi gallery website)

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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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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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