Tag Archives: contemporary jewellery

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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Ame gallery

I told you in my post “reflective thinking” that I will write something about Ame Gallery, Hong Kong.  Open in September 2011, the gallery is curated, and own by Anna Cheng.  Ame Gallery is a high trend of luxurious contemporary jewellery. Materials use there are mostly precious metal: gold, platinum; diamonds and gemstones!

Graduated in interior design in Australia, Anna Cheng spent many years working with luxury brands in the interior design field. Coming from a family working into jewellery business, she got already the knowledge to make contacts between customers and designers! The Ame Gallery is the right middle between her family heritage into jewellery business, and the creation of a space dedicated to it!

Anna Cheng also got the idea to put pieces in auction on the gallery’s website to raise money for charity! Call “Jewels 4 Good“, the charity project has been launch in january 2012. Each designer choose to support a charity, then a minimum of 50% of the final price goes to the organisation. Last time, a necklace created by Tobias Birgersson was in auction and 100% of te money raised was given to charity. Every month, new jewellery from the gallery collection are placed into auctions. I found the idea pretty good! A good way to spend money for customers, encouraging jewellery designers, and, at the same time, they participate to charity!

The designers showcase at Ame Gallery are all from different countries arround the globe! They all got a different style but sharing the same idea: create finest luxurious contemporary jewellery! The fact that the gallery is featuring people outside China is a good way to show to customers other styles and other way to design jewellery. All the jewellers from and working in China who I have discovered during my research, are all very influenced by their culture and by their traditional skills and beliefs. Chinese people really appreciate western luxury brands, and are attracted by finest goods from Europe (especially in fashion). Anna Cheng found the great idea to interest local people in Hong Kong by working with foreigners who’s got a different artistic approach!

The last exhibition organised by the Gallery featured a group of Scandinavian contemporary jewellers and silversmith. That remember me the Ubi Gallery, own by a Swedish jeweller. I don’t know if that is related, but artists from the North of Europe seem to be quite liked over China. I would say, as a jeweller, the style from the countries such Norway, Deutschland and mostly Sweden is very particular and easy to recognise (and I love it)! But that is not the point. Anyway, I am very pleased as usual to see cultures melting and to see people sharing about a same passion! Globalisation has also good sides! And sharing faster and quicker love for a same thing is one of them!

” ‘AME’ came from the Latin word which means love and soul.”

The website: Ame Gallery

The auction space: Jewels 4 Good

Antonio bernardo_ Brazil Emanuela Duca_usa Moya-Netherlands Karolina Bik- Poland Gemma Lopez_ Spain Cardillac_ Netherlands Ali Limb- Australia Salima Thakker- Belgium

Soonhyangkang - Japan

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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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Twocities Gallery

In the last post I told you how pleased I was by reading nice emails and by “meeting” people on internet. Anja Eichler gave me two galleries’ links. Twocities Gallery and Ubi Gallery.

Twocities gallery situated in Shanghai, is specialised in contemporary three-dimensional art. Mainly glass, ceramic, lacquer, wood and metal work are exhibited.The gallery is own by Shannon Guo. After a Master of Art and a Master of Fine Art (in jewellery and ceramic) at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA, she’s now the curator of the Twocities Gallery. She’s also  the Head of Jewellery and Metals Studio, College of Fine Arts at Shanghai University.

The last 24th of March, Twocities has featured the Studio 115 (unfortunately I haven’t found any website or blog). A jewellery and metalsmithing studio within the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University. Studio 115 is one of few studios representing China’s most advanced stage in jewellery & metals.
(Sorry,some images doesn’t have any title, it was quite hard to find informations or photos of the Studio115 or of the exhibition)

I have also found a very interesting interview of Shannon Guo on an Italian jewellery blog, where she’s talking about contemporary jewellery in China nowadays. If you want to read it, it’s here: “Che si dice in Cina?” (don’t be affraid, the interview is in English!)

To be honest I’m a bit desapointed, Studio115 seems to be an important place for contemporary  jewellery, but there is no information or photo on the internet! If anybody has more informations about it, I’ll be happy to hear more!

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The Hammer Gallery / Hong Kong

During the week my friend Patricia, who’s from Hong Kong gave me the link of a gallery specialised in contemporary jewellery. The Hammer gallery. The place featured a lot of jewellers, not only from Hong Kong but also from Europe! I like that kind of art place mixing different nationalities! Again, it’s a great way to share between cultures and ideas!  Have a look at some of the Hong Konger designers exhibited in the gallery:

I haven’t found all the websites for each artist, but some of the photos are linked to their blog/website.

If you are in Hong Kong during the month, you must go at the current exhibition featured two artists/jewellers, one from Korea and the  other from Japan! I wish I could travel as fast and often as I want!

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