Tag Archives: luxury

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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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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first thougts and questions

I’m on my dissertation project since few month now, and I’ve never been back on my literature review because I thought that I should just see how things going on and not be constantly stuck with my first draft. I think that wasn’t the best idea! I’m realising that I forgot to search and keep questioning myself about many topics! How bad is that! So, just in case some people are interested/curious about the start of my work, I’ll copy and paste my literature review on the blog, and it’s also for me to be sure that I’ll never forget to have a look back again! And again: feel free for any comments/suggestions/questions! I will be pleased to read them and if I can, answer to it!

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