Tag Archives: materials

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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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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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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