Poetry of a Contemporary Jeweller
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Once there was a beautiful tale
An exquisite stone could sing
It gives wisdom to the brave
It gives happiness to the kind
It gives courage to the timid
It gives harvest to the diligent
------ Lyrics from a folk song in Northern China
This song was once popular in China and then faded away in the tides of changes to the society sentiment. When I recently met the contemporary jeweller Wen Xin at the Royal Art Degree Exhibition, I suddenly realised the lyrics are not a tale but the truth. For a long time in human history we have formed close emotional bounds with ornamental objects - stones, metals, ceramics, sea shells and so on. Their importance lies more in their symbolic meanings than their functional use. Such bounds might be explained by the fact that the substance which formed us were once all from the star dust, or maybe because the inanimate lives of these objects outlive our human lives.
Such subtle emotions have been analysed further by the jeweller Wen Xin. In her exhibited project titled "I Will No Longer Worry About Your Leaving", Wen focused on the subtle emotions and psychological boundaries in interpersonal relationships. She started from her own true feelings and chose the objects -- cans, cigarettes, ears, physical distance and a vase -- in five scenes to express. She respects the materials themselves and their "objecthood", and shows her artistic emotion through the advance of craft and technology.
The descriptions below are in the artist's own words. Readers can indulge in Wen's poetic explanations of her work.
Collection 1: Can Not
If we compare the human psychological world to a container, every problem in the world of the container and in the world inside the boundary has a solution and they can all be controlled. In the world outside the boundary, the problems are not necessarily controllable. Whether it is personal development, family, marriage, politics, economics or culture, there is always a part within your control, and some are out of your control. If there is a hole in the container, people will suffer because they cannot identify, build up, and clarify the boundaries, devoting their emotions on things beyond their control.
I noticed that cans were squashed by people at parties and were thrown on the road. They are records and evidence of people's behaviour which are things out of our psychological boundary. I transformed them into regularly deformed shapes to reflect my suffering and anxiety from uncontrollable things and behaviours in social situations.
Collection 2: Have You Got A Light?
Cigarettes are the beginning of an easy relationship. Two people who do not know each other, handing over a cigarette and borrowing a lighter, have a very easy intersection in their life. Rings, especially diamond rings, are usually the beginning of a formal relationship that carries a promise and a certain responsibility, even the beginning of a marriage that lasts a lifetime.
In the many relationships between people, I, and some people, often do not know where we are in a particular relationship, and do not know how to define this relationship. Whether it is casual or solemn, it is the responsibility of burning without burden or supporting each other. A cigarette ring is a token of this relationship.
It takes a minute for the cigarette to burn out. Diamonds will always be kind. I put the diamond on top of the cigarette, which is my cognitive disorder of instant and eternity.
Collection 3: No Caress
The ear is a sensitive body part. Touches and kisses on the ear also often express intimacy. There is an idiom in Chinese called ‘耳鬓厮磨‘, which uses the ear to rub other people's hair as an expression for the intimacy between the lovers.
However, there are some people who have obstacles to establishing intimate relationships or need a long time to establish intimate relationships. So I turned jewellery into the boundaries and protection of the body to express the feeling of space and distance.
Collection 4: Hug
When you are leaving, I can see what it looks like.
When people are in very intimate relationships, many things are not clearly visible. But when people have distances in-between, problems or the beauty, will gradually unfold and become ,more clear.
Like the process of hugging, there seems to be no distance between people and the form of their relationship is not so important at the moment of embrace. But after a hug, we are still us.
Collection 5: I Will No Longer Worry About Your Leaving
When I see a vase on the table, I often worry that it will fall down the table or that it will break. This feeling is like I am worried that someone around me will leave me someday. The relationship between people sometimes suffers from loss, and sometimes one loses control and hurts each other. The final outcome may be the result of each cause.
You have finally left, I will no longer worry about your leaving.
As a standard part of our artist blog series, we asked Wen to share with us her personal endeavours so far in art and design.
Tell us a bit about your background.
My BA major was in gemmology and material technology which focused on engineering. I obtained a gemmology diploma of The Gemmological Association of Great Britain and then graduated from China University of Geosciences (Beijing). I used to study gems before I became a jeweller and maker. Professional skills are related, but they are very different.
How did you get interested in art and design and jewellery design in particular?
In the process of studying gemstones, most of jewellery I was exposed to was fine jewellery, which are precious gems with high-tech mosaics. Later, I went to work as an intern for an independent jewellery designer brand, and I was exposed to some contemporary jewellery. I found it more interesting and I also came up with the idea of studying jewellery art. Contemporary art in the UK is more vibrant, which makes me feel more research-oriented.
What are the most important things you learned at the Royal College of Art?
The most important thing is the further development of artistic thinking. From the starting point of expression to the extension of the research halfway through, every logical and emotional point will be repeatedly overturned and rebuilt by yourself, your tutors and your classmates. In this process, I gradually formed my own way of thinking and creation.
I think the artistic environment and resources provided by RCA are very good and contemporary, and I can learn a lot from my classmates as well. I cherish the collision of thoughts there.
What are the challenges of your creative process?
The biggest challenge is the technological breakthrough. When your theoretical logic is completed, how to achieve the final form is often difficult for my creation. Because I mostly use metal materials, the breakthrough in morphological structure is a big challenge. Sometimes there really is no technology or craft to do what you want to do most. Or there is no such technical support at present, then I have to find an alternative way to express it.
What are the areas you would like to explore in your future projects?
I will extract the current works of art from the highlights that can be commercialized, and will do some wearable jewellery. My research on materials and technology will also continue. And, combined with my undergraduate background, the design innovation of fine jewellery will continue to be explored.
* Content and images are credited to Wen Xin.*
For curious readers who are interested in discovering more work from her, please visit her instagram.
Wen Xin (辛雯)
Wen Xin was born in Xuzhou, China. In 2014, she founded the ‘Wingsin’ jewellery e-commerce brand; in 2015, she obtained a gemmology diploma from The Gemmological Association of Great Britain. She graduated from China University of Geosciences (Beijing), majoring in gemmology and material technology. In 2019, She received a master degree of arts, majoring in jewellery and metal at the Royal College of Art.
Wen is a gemmologist, a jeweller and a self-analyst. Wen's works often start from her own emotions and then explore and create the subtle emotional relationships between people. Wen respects the physical properties of materials and their objecthood. She believes that the materials themselves have their own expression attributes. Therefore, her work often combines artistic breakthroughs in material form or technology to create artistic creations with a minimalist and poetic expression.
'Information Point', Gallery LOVAAS, Munich Jewellery Week, Germany, 2019
'Material Statement', Dyson Gallery, London, United Kingdom, 2019
'Fragmentation', The Coningsby Gallery, London, 2019
'AutorFair', National Theatre Bucharest, Bucharest, 2019
'ID:', Bloomsbury Gallery, London, 2019