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How much contemporary jewelry can be commercialized defines where the dead-end is. Interview with Xiaohe Shen by Klimt02

Interview  /  Artists
Published: 18.03.2022
Xiaohe Shen Xiaohe Shen
Author:
Klimt02
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Barcelona
Edited on:
2022
Xiaohe Shen. Earrings: Orbit 1, 2017. Amethyst, chalcedony, sterling silver. 12 x 3 x 1.5 cm. From series: Stellar. On Body. Xiaohe Shen
Earrings: Orbit 1, 2017
Amethyst, chalcedony, sterling silver
12 x 3 x 1.5 cm
From series: Stellar

On Body

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.

Intro
With years of experience working in jewelry product design, I have been trained to pay lots of attention to details, and learned how to balance art expression, user experience, and functionality. Now when I create a design, I consider more aspects such as how the pieces interact with the human body, is it comfortable to wear, is this design featuring the main character of the material, and at the same time maintains the same tone as my other works.
Tell us about your background. What were your first influences to be creative and become an artist and what has drawn you to contemporary jewellery?
I studied jewelry design in both China and USA, and started working in the fine jewelry industry in New York ever since I graduated. I had a feeling to be a designer since I was a kid, because on one side I love drawing and painting and on the other side I like the idea of creating something beautiful for the world. Originally I wanted to be an architect or interior designer - I wasn’t aware there’s the choice as a jewelry designer until the time for me to choose my major in college. I chose jewelry design to pursue as my major was because my family members like to shopping jade, which influenced my interest in jewelry. But I still love architecture and exterior/interior art, and I get lots of inspiration from them.
As for what has drawn me to contemporary jewelry, I think this is a gradual evolvement. Originally jewelry to me was a product usually associated with traditional convention. Late on in school, I started to learn different types of jewelry in different periods. In my earlier academic years, I was attracted by experimental jewelry made with alternative materials, to me they are the reverse of traditional jewelry that I used to know. Then my interest was drawn to contemporary fine art, work of artists such as Agnes martins, Robert Smithson, Lucio Fontana… had been a huge influence on me, inspired me to expand my expression of art from jewelry to bigger pieces such as sculpture and paintings. After school, when I started to work in jewelry as a professional, I got the chance to work for some very high-end jewelry brands. From there I learned how combining rare materials, exquisite aesthetics and technique can make a really beautiful everlasting piece. And from there I decide to choose contemporary fine jewelry as my language of art.
 

How important is networking for you in your professional practice and what are your preferred tools for this?
To me, networking is a way to communicate with others, to get information and learn opinions from different perspectives, and most importantly, to introduce my ideas and my designs to the world. As a designer nowadays, networking is an inevitable thing to consider. It’s equally important as creating the pieces. My preferred tool is Instagram, and professional website/forum.
 
 
What are your general thoughts on the contemporary jewellery world, (education, market, development...), where do you see chances and where are dead ends?
I think there are different perspectives of contemporary jewelry, such as the commercial side, artsy side, and a combination of both. I believe there’s big potential in contemporary jewelry. However, many of the contemporary jewelry works are very conceptual, and it’s still a challenge to convince the public to accept them. Especially for the artsy and semi-artsy/semi-commercial jewelry, which usually perform the expression of artists’ thoughts rather satisfy users’ demands. Luckily, nowadays with social media, it’s easier for artists to advertise their works and talk to audiences directly, so it’s a bigger chance to attract people who might be interested in a certain type of art. In my opinion, how much contemporary jewelry can be commercialized defines where the dead-end is (like collaborating with fashion brands/museums). In the end, as other types of art or design product, contemporary jewelry needs audiences to support further development.

Xiaohe Shen. Earrings: Fluid 1, 2017. Mother of pearl, sterling silver. 2 x 10 x 1 cm. From series: Stellar.
 
 
Thinking about your career, what role do technology and the digital play in your artistic development & communication?
3D modeling is a very important part of my career not only as a jewelry designer for big brands but also as an individual artist. With 3D modeling, I can imitate the work in plastic and evaluate it before actually investing time and material to make a real piece. In addition, using 3D modeling can bring the production team more different design options and choices more quickly in the pre-design stage. I can lead the team using 3D software to create five or more sketch options for the design, which was impossible before the developed technologies. Besides that I also create 2D rendering on the computer or iPad now rather than draw them on paper, it saves a lot of time by allowing us to revise the design without re-draw everything from the beginning.
 
 
How has your work changed over the past few years and what are you excited about these days?
I think my work has become more mature compared to the previous. With years of experience working in jewelry product design, I have been trained to pay lots of attention to details, and learned how to balance art expression, user experience, and functionality. Now when I create a design, I consider more aspects such as how the pieces interact with the human body, is it comfortable to wear, is this design featuring the main character of the material, and at the same time maintains the same tone as my other works. I am also now focusing more and more on the mechanism when designing new products, such as the clasps and closures, turning mechanisms to show different characters of the same jewelry. Although there are countless existing mechanism designs, sometimes I still need to create new ones (which have been turned into patents) to better showcase my designs. I would say that a few years ago, I was exploring different styles to find which would be mine to pursue for the long term, now it’s getting clearer and clearer. I’m just excited to create more from what I have planned. 

 
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