Juan Juan Hu, an award-winning jewellery designer from China, stuns you with her work that is embodied with sacred symbols and traditions of the past wrapped in modern configurations.
Juan Juan Hu, an award-winning jewellery designer from China, stuns you with her work that is embodied with sacred symbols and traditions of the past wrapped in modern configurations. Her designs evoke a sense of wonderment because each form is pure and sophisticatedly simple, almost possessing a Zen-like quality. She pays a lot of importance to the fluidity of the form, and texture that brings tactile senses into play. Founder of the Juan Juan Bespoke Jewellery boutique in Shanghai, Juan Juan Hu talks about her creative journey with Shanoo Bijlani.
Tell us more about yourself. When did you decide to take up jewellery designing?
Even as a child of eight, I remember clearly that I was interested in jewellery and the design aspect intrigued me. But it was only eight years ago that I decided to follow my line of interest. I had a postgraduate degree in product designing and worked as a product designer for several years. In 2009, I took up a postgraduate course in jewellery designing at Central Saint Martins, London, and I was awarded the prestigious NOVA Creative Talent Award in 2012.
Did the course at Central Saint Martins alter your way of thinking?
It did in a big way. Besides the design techniques that I learnt at Central Saint Martins, I started to consider, analyse and challenge the ideas of my own designs, often forcing me to think: who am I? What are the different characteristics of mine? What is my understanding of jewellery design and what is my design philosophy? In my view, the self-realisation and one’s essence reflect in your designs. In short, that forms the soul of design.
What is your design philosophy?
Emotions are the foundation of my design. Since humans are emotional beings, and they communicate at various levels with other people, animals and nature, I strive to weave in emotions in my designs – the jewellery should communicate and interact with the wearer. The emotion is an invaluable feature as compared to gemstones and metals used to craft a piece.
Which is the collection that you have designed in collaboration with Hermes?
The brand I collaborated with is Shang Xia, a Chinese brand that Hermes has invested in. I had designed two series of jewellery for Shang Xia – Bamboo and Ru Yi. Bamboo is a resilient but flexible plant that bends under pressure. In China, bamboo represents the spirit of Chinese literary intellectuals.
I abstracted the characters of bamboo, and expressed the intention and feeling of the bamboo in people’s mind.
Ru Yi means everything goes as one wishes, and the collection was inspired by the Chinese ancient sceptre and talisman, symbolic of power and good fortune. Ru Yi was designed with modern understandings and evolution.
Which metal do you prefer to work with?
I like gold because of its good ductility, and at the same time, the metal’s colour complements various materials and gemstones. My favourite gemstone is Chinese Jade. In China, jade represents indestructibility and was set in jewellery and ritual objects. However, most of the jade jewellery in the current market is traditional, so I try to infuse modernity in my jade-set jewellery and seek the opportunity to expand the current market.
What are your sources of inspiration?
As a jewellery designer, the inspiration often comes from nature – the object’s form, texture, and movement. For instance, the movements of a flying bird, the form of flowing water, the movement of a running horse, the feeling when one touches a bubble of water – all of it is depicted in my designs.
Your Fingerprint collection is based on a simple but unique idea with abstract renditions. How do you achieve that?
I am very interested in initiating an interactive dialogue between the wearer and a piece of jewellery. The forms are deliberately kept abstract so that the person who is wearing the piece can have her own understanding through observing and touching the piece. I like to awaken the senses and feelings of observers through these abstract renditions.
How long does it take you to develop a collection?
Coming up with a collection is a long process. It depends on the complexity of the design, the craft involved and the manufacturing process. If it is a complicated design, it takes me nearly a year to go from design to completion.
What is the age group you generally design for?
I like to focus on women over 30 years who have unusual and artistic tastes.
Which is your bestselling collection by far?
I have two different business models – collaborations and making private, bespoke designs.
My bestselling collection is the Bamboo series, for which I collaborated with Shang Xia.
Tell us more about your latest work.
My latest collection is a series on the Chinese Palace Museum, which I am making in collaboration with the famous jewellery brand Chow Tai Fook. This collection aims to explore the royal traditional culture of China, develop and promote the crafts and aesthetics of Chinese royal jewellery, linking the past, present and future of this culture.