The prepossessing works of WENDY YUE, a Hong Kong based jewellery designer, are visually stimulating as they brim over with colours that are singled out from the palette of Mother Nature. Surreal in form, the three-dimensional handcrafted jewellery pieces feature a delightful, almost quirky, unison of flora and fauna. Springing to life with vivid-coloured gemstones, the mini, limited-edition sculptures are a reflection of the artist’s uninhibited spirit that seeks freedom of expression.
So, in her fantasy world, a curious chimpanzee cameo and a gem-set infant seek shelter in a bucolic setting of dense foliage reinterpreted with multi-coloured gems or a gem-set lion crawls out of a dome-shaped coral cave ring; gemmy parrots sway atop floral danglers to have a rollicking time – the kaleidoscopic imagery of Wendy Yue is amusing as it is timeless. In an email interview, Wendy Yue shared some important moments and memories of her life with SHANOO BIJLANI.
If you were not a jewellery designer, what would you be?
An interior designer… I remodel all of my properties as an investment in real estate and I enjoy it as a hobby.
On your website, you have made a profound statement that art is not a thing or a thought. Then what is art according to you since your jewellery is a piece of art that is timeless?
It (art) is really the special connection it creates with a person; the sensory and emotional triggers that a piece can have on a person and only that person can define the connection or the feeling.
What is your philosophy about designing?
I believe a free and fearless mind is vital to creativity.
Do you design around a stone or do you first think of an idea and then source the relevant gem?
I collect a plethora of gemstones – tens and tens of thousands of stones – from precious to semi-precious. As you may know, I love colourful gemstones, carved or uniquely shaped stones – sometimes even stones that others may consider odd. It’s a simultaneous process of going through my stones and combining them with an idea that I have, or having an idea and recalling that I have specific stones that would be a perfect fit.
How often do you discard your ideas?
Not very often – but I do modify them as the pieces come to life, and yes, there are definitely those oh-no moments.
Do you weave stories into your jewellery pieces or are they based on abstract thoughts?
They are based on abstract thoughts but often come together as a narrative up for interpretation.
You are a nature lover and one often sees whimsy interpretations of flora and fauna in your jewellery. You must be spending a lot of time in gardens, parks or forests?
I live in the suburbs and have a garden of my own – I get a lot of my inspiration there as well.
You are an extraordinary jewellery designer of today’s times. What is it that sets you apart from others?
I would say my “organic” jewellery helps me stand out. I often use colours of nature as they are, but I interpret it in my own style.
How do you break free from routine and revive your spirit?
I take a break from the world and shield myself from any disruption to spend quality or me time, to enjoy the peace and serenity within.
Tell us a little about yourself, and why and when you took up jewellery designing?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and I studied language and culture in Vienna. My favourite hobby is really my work and everything I put into it, because I enjoy it so much. I also do a lot of remodelling and interior designing. When I was young, I started working at one of the biggest jewellery manufacturers in Hong Kong, and that’s how I stepped into the world of jewellery designing.
You are not a trained jeweller. Was the journey easy?
I may not have been trained in school, but my guidance came from society and work experience spanning almost two decades. I would say the turning point came during the recession when I decided to start my own atelier, and since then it has been some journey!
Were you good at designing since childhood?
I have always been creative and am interested in arts and crafts, from moulding toy clay when I was young to designing my own qipao (one-piece chinese dress) in secondary school, to remodelling and doing interior designing for my properties – not just jewellery.
Could you tell us about the process of designing each piece? Do you have a team of designers?
It usually begins with my gemstones and I design around them or combine them with my idea. I have a huge safe of stones and I can usually recall which stones I have bought that would suit my design perfectly. Yes, I have a team of designers that works with me, otherwise I would not have enough time for my personal life!
What inspires you the most?
Anything can inspire me but I’m particularly moved by colour and atmosphere. I would say my forte is in recognising the unique character of a gem and transforming it into a piece of artwork. The most recurring themes in my collections are nature and animals.
How often do you unveil your new collections?
Four times a year and usually at the largest trade shows like Hong Kong, Baselworld and JCK Vegas; but it all depends on my inspiration, more or less.
What are your bestselling jewellery pieces?
I create one-of-a-kind pieces so I would say whatever appeals to the purchaser or collector is the bestselling piece.
Of all your jewellery collections, which piece do you think every woman should possess and why?
I think every woman is unique and my jewellery is not the very generic or one-size-fits-all style. I think she would have to search for that very special piece made just for her as soon as she sees it – it would have to be love at first sight.
Do you design for self- purchasers?
Yes. It is the woman who already has everything and has taste in collecting and wearing the most unique and special things.
What are the basic metals/ coloured gemstones you prefer to work with?
In the past I have had a liking for blackened gold; recently I have been working with a lot of rose gold as well as blackened gold.
Do you like the work of any other jewellery designer other than your own?
Yes, I have been an admirer of several designers over the years. For example, Boucheron, Cartier, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, de Grisogono, but I believe that every designer/design house produces varying styles and quality of work over time, so for me it really depends on the phases of creativity.
Do you design your own personal jewellery? If yes, what kind of jewellery do you like to wear? Do you buy jewellery from other designers as well?
Yes of course, there is no one particular type as I love every piece of my jewellery. No, I rarely buy from other designers but that is only because I am not exactly a huge shopper – with the exception of gemstones!
How many boutiques do you have across the globe?
We only have one flagship boutique located in Hong Kong, and sell at several luxury retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus in the US, Annoushka at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Selfridges, Liberty in the UK, and many other stores and boutiques across the globe.