French­man calls China his play­ground

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By SUN YE sunye@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ni­co­las Favard, a French jew­elry de­signer, was wear­ing two asym­met­ric earrings on a De­cem­ber day — one bulky and the other, a slim­mer one with a stud.

He says or­na­ments should en­hance one’s style and com­ple­ment the wearer’s per­son­al­ity.

“They (my earrings) show that I have a bit of this and a bit of that,” he says. “But de­signer jew­elry ex­presses things be­yond what words can say.”

At 35, Favard has spent 11 years in Bei­jing. When he first ar­rived in the coun­try in 2004, few un­der­stood what tai­lor-made con­tem­po­rary de­signs were about.

“Af­ter the 1960s, peo­ple lost the habit of wear­ing jew­elry. Back then, peo­ple bought what they saw in mag­a­zines,” Favard says at his work­shop in western San­l­i­tun.

“They wanted brand-name things that re­flected their sta­tus,” he adds.

When he started teach­ing jew­elry-mak­ing at the Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts a decade ago, stu­dents tended to look up to Euro­pean de­signs for in­spi­ra­tion. At the time, stu­dents also pre­ferred work­ing on ideas alone and were in­clined to leav­ing the hand­craft­ing part of the process to pro­fes­sional gold­smiths.

Favard, how­ever, started his ca­reer as an ap­pren­tice with a lo­cal jew­eler in his home­town, La Rochelle, at the age of 16. He was trained rig­or­ously in tech­niques and the na­ture of dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als. In Europe, the craftsper­son is of­ten also the de­signer, says Favard.

Favard’s im­pres­sion of Chi­nese or­na­ments be­fore he set foot in the coun­try was a Chair­manMao badge — he would later de­velop de­signs based on the badge.

He knew so lit­tle of the coun­try’s tra­di­tional tech­niques and ideas that he would later be­come fas­ci­nated with them.

It’s hard to pin down the cul­ture shock he ex­pe­ri­enced in the Middle King­dom.

“The Chi­nese and us ap­proach things dif­fer­ently,” he says. “The first things we no­tice are dif­fer­ent.”

Tak­ing in an Asian point of view dur­ing his time in China, he also worked and learned from crafts­peo­ple from dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups, each with their own aes­thet­ics and ways of han­dling ma­te­ri­als.

Dur­ing a re­cent field trip to South­west China’s Yun­nan prov­ince to meet the Bai eth­nic group, Favard was sur­prised by their think­ing. The eth­nic peo­ple first build a house with one side ly­ing on the ground and erect it when fin­ished. The Bai jew­elry-mak­ers hol­low out a metal piece dif­fer­ently, too.

“It’s not an item or one tech­nique that goes into my de­sign, but the phi­los­o­phy be­hind it,” he says. “I would like to merge Euro­pean and Chi­nese con­cepts.”

Chi­nese in­flu­ences

have

also seeped into how a pair of “eardrops” he de­signed dan­gle and ro­tate.

“It is in cir­cles be­cause a round shape is es­sen­tial to the Chi­nese.”

Whenit comes to color pair­ings, it is pale and jade blue, he says.

“So it re­minds them of Chi­nese land­scape paint­ings.”

The de­signs, dif­fer­ent me­tals, gems and other ma­te­ri­als are of­ten mixed to­gether for new­ef­fects.

His jew­elry has en­joyed ev­er­grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity in the last few years. Worn by stars like Denise Ho, some of his jew­elry were on dis­play at the Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional Con­tem­po­rary Jew­elry Ex­hi­bi­tion in De­cem­ber.

“China is like a play­ground now. It’s a place of ex­per­i­ments where you can try out so many new ideas,” he says. “It is very lively.”

So­ci­ety is in­creas­ingly wel­com­ing de­signed ob­jects that ex­press in­di­vid­ual styles and glam­our, he says.

In the past fewyears, his stu­dents at the CAFA have turned from Euro­pean de­signs to look into their own back­grounds and cul­tures, work­ing much more with their own hands too, he says.

“While they look at what’s hap­pen­ing in Europe, it doesn’t change what they’re do­ing (here),” he says.

“My clients, too, are tak­ing to more mod­ern de­sign to ex­press them­selves.”

Favard’s busi­ness now comes mainly from wed­ding and en­gage­ment rings.

“There are of­ten only two peo­ple in the world who know about the pro­posal— the­m­anandme,” he says.

The groom in­vari­ably hopes the ring will carry the cou­ple’s unique story and iden­tity.

“I try to un­der­stand the cou­ple more and de­sign rings that ex­press this.

“As de­sign­ers, we don’t like trends. But fol­low­ing one’sown­style and in­di­vid­u­al­ity — that’s def­i­nitely a trend.”

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