Aine Breen’s Poignant Art

Adorn - - CONTENTS - By Shanoo Bijlani

turn­ing point came when she took up a course in Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy to seek a cre­ative out­let. An ac­coun­tant by pro­fes­sion, she had set­tled in China with her hus­band for two years. The cal­lig­ra­phy course trig­gered her love for mak­ing jew­ellery bear­ing dec­o­ra­tive graph­ics laden with mean­ing. Thus, her brand Liwu was born, in­spired by her trav­els, new friends and cul­tural ex­change.

Now based in Ire­land, Aine beleives that trav­el­ling is highly mo­ti­vat­ing for bud­ding en­trepreneurs, and ex­plor­ing new coun­tries can in­spire the idea of start­ing a busi­ness. “I strongly be­lieve that space and time to re­flect on your life and work can pro­vide some much-needed clar­ity and can em­power one to suc­ceed as an en­tre­pre­neur,” she says.

What does Liwu mean? And why did you choose this name for your brand?

Liwu means gift in Chi­nese. I chose this name as all my pieces come with a ‘mean­ing card’ ex­plain­ing the Chi­nese char­ac­ter, there­fore mak­ing great gifts. Our tag line is ‘Small Gifts, Big Mean­ings’.

Is your work in­flu­enced by Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy only?

Yes, it all be­gan when I ar­rived in Beijing for work. I was ea­ger to find out more about Chi­nese cul­ture and so, I took a course in cal­lig­ra­phy. I found the char­ac­ter for love very beau­ti­ful – it meant ‘life to the heart and grace to the body’. That im­pelled me to de­sign a jew­ellery piece with this char­ac­ter. But how would I do that? I was not trained. So, when I re­turned to Dublin, I en­rolled for sil­ver­smithy classes, sketch­ing... and here I am two col­lec­tions later with a thriv­ing jew­ellery brand. To­day, I work with great sil­ver­smiths here to pro­duce my col­lec­tions.

How many col­lec­tions re­volve around the Chi­nese char­ac­ters?

Just one. The range in­cludes 20 pieces with four dif­fer­ent mean­ings: ‘Love – life to the heart, grace to the body’, ‘Hap­pi­ness’, ‘Three Lucky Stars’, and ‘United Eter­nity’.

The ‘love’ char­ac­ter in Chi­nese ac­tu­ally sparked the idea for Liwu jew­ellery. The writ­ten char­ac­ters are so full of mean­ing that the Chi­nese of­ten do not ex­press their emo­tions in the spo­ken word in or­der to ‘save face’. For ex­am­ple, I re­alised that the Chi­nese do not say ‘I love you’ as openly and freely as West­ern­ers.

This is be­cause ‘love’ is re­garded as such a highly emo­tional state. So my pieces are laden with sub­tle mes­sages. It is a very per­son­alised af­fair.

Tell us some­thing about your­self. What are your in­ter­ests?

I am from Ire­land, and I al­ways loved art in school. I also adore trav­el­ling, which is why I went to live in China when the op­por­tu­nity arose.

When did you start mak­ing jew­ellery pieces? How was the re­sponse from your clients?

I started in 2014, and it was all very pos­i­tive. I sell on­line, in 10 stock­ists and at craft fairs and pop-ups.

What would be the price range of your jew­ellery?

The price range is from 69 to 149 eu­ros. All pieces are made with ster­ling sil­ver and 18-karat hard gold-plat­ing. The pieces are hall­marked at the As­say Of­fice in Dublin.

All your pieces are about com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the taker and the giver...

Yes, I aim to de­sign thought-pro­vok­ing pieces which al­low in­di­vid­u­als to make a hid­den state­ment or mes­sage be­tween the giver and the re­ceiver. The pieces are del­i­cate, sim­ple and beau­ti­ful.

What in­spires you? Also, tell us why travel is so im­por­tant and how does it shape/im­pact your area of work?

Mean­ings in­spire me. Places in­spire me. Cul­ture and lan­guage in­spire me. Travel in­spired me to change my ca­reer and re­alise my po­ten­tial and do some­thing I am pas­sion­ate about.

Who is your tar­get au­di­ence and the woman you de­sign jew­ellery for?

I de­sign for women who love sim­ple, sub­tle and mean­ing­ful jew­ellery that peo­ple can gift to each other. My col­lec­tions re­volve around Hap­pi­ness, Love, Three Lucky Stars, Eter­nity, Progress and Seren­ity, all cov­ered in a classic del­i­cate qual­ity aes­thetic.

My other col­lec­tion Na­tive fea­tures Celtic sym­bols in­spired by Ire­land, where I am now based by the sea with my hus­band, two daugh­ters and a num­ber of an­i­mals.

How has your jour­ney been so far?

The jour­ney has been great. I am do­ing what I love and mak­ing many peo­ple happy along the way when they buy a piece of jew­ellery that means so much to them or for some­one to ex­press how they feel or wish for them.

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