INSPIRE: Bao Bao Wan
Bao Bao Wan’s Chinese appreciation of beauty laced with a frisson of danger reflects a new generation of confidently complex women, discovers Melissa Pearce
Bao Bao Wan, by turns ethereal or bold (like her famous followers that include actresses Fan Bingbing and Zhou Xun), leads a charmed life. As granddaughter of the legendary Chinese Communist revolutionary Wan Li, former chairman of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, and daughter of a highlevel government minister, she has been at ease in grand settings since she was a child. Wan mostly had an international childhood that saw her complete her studies overseas. And it was her promise as a photography student during her university days in New York that earned her an apprenticeship with Joel Sternfeld, the fine-art photographer noted for his large-format documentary pictures of the US. But ultimately, she realised photography was not her calling and she describes awakening from her fine art aspirations with a realisation of the imperative “to commercialise my senses to be more accepted and visible”.
In 2007, she launched into fine jewellerymaking, working out of studios in Beijing and Hong Kong. Recent collaborations have included those with Forevermark, M.A.C, Yoox and Swarovski’s Gem Visions 2010. The ornate detail in her luxurious works hint at her photographer’s eye as she continues to freeze beautiful moments, except now they take the form of precious jewels.
“I collect jewellery made by different houses at their peak: David Webb, Marina B, Marchak and big names such as Bulgari and Buccellati; things that won’t be made again by them today. I also admire JAR, Paul Flato and Suzanne Belperron. David Webb creations are famous for its animal motifs but it also has incredible combinations of coloured stones in its designs.”
“The alexandrite gemstone is a favourite of mine. It is contradictory and I do enjoy the edge of the opposites. I am [like an] alexandrite — ruby by day, emerald by night. I was born on the cusp of Libra and Scorpio. I am not that much into astrology but I do sleep as a Scorpio and wake into a Libra. I am motherly, nostalgic, disorientated and very fragile, and at the same time, I am decisive and independent, with the strongest of survival skills. And all of this could alternate within one hour...it is not easy to manage me and definitely not easy to be me either.”
“I am inspired by my travelling, my sentiments and any colours I see, whether it’s a fading rooftop or a simple colour in the clothes of a passer-by. In my early days, I made a lot of jewellery with pictorial inf luences such as bamboo, butterf lies and falling leaves. Then I started to enjoy designing from scenes or memories of weather or nature, such as rain, wind, frozen ice or even explosions.”
Wan’s int r icate je wel ler y c reat ions (top lef t); a nd her love for Marchak ’s
(top r ight) a nd David Webb’s (bot tom) jewel ler y