Paint­ing With Jewels 用珠宝作画

ZbBZ (Singapore) - - 期精华 IN THIS ISSUE - TEXT LIM FONG WEI / 林方伟

WHong Kong de­signer Wendy Yue tells sto­ries through her colour­ful jew­ellery pieces which are in­spired by na­ture and her trav­els 原籍香港的珠宝设计师余孟婵把价值连城的宝石作为颜科, 绘制出一件件有动人故事的作品。

hile other tourists typ­i­cally bring home pho­to­graphs and sou­venirs to pre­serve their travel mem­o­ries, Wendy Yue turns her ex­pe­ri­ences into some­thing quite dif­fer­ent — she cre­ates jew­ellery pieces.

One trip has led to the cre­ation of a trop­i­cal bush wrist cuff, around which two di­a­mond-stud­ded ele­phants stroll through trop­i­cal bush cre­ated from pre­cious stones. An­other trip has in­spired a pen­dant on a decol­letage of a pan­ther with one foot perched on a sap­phire “rock”, study­ing a golden pav­il­ion from be­hind a palm tree.

Travel is a key source of in­spi­ra­tion for Yue, a Hong Kong jew­ellery de­signer whose love for travel showed early on in life, when she trav­elled to Vi­enna to learn the lo­cal lan­guage and cul­ture. She also loved jew­ellery, ever sketch­ing her dre am pieces and col­lect­ing pre­cious gems along the way.

In 1998, she jumped into the de­sign trade by es­tab­lish­ing the Di­a­mond Tree work­shop to de­sign and pro­duce pieces for other brands in what is known as orig­i­nal de­sign man­u­fac­ture. But the de­sire to pro­duce some­thing with her own name on it was never quelled — not un­til 10 years later, when Yue teamed up with Links of Lon­don founder An­noushka Du­cas to set up her own brand of high-end jew­ellery.

Un­der the Wendy Yue la­bel, that is sold through her Hong Kong store, Yue has de­signed more than a thou­sand pieces in nearly two decades of work.

Mar­ried to an Amer­i­can with whom she has three sons and a daugh­ter, she lives a busy life, shut­tling be­tween New York and Hong Kong for her jew­ellery busi­ness. The hard work has been pay­ing off. Her de­signs have gained in pro­file, hav­ing been worn by celebri­ties such as Katy Perry, Ri­hanna and Glenn Close, and United States First Lady Michelle Obama.

Sparkling Tales

Yue loves telling sto­ries through her cre­ations.

One story she tells par­tic­u­larly well can be seen on a cuff she de­signed, which bears seven life-like fig­ures crafted with coral. These fig­ures lean on a di­a­mond­stud­ded rail­ing, tak­ing in the view with their feet dipped in emer­ald-green wa­ter. Swans made out of pink di­a­monds com­plete the scene.

“I have seven sib­lings and I have fan­ta­sised about trav­el­ling with them,” Yue reveals. “This is our ‘group photo’. I keep one piece in my safe. Ev­ery time I see it, I think of them. I be­lieve that ev­ery cre­ator works from his heart and mines his per­sonal sto­ries for de­sign in­spi­ra­tion.”

Yue, who would not re­veal her age ex­cept to say she was born in the Year of the Mon­key, reached deep in­side of her­self when she cre­ated her first de­sign around the one crea­ture that she had feared the most — the snake.

She re­calls: “I had this re­cur­ring dream when I was young of be­ing sur­rounded by nu­mer­ous snakes of all kinds. Some peo­ple said that dream­ing of snakes is an aus­pi­cious thing; some also said that I should turn my big­gest fear into my cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion. I re­alised that when I con­fronted the one thing I feared the most, I be­gan to see its phys­i­cal beauty.”

She turned the snake into a brooch and while work­ing on its de­sign, lost her fear for the rep­tile to the point where she would adopt it as a per­sonal de­sign icon.

One could also call it Yue’s lucky charm. A wealthy Amer­i­can lady who had just lost her hus­band found in­ex­pli­ca­ble so­lace in one of Yue’s snake ac­ces­sories. Be­liev­ing the hands of fate to be at work, Yue sold the piece for a mod­est price. The woman would later be­come one of Yue’s reg­u­lar clients, plac­ing an or­der for an ex­clu­sive ac­ces­sory ev­ery sea­son. Yue’s lat­est de­sign for her was a neck­lace based on the im­age of the rose.

“While many de­sign­ers rack their brains to fig­ure out what their cus­tomers like, I like to create ac­cord­ing to my pref­er­ences. I want other peo­ple to look at my work and go, ‘Wow, I re­ally like it and I want to buy it’. This is the same with an art col­lec­tor want­ing to buy a cer­tain art­work. You don’t base your buy­ing de­ci­sion on what pig­ments the artist has used.”

In­deed, Yue re­gards jew­ellery de­sign as an artis­tic en­deav­our that em­ploys an in­trigu­ing pal­ette where no two gem­stones are alike. “Look, this is a very rare sap­phire stone,” she points out. “It is not as clear as ev­ery­one imag­ines it to be. This trans­par­ent dark blue stone has ex­quis­ite, in­ter­est­ing lines. Like a painter, I am at­tracted to the dif­fer­ent colours and qual­i­ties of var­i­ous stones that I buy.”

If Yue is a painter who paints with jewels, then she must also be a colour ex­pert, who likes to stack colours one atop of one an­other as well. A sin­gle flower petal ac­ces­sory can be made up of pieces of jade, tour­ma­line, di­a­monds, sap­phires and ru­bies. If that seems in­dul­gent, she will tell you that she once used more than 20 types of gem­stones in the same piece. Of course, the more colour­ful a piece is, the pricier it gets. Each Wendy Yue piece re­tails for US$8,000 (S$10,139) and up­wards.

Mix & Match

In her de­signs, Yue ad­vo­cates the in­te­gra­tion of Western and Eastern ap­proaches, like us­ing jade in a piece that fea­tures a fox. She has run into prob­lems with this ap­proach, such as when her Western cus­tomers mis­take her Eastern mo­tifs for some­thing cre­ated in er­ror.

Once, a cus­tomer had con­fronted Yue about us­ing the Nazi sym­bol in a neck­lace de­sign, when it was ac­tu­ally the Bud­dhist swastika. Yue had to ex­plain that Nazis had ap­pro­pri­ated what was an an­cient sym­bol of peace and mod­i­fied it for use as its party icon.

Re­cently, Yue teamed up with Plukka, an on­line lux­ury jew­ellery store set up by J oa nna Ooi , the Sin­ga­pore-born, Amer­ica-based cre­ative di­rec­tor of Shang­hai Tang, to launch the MSY by Wendy Yue se­ries, with MSY be­ing the ini­tials of her Chi­nese name. She was in Sin­ga­pore re­cently as part of the Plukka trunk show held at the Four Sea­sons Ho­tel.

Prod­ucts in her MSY by Wendy Yue col­lec­tion are more ac­ces­si­ble com­pared to her main col­lec­tion and their de­signs are all in­spired by Bud­dhist im­agery, in­clud­ing ear­rings and rings with the im­age of Bud­dha’s head and wrist cuffs in the form of Bud­dha’s palm. The most de­light­ful items in the col­lec­tion are per­haps the long ring, ear­rings and pen­dant that take the form of a re­clin­ing Bud­dha.

“As a Chi­nese per­son, I have al­ways been influenced by Bud­dha’s teach­ings,” says Yue. “Bud­dha teaches us to be com­pas­sion­ate and for­giv­ing. In the West, they are fa­mil­iar with the sit­ting Bud­dha who is teach­ing and they are less fa­mil­iar with the more re­laxed Bud­dha in the re­clin­ing po­si­tion. Since many peo­ple wear the cross, I thought why not wear Bud­dha on my per­son too? With Bud­dha on my per­son all the time, ev­ery time I look at Bud­dha’s im­age, no mat­ter whether he is sit­ting or re­clin­ing, I am re­minded to re­lax and to stay calm.”

余 孟婵不只是一个珠宝设计师,她还是个说 故事的人。 两只钻石镶嵌的大象,优雅地跨过彩色宝石 打造出来的森林;悠闲的热带风景环绕女士的玉 手变成华美的手镯;黑豹踩在蓝宝石制成的岩石 上,躲在棕榈树后匍匐前行至黄金打造的小亭, 忐忑垂在女士酥胸前;钻石与彩色宝石镶嵌的中 国帆船在一轮弯月下渐行渐远;水光月色在黑色 玛瑙上徜徉;香江花月夜垂挂在女士的耳垂。周 游列国是余孟婵主要的灵感来源,人家拍照、绘 画,但她把所见所闻变出以上精致巧妙的首饰杰 作。

还有一只手镯,用珊瑚刻出七个立在碧玉凉 亭下栩栩如生的人儿,他们倚靠着钻石镶嵌的栏 杆,瞭望风景,脚下是绿宝石的湖水,游过粉红 钻石镶嵌的天鹅。“我有七个兄弟姐妹,幻想和 他们游山玩水,而这是我们的‘合影’。我把其 中一件收在保险箱里,每见到它就会想起他们。 我相信每一个创作者都是发自内心、以自己的故 事作为设计灵感的。”

余孟婵并非珠宝设计出身。她早年从香港到 欧洲游学,在维也纳学习语文与文化,一路上收 集珠宝首饰,玩票性质地开始画首饰设计草图。 在一个朋友的推荐下,她进入珠宝设计行业,并 在1998年设立Di­a­mond Tree工坊,专为其他品 牌负责原创设计与生产。

2008年,她和伦敦Links of Lon­don创办 人An­noushka Du­cas合创高级珠宝首饰品牌, 以自己的英文名Wendy Yue命名。近20年来, 余孟婵设计了上千件首饰,目前与美籍丈夫和 四个儿女(三男一女)在纽约、香港两地跑。 短短五年内,不只国际明星如凯蒂佩里(Katy Perry)、蕾哈娜(Ri­hanna)、葛伦克罗斯 (Glenn Close)等明星,连美国第一夫人米歇 尔奥巴马也穿戴过她的设计。

属猴的余孟婵,所设计的第一件作品是她 最惧怕的蛇。“我小时候一直重复地做着同样的 噩梦:自己被无数只蛇包围。有人说梦到蛇是吉 兆,也有人说,我应该将自己最大的恐惧变成创 作灵感。我发觉当我正视我最害怕的东西时,我 看到了它形体上的美。”

她把蛇变成一枚胸针,就这样克服了自己 的恐惧,蛇也成为她设计的个人标志。后来有位 刚丧偶的美国富婆,看到余孟婵的蛇形首饰,心 灵感受到一种说不出来的慰藉。余孟婵觉得她是 有缘人,便把首饰以低价卖给了她。这位富婆后 来成为余孟婵最忠实的客户之一,每季都会定制 一件华美的首饰,余孟婵最近就特地为她设计了 件蔷薇造型项链。

“很多设计师会绞尽脑汁迎合客户的喜 好,我则喜欢根据自己的喜好创作,心里认定

了某个设计,就会忠于自己的构思去完成它。 我要人们看到我的作品时说‘哇,我真的很喜 欢它,要把它买下。’这就跟艺术收藏家买画 的道理一样——你总不会指定艺术家要用什么 颜料来作画才买画。”

的确,余孟婵视珠宝设计为一种艺术创 作——各种宝石与珍奇材质是她的颜料。她在采 访中指着一件首饰说:“你看看,这是一件极为 罕见的蓝宝石,却非大家所想象中具有清澈、透 明的深蓝,而像一个浅蓝色石头,有精致有趣的

纹路。我就如同一个画家般,被不同宝石的颜色 特质吸引而买下它们。”

若说她是个珠宝画家,那她是个喜欢堆积 “色彩”的彩绘专家,单是一朵花卉首饰,她 就用上玉、碧玺、钻石、蓝宝石、珊瑚、红宝

石等。“我甚至可以一次过用上20种宝石。” 当然,每多上几层“颜色”,就等于多添加几 种宝石,颜色越精彩,价钱也越高,因此, Wendy Yue首饰每件从8000美元起跳至10万美 元甚至更高。

作为一位在国际走红的设计师,余孟婵主 张中西合璧,好比用中国人熟悉的玉,来诠释西 方熟悉的狐狸。西方珠宝热爱东方主义,爱把东 方元素加诸在珠宝上,但对东方文化却未必全然 了解。有一次,余孟婵采用了佛教的万字制成项

链,引起客户轩然大怒,对她咆哮:“你怎么可 以使用纳粹主义的符号!”余孟婵心平气和向客 户解释,佛祖释迦牟尼胸部画上万字被认为是 “瑞相”,具有“万德吉祥”含义,后来被纳粹 党逆转45度变成党徽,根本就是纳粹党羽扭曲了


余孟婵最近与在新加坡出生、旅居美国的 前上海滩创意总监黄明翠创办的网上奢华首饰 品牌Plukka,推出联名系列“MSY by Wendy Yue”——MSY取自余孟婵粤语名字的字母。这

一系列首饰价钱较大众化,造型以普度众生的佛 祖为主,包括佛祖脸型戒指、耳环,佛掌袖口 等。最让人惊喜的是一系列卧佛做成的长戒指、 耳环与吊坠。

“身为华人,我一向深受佛教教诲。它教我 们做人要宽心,对人要宽容。西方人熟悉盘坐着 传授教义的佛祖,却不常看到佛祖卧着,较为放 松、悠然自得的一面。不少人会穿戴十字架,我 想,为什么不能把佛祖也戴在身上呢?把佛祖化 为首饰,随身携带,每次看到佛祖尊容,不管是 坐着或是躺着,时时刻刻提醒我们心情要放松, 精神要平和。”

Wendy Yue is more than just a jew­ellery maker. Draw­ing a wealth of in­spi­ra­tion from her life and travel ex­pe­ri­ences, Yue is more a painter who paints with gem stones. (Photo: 龙国雄 )

Night Ship: a pair of ear­rings that po­et­i­cally por­tray Chi­nese junks qui­etly sail­ing into the night.

A life-like rose neck­lace cre­ated out of pre­cious gem stones by Wendy Yue.

An awe-in­spir­ingly re­al­is­tic cre­ation of the Egyp­tian scarab that comes in a ring and cuff set.

余孟婵与网上奢华首饰品牌Plukka推出的“MSY by Wendy Yue”系列,以佛祖像为造型。

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