Painting With Jewels 用珠宝作画
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.
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。
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
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。