Let Jewellery Tell the Story:
An Interview with Chinese-Style Designer Yue-Yo Wang
November 27, 2013
Yue-Yo Wang, a jewellery designer from Taiwan, has devoted herself to traditional Chinese jewellery design. She has combined the Chinese knotting art with modern jewellery design and manufacturing techniques to create her own pieces. Every finished piece has its own story.
Chinese Knotting ArtIn China, knotting art can be traced back to around 1600 BC. Before that time, knotting had a more practical purpose, which was to record important events or numbers on a daily basis. After that, with the development of written record-keeping, knotting gradually lost its practical purpose and became more decorative.
Chinese knotting art experienced a peak from around 600 AD until the early 1900s. Along with most of the other arts, its development paused during a 100-year span of social upheaval in China. Currently, knotting is being picked up once more by younger generations, who have developed a high appreciation for this ancient art. Knotting threads are made of a variety of materials. Knotting art can be used for room decorations or jewellery pieces. China has even established qualifying exams at different levels for experienced knot makers.
At one time, Yue-Yo enjoyed a very relaxed and easy life as a housewife and collector of Chinese artistic teapots. When an unforeseen event affected her husband’s business, her easy life ended and she had to start making an income. She began a small business to sell her teapot collection along with some of her knotted teapot covers.
She gradually fell in love with knotting and decided that she could use it to add to her profits. She spent time developing her knotting skills and after a short period of time, became a well-known knot maker. People advised her to establish a knotting art education program and many students came to learn from her, some of them from overseas.
Although knotting products and classes increased her profits, they still required a lot of labour and sold for relatively low prices. She often had to work extra hours or overnight to complete orders. This situation inspired her to look for a more efficient way to add value to her products. She tried using knotting techniques on clothes, decorations and other articles. Then she came up with the great idea of combining knotting art with modern jewellery manufacturing methods.
She was not yet a jewellery designer, so she passed most of the knotting work to her students and set out to learn jewellery design. Accomplishing this turned out to be a great advantage for her jewellery company, which was very successful even when the global economy was suffering.
Personal and Company GrowthYue-Yo has been part of the jewellery design industry for about 20 years. In that time, her company has experienced several important development stages.
From 1993 to 1999, Yue-Yo Wang Creative Jewellery Design concentrated on promoting the design concept of “Chinese style” jewellery. They participated in many large international jewellery shows to attract international consumers and build the company image. From 2000-2005, Yue-Yo and her colleagues increased their participation in a variety of social works while further developing their jewellery design and manufacturing techniques.
Around 2005, she sensed the rapid development and huge potential of the mainland China jewellery market. She and her team headed west to explore this major market. So far, since then they have opened more than 10 stores all over mainland China, including their guild store, which opened in 2007 in Beijing. In 2008, Yue-Yo was asked by Beijing Shanyuan Jewellery Company to jointly design the Beijing Olympics souvenir crystal dragon stamp. This event gave her and her designs more public exposure and also made her more confident about the future of “Chinese style” jewellery.
In 2012, Yue-Yo turned another dream into reality by forming the Taiwan Creative Jewellery Design Association. She hopes that this organisation will attract more jewellery designers who focus on artistic jewellery design and would like to spread the Chinese culture to the rest of the world.
Jewellery Design Concepts and InspirationsA careful look at Yue-Yo’s design always reveals some traditional Chinese symbols and some elements from Chinese knotting art, like long tassels and thread patterns The main focus of her designs is to combine different symbols to create a scene or a story.
Yue-Yo’s designs are usually inspired by the stones in her hands. She believes that every gem has its own spirit and she is inspired to find it and express it to people. Since her main business is now high-end customised design for consumers, she pays a lot of attention to the quality of the gem materials and the manufacturing details of her jewellery. She employs her own jewellers, so it is very easy for her to work with them and pass along her ideas to them. Some of her jewellers have more than 30 years of experience in the industry.
Materials that she uses most commonly in her designs include opal, coral, jadeite, tourmaline and chalcedony. She likes coral the most, because coral is one of the three symbolic gems of Taiwan. Before, rough coral was often exported to Japan and other countries to be carved, so she felt that the Taiwanese did not take full advantage of their own gems.
She began to use coral in her knotting projects, attracting respect and appreciation from coral dealers. Then she found that the real high-quality corals are not fit for knotting because holes usually needed to be made. She now uses other high-quality material in her high-end design products.
Passing Skills to the Next GenerationYue-Yo Wang is not just a designer; she is also a great instructor. She enjoys talking to young people. At every jewellery show she participates in, she likes to talk to young students who want to be jewellery designers.
She still teaches knotting and jewellery design to young people (Fig.9). Many of her students started good careers after being trained and helped by her. In the future, she plans to work more on jewellery design education and the spread of Chinese culture, working through her own company and the organisation she formed.
Doctor Tao Hsu is the Technical Editor of Gems & Gemology (Gems & Gemmology). Andrew Lucas is Manager, Field Gemmology, for Content Strategy at GIA Carlsbad.
The authors would like to express appreciation for GIA Carlsbad’s support in sending us to China to observe the Changsha Mineral Show in May, 2013. If we hadn’t been there, we would not have had the chance to meet Yue-Yo Wang and interview her. Special thanks to Yue-Yo Wang and Mr. Zhong from Wang Yue-Yo Creative Jewellery Design for providing us with the nicely selected photos in this report.