Yue completed her undergraduate studies in Metal Arts at the Tsinghua Academy of Fine Arts and graduated from the Royal College of Art with a master's degree in Jewellery and Metal. Currently, her main profession is as a university professor in metal craftsmanship. She seeks to find the balance between art and commerce, continually contemplating the relationship between the market and personal expression in her creative process.
The Birth of Sphinxy: A Tale of Inspiration
Sphinxy draws its inspiration from the Greek mythological creature, the Sphinx, which represents riddles and the unknown. "xy" is an abbreviation of Yue's full name. Art jewellery design serves as a balance between her life and work since her primary profession is as a university professor. The winter and summer breaks provide her with concentrated creative time to focus on designing her pieces.
Sphinxy created the prototype for the first collection in 2018 and officially established the brand in 2019. At the outset of the brand's creation, commercial value wasn't the primary consideration. Yue primarily used it as an experimental platform to explore 3D printing technology. Her initial intent was to experiment with the application of sculptural language in body adornment and continuously attempt to integrate the narrative significance of jewellery with its decorative function.
Since then, she has gradually designed products for four different collections. Although the pace of product line updates might be slightly slower compared to other fashion brands, each collection is the result of Yue's individual creation, experimentation, prototyping, and careful selection.
Challenges in the Homeland
For Yue, perhaps the biggest challenge is the relatively low acceptance of 3D printing technology in the domestic market for jewellery compared to traditional methods. The level of recognition of design’s value is also not very high. Such a market environment pushes the brand to undertake innovative endeavours, which are both enjoyable and challenging, as they strive to navigate this landscape.
Inspirations and Innovation
"Moderate attempts at breakthrough" is Yue's principle in commercial design. Being too flashy can easily deviate from the brand's original intention of designing for young people and lead to fast-food-style design. Her ideas stem from conversations with friends, changes in her living environment, or simply from the beauty of decorative design.
Yue has always been keen on experimenting the way jewellery is worn. The transparent long ring from the Diamond Fossil collection was initially handmade using wax casting in silver, but it lacked the desired lightness and fluidity. Later, the material was switched to transparent resin, which, although increased the risk of breakage, after numerous adjustments, eventually achieved a more ideal result.
Similarly, the three-finger ring from the Medusa collection's, was also originally design to be handmade wax carving. To improve wearability for commercial purposes, it was crafted from pure silver with a surface electroplated with white gold. Pure silver is relatively soft, allowing the ring to have some adjustability.
The Enchanting "Whispering Grove" Collection
The jewellery pieces in the "Whispering Grove" collection blend the reverence of traditional Chinese culture with the aspirations of modern individuals. The designer's intention was to provide a tranquil space for contemporary people amidst the bustling urban life, as if being immersed in a bamboo grove. Drawing inspiration from the grace of ink bamboo and whispering bamboo, the jewellery creates a sense of carrying a personal sanctuary through the interplay of light and shadows.
The design of the jewellery is inspired by the latticed windows of traditional gardens, with a hollowed-out pattern in the centre. It showcases a blurred and abstract representation of a bamboo grove using semi-transparent resin. This design approach not only retains the mysterious essence of bamboo but also imparts a romantic and serene atmosphere to the jewellery.
The change in the new season lies in a greater emphasis on combining handcrafted materials. The new season is leaning more towards balancing the creation of art jewellery and commercial jewellery. The designer hopes that slightly more extravagant jewellery can also be liked and accepted by the public. With Chinese elements and handmade craftsmanship, the designs aim to embody the spirit of Chinese literati.
Yue hopes that the brand can continue to explore and innovate itself continuously, and to have some cross-disciplinary collaboration attempts. Her focus is on craftsmanship, installations, and artistic creations, and the brand has always maintained an open stance, aspiring to undertake more playful and experimental endeavours.
Crafting with Resin: A New Artistic Endeavour
For this season, one side of the resin has a frosted texture. The designer has applied the same brushing and polishing techniques on metal surface to the resin. She used sandpaper to uniformly create a brushed effect on the resin's surface, giving it a hazy and even appearance. Yue has been working with resin for about four to five years now, and she has a deeper understanding of the material's characteristics. During the creative process, she tries to design in a way that mitigates some of the material's flaws.
A significant concern for her is that as 3D printing technology continues to improve and develop, fake products are appearing in the market at an increasingly rapid rate, which could pose challenges for the brand. However, while shapes can be replicated, craftsmanship and texture cannot. This is a major reason why Yue insists on handcrafting and pays great attention to details.
Three Words to Describe Sphinxy
Experimental, Narrative, Sculptural