Zihan Yang is a contemporary jeweler, whose jewelry creations are a medium that leads her on the path
to find who she is.
Zihan Yang is a contemporary jewelry artist who combines traditional metal with new techniques. She was born in Xi’an, China, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in industrial design at Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU) in China. She received an M.F.A. in jewelry at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She received the 2018 Women’s Jewelry Association Scholarship and the 2018 SCAD Jewelry Department Endowed Scholarship. Her work has been chosen and exhibited at the 2017 South Korea International Art & Design Exhibition: Makers Movement in 21th Century. Her skills brought her jewelry to various group exhibitions such as Enjoia’t Awards 2019, Disseny Hub Barcelona, Spain; Preziosa Young Award Showcase at Inhorgenta Munich 2020, Messe München. Her jewels have received numerous honors. Yang’s design challenges the organic structures and geometric forms of jewelry creation combining innovative concepts, techniques, and materials in order to create unique jewels designs.
This interview appeared first on Planet China Vol 11, Celebrating Women who push boundaries.
How did your love for jewelry design begin? What is your background in this field?
After I received my bachelor’s degree in industrial design at Xi’an, China, I received a Master of Fine Arts in jewelry at Savannah college of art and design in the United States. Now, I am pursuing my artistic career in the United States. I chose jewelry as a major for my master’s study before I know exactly what is it. It all begins with the unknown. I use almost the first year of school to catch up and fill up with the basic understanding of jewelry. Then, it seems like, at that point, I am on my way to develop my studio practice.
She creates signs through a silent language, which consists of the repetition of many small components. Her use of repetition creates a rhythm, that helps to create a sense of action within the artwork.
What are your favorite materials to use, and how do you work them?
Traditional metals are my favorite materials. I work with sterling silver, 18k yellow gold, and 23.5k yellow gold foil. Traditional techniques of hand fabrication combine with new techniques play important role in my creation process.
Your jewelry designs combine traditional metal with new techniques. What inspires your creativity when making a new piece of jewelry?
My work is driven by personal psychology and a fascination with the subconscious. The process of making echoes the process of self-examination.
What challenges do you face in your work? What has been the single most important jewelry-making skill you’ve learned?
I could not make all of the design happen. Skills and horizons limit my mind. The most important jewelry-making skill I have learned, I might say Patience. It is the basis of all the steps’ skills. Every step matters, because each small error will change the final result a lot. So every skills and step are important in this field. Patience is basic but important and hard.
The beauty of being human is not only facing the dark side of this inner world but more importantly how to bravely restrain and lock this darkness in the abyss.
Can you tell us through your design process? What is your favorite part about making and designing jewelry?
I enjoy the permutation of the small elements to build different organic forms and geometric structures. Throughout the creation process, I talk with my self-consciousness aim to create signs through a silent language, which consists of the repetition of many small components to express the beauty of the balance of human nature to be more dynamic and unique.
How would you describe your style of jewelry design, and what figure of women do you have in mind when you design jewelry?
I wish my pieces could be a bridge for audiences to begin the process of self-reflection. There was not a specific figure that I have in my mind during my creation. I talk with my self-consciousness during the creation. I might be the figure. Contemporary jewelry has the power to resonate with others. I do not only mean the beauty but the inner power of ourselves that chases you to become strong and brave. That what I would like to express.
Zihan Yang hopes her pieces to become a bridge for audiences to begin the process of self-reflection in order to face their fear of primal human nature.
Jewelry is seen as a way to express style, mood, and personality. What do you hope women could feel when watching your jewelry? How do you hope women feel when wearing them?
Any kind of feeling, or even no feeling at all. As everyone as an individual with different experiences and methods of seeing this world and things. Therefore, my feeling is mine based on my own life experiences. I hope my audiences have their own feeling, and then the resonate will be more deep and meaningful.
Yang’s work is driven by a personal psychology and a fascination with the subconscious. Her thesis practice focuses on her personal reflections and definitions of the darkness of human nature through traditional formal elements of jewelry.
What kind of jewelry designs do you prefer to make (rings, necklaces, bracelets, or brooches )? Why? Do you have memories related to them that make you more connected? Can you share with us the story behind it?
Brooches and rings are the two kinds I made more. I create the components first, then make it into a ring or a brooch, based on the feeling at that time while the elements in my hands. There is not a big difference for me to create what kinds of jewelry, it might changes later. It just needs to express my point of view as a medium.
What comes into creating sustainable jewelry? What direction do you think sustainable making is heading?
It is one of the ways to be eco-friendly. We have to be responsible for our environment. Every process of jewelry making should think about that. Sustainable material is the mainstream in contemporary art jewelry. Recycled metal and alternative materials were widely used in jewelry objects. Sustainable making is an important topic as always. It might be influenced by the stage of social development, but we have to work with to push it as normal, not just as a slogan.
The beauty of the balance of human nature through precious metals, simple colors, and vibrant forms become a more dynamic and unique geometric poetry.
Do you see any transformations towards sustainability? How can be found a balance between unique design and ethical material sourcing? Can you share with us your vision about this topic?
Yes, I do see that. It is happening in the whole field of art and design. While design, it should follow sustainability. The unique design should be based on the needs, the need is to use sustainable material to design. It should be the starting point for design and creation, but not an option for the final decision.
Photos courtesy of Zihan Yang