The art of jewelry making is considered a highly individualistic journey. It represents the unique vision of a person who finds absolute pleasure in creating nothing “ordinary” but only “exquisite” pieces of jewelry women love and often seek to own as per their sophisticated taste.
Then, the designs created by a renowned Hong Kong-based artisan jewelry designer Wallace Chan really stand out for that exceptionally high attribute whenever one comes across his work.
In an exclusive interview with EuropeanLife, we caught up with him to find out what lies beneath his mesmerizing fine jewelry, how it has shaped his life to date and much more.
Chan’s love of jewelry became apparent when he started learning the craft of gemstone carving at the age of 16. So, the first stone that he came in contact with was a piece of malachite known for its healing wonders. With this, his incredible journey with gemstones began. “My curiosity increased through time, and I started to explore the properties of different kinds of gems. Nurtured in the generosity of Mother Nature, gemstones tend to narrate stories of the universe’s past and present,” he says.
What makes Chan’s success story even more riveting is that he didn’t go to any prestigious design school because his family couldn’t afford a formal education. Even if he couldn’t and only spent a few years in school, he showed steely determination to change the circumstances in his favor.
“My study on Western sculptures began when I gathered my courage and entered a bookshop one day,” he says. “The first book that came my way was a book on Michelangelo’s sculptures. I was overwhelmed by the dramatic expressions of light and shadows, the tensions of muscles and the compelling contours.”
Moreover, what he discovered in them was way too different from the Chinese carvings he was familiar with. In order to know more about Western sculptures, he did the insanely impossible when he spent some nights sleeping in the cemetery just to observe the Western marble sculptures there.
By and large, he finds solace in the colors, crystal structures, textures and forms of gemstones as they reveal the invaluable relationship between humankind, nature and the universe. “Be it carving, sculpture or jewelry, gemstones are the best medium that I use to interpret life, express resonance and get in touch with the future. They inspire my creativity, from ideas and forms to craftsmanship and inventions. I like to embrace constant changes in my path,” he says. “The whole thing is an exciting journey for me as it pushes me to explore the various facets of the unknown.”
While there are so many established brands battling it out intensely to draw the customers toward their products, he doesn’t feel fazed by it. Rather he proudly supports the imminent competition and says, “I’m delighted that my works happen to draw a lot of people. That’s good to know. I find it greatly rewarding.”
According to Chan’s clear-cut insight, people who collect jewelry art pieces are cultivated persons highly knowledgeable in gemstones and jewelry. Artistic values and refined craftsmanship appeal to them immensely. They also prefer jewelry pieces that are unique. “From the way I see it, they aren’t confined by the so-called hyped traditions and trends, but they do feel engaged with pieces that contain stories and have deeper meaning,” he says. “In essence, each piece of mine is what it’s here for.”
Today he has such a big influence in the world of fine jewelry simply because of his one-of-a- kind technique “Wallace Cut” that is often talked about by the industry. It’s a carving technique which creates an illusion in transparent materials by combining medieval 360-degree intaglio into 3-dimension engraving. The resulting quintuple reflection unifies these features with precise calculation and angle casting and forms a 3-dimension and multi-line reflection. Chan achieved this milestone not in days or months. It took him eight years to master the technique constantly experimenting on titanium.
“I invented a gemstone-setting technique. In order to minimize the appearance of metal claws, this technique uses gemstones to function as claws. In simple words: Function is beauty. Titanium is light, hard, colorful and bio-friendly, but it’s also stubborn. It takes a long time to communicate with titanium so as to have it tamed the right way,” he says. “To be able to use titanium the way I wanted to has solved a lot of obstacles in jewelry making, thus expanding the canvas for my creativity, and it also allows me to create jewelry pieces that are ergonomically correct.”
His creations are designed and adorned with utmost detailing to make sure women wearing them feel on top of the world. This is when Chan tends to focus on visualizing a woman’s figure. “A jewelry piece should not only be wearable, but it should also be comfortable. This conviction frequently leads me to study the human figure and understand how the bones, muscles and skin work in tandem,” he says. “It’s not intuition, but a lot of hard work. But through constant practice you start to believe it’s intuitional. I try my best to make my pieces universal, so they aren’t confined by a particular body type, and they’re able to accommodate all.”
Always pushing the envelope to enhance a woman’s beauty, his muse can only be someone special — a cultivated and confident soul who is passionate about life and arts. Chan’s multiple works speak volumes about his engaging philosophy to be reckoned with at the international level and for that reason he is graciously invited by TEFAF (the world’s leading art fair) to show his collection there every year. “I feel really honored to be invited to participate at TEFAF. When art lovers of different cultural backgrounds gather here, it’s not just cultural exchanges that take place but also I get a chance to establish mind-to-mind connection with different individuals. I take this in my stride as a process of art practice,” he says.
It comes as no surprise that all his pieces are inspired by his experiences from different periods of his life journey, including his reflection on the mysteries of life.
While Asian jewelry especially from India and China is the most sought-after style in the world and it has had great influence on the West, inspiring jewelry creators who traveled far into the East and studied the history of the East, it would be wrong to say that there is one culture more unique than another culture as he puts it, “Today, the world is so globalized that cultures inspire and borrow from one another, creating an environment where soon it may not even be necessary to distinguish jewelry pieces geographically anymore.”
However, Chan takes pride in ancient Asia jewelry as it tells us about the emotional functions of gemstones. All these materials have become a source of inspiration today. “In the Middle Eastern culture jewelry commands a lot of respect and because of it I’m always fascinated by the colorful stories emanating from this region as a whole,” Chan says.
He has certainly blown everybody away with his latest creation titled “Fish’s Whisper” which is shaped in the form of a bangle. To bring it to life, he used intaglio to carve two pairs of fish on the inside of the crystal, following the curve of the bangle. One gets an illusion of the fishes as if they’re looking out at us from a bowl.
“The world they see and the world we see are both twisted and we take each of our versions of the twisted world as reality. Nothing is real, and nothing is unreal. Everything is a matter of perception,” Chan says. “But I feel that it’s a bit heartrending for the fish to live in a bowl, so I created jeweled corals for them; where they’re contented in their own universe.”
Although women lust after his remarkable jewelry, many collectors of his great work are men too and they’ve been wearing his jewelry with fervor for quite some time. “Whenever they wear the designed pieces of mine, they appreciate the pieces’ sculptural, carving or other qualities,” he says. “Many of my collectors are not celebrities. I look for collectors who appreciate the spirit of my works. We need to share the same vision. Resonance is the key word in our friendship.”
As the world gets hooked on his breathtaking jewels and art installations, Chan’s plans are to have more exhibitions in the future so that he can bring his works to a wider public and promote the spiritual values of jewelry art.
It’s no wonder why his night time appears to be so enigmatic. “Every night when I go to bed I imagine myself going through rebirth, and when morning comes I’m a newborn again, curious about everything I see or sense. I’m constantly inspired and I absorb like a sponge,” he says.