Isabella Liu is a Chinese-born, UK-educated jewellery designer and artist, who has achieved extraordinary success for her youth.In July, Ever Culture – a UK based company that represents Chinese artists – invited Liu to the prestigious Henley Festival of Music and Arts, seeing in her a figure who could connect British and Chinese culture. Each year, the festival brings music and culture to the English town of Henley; its organisers work closely with artists and creative thinkers from all over the world.
Liu’s artworks had a great reception from the crowd at the festival, including Luxury Chanel founder Fiona Sanderson and Burberry COO Operating Officer John Smith, who even bought some of the jewellery for his his wife, Carrie Ferman. She described the purchased piece as absolutely beautiful, adding, "I take much pride in wearing what only can be described as a true work of art."
We spoke to Isabella Liu about her jewellery design, her new collection 'Scar is No More a Scar II', and how successfully Chinese culture interfaces with British culture.
What inspired the name of your new collection and what message does it send to women?
The original collection, ‘Scar is No More a Scar’, was inspired by a dramatic and unforgettable event in my life, which has been marked deeply in both my memory and my body.
When I was 12 years old, I was seriously burned by a powerful firework, and the injury left a very embarrassing scar. When I tried to cover it with a tattoo, I was warned that it would be worse to cover the scar. Everyone has their scars, both physical and mental: the best solution is to learn how to face and overcome them, rather than covering them up or trying to run away.
As such, I want to express this dramatic pain in a beautiful way. I hope people who wear my jewellery feel stronger and more positive because of it.
Your mentor, Gordon Hamme from the British Jewellers’ Association, says he has “rarely met such an ambitious young lady, with such a strong vision to bring together the best of British design and Chinese heritage through art cultural management.” Do you agree with his opinion?
I agree, and I take it as a great honour. I think that he thinks I am exceptional because he sees my difference from others.
My pieces have been described as true works of art, which blur the boundaries between not only jewellery and sculpture, but also craftsmanship and design. They are conceptual and unique pieces with both artistic and commercial value. Besides, I have put much effort into taking care of the industry by doing intellectual research and actively engaging with my peers.
As you know, it is not easy working in London’s highly competitive design and fashion industry, especially as a foreigner. I am very blessed to be recognised by both the British Jewellery Association and Goldsmiths Craftsmanship and Design Council. What I really appreciate is that the people in the jewellery industry not only see my talents as a jewellery designer and artist, but also pass strength and love on to me.
What I have always promoted in the arts and culture industries is culture collaboration. Art is universal, and it knows no borders. People can appreciate the art of many different cultures, races, and backgrounds, as long as it is a good design.
Especially nowadays: digitalisation and globalisation make communication much easier. Great understanding and collaborations can occur through arts and culture exchange. So I think it is definitely possible to bring two different cultures together; it is a merely matter of content and presentation.
The Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite TV has chosen you to be the subject of a documentary. What is the documentary about?
It's celebrating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and the European Union, which cover over 80 issues, including areas of policy, economics, healthcare, arts and culture, and so on. Each episode will feature one person who has been recognised in their field, and tell their stories of being influenced by both the European and Chinese cultures and living environments. This is intended to reflect the meaning of China-EU connections and collaborations.
I was invited by Phoenix television to present as the arts representative, as they have noticed my active engagement with both the European and Chinese cultures as a designer and artist since 2012.
My episode is going to be shot in London over one week. It will draw on stories and details from different angles to talk about the ways in which my creativity has been nurtured in both the UK and China, and will interview people in the industry who have been very supportive of my career, and will also visit some arts institutions which have been important to my development. I am very happy with the concept.