"A rising star" is the phrase already used to describe Isabella Liu, the award winning China-raised, London-based artist and jewellery designer. Still young and fresh on the jewellery design scene but already winning awards from Italy, Spain, and from the prestigious 2015 Goldsmiths' Craftsmanship & Design Awards (amongst others), it is no wonder that Liu is currently busy giving talks at The Golden Pin Design Awards in Beijing as an industry leader, or that she is set to display her work at the BMW Henley Festival starting on the 8th of July.
I got together with Liu to find out more about her work, inspirations, and the future for herself and other Chinese designers.
Asked about her award winning works -- Party! Party! Party, Scar is no more a scar, and Mending -- which won gold and silver awards at the prestigious Goldsmiths' Craftsmanship & Design Awards (March 2015) -- Liu describes the works as being conceptual, fashionable, and having an artistic connection with her own history. Shy and self-conscious from a fireworks injury when she was only 12 years old, Liu has learnt over the years and through personal growth that there is beauty in broken but confident people and in mended objects. Her scars may have mended, but they still inspire a philosophy that she puts into her designs.
"Scar is no more a scar," a lustrous silver set with layers of silk ranging from vivid reds to dark purples, won Liu awards. The pieces are inspired by her own scars from that unfortunate fireworks incident, yet are confidently beautiful and fashionable, a reflection of how Liu likes to think of her inner self.
Growing out of the notion of broken but beautiful, Liu's recent award winning series -- Mending -- marries the Chinese and Japanese art of kintsugi (broken pottery mended with molten gold) by bringing together imitation broken pottery and wearable gold jewellery that is functional, conceptual, and works as a gallery piece when not being worn.
Liu's popularity comes from the modern look and simplicity of her designs. As a Chinese person, there are aspects of the orient in some of her works, but they largely owe themselves to personal and researched ideas of aesthetics and less to rehashed China and orient-inspired works.
Using old cultural images and art forms doesn't necessarily equal something that the majority admire. Certainly there is a market for such things, but young modern people want unique and bespoke looks.
"Unique and bespoke is a trend that is also becoming more prevalent for Chinese people looking for high-end jewellery," Liu concluded, but highlighted that cultural and artistic awareness is not a one way street.
It is true that large luxury brands have made mistakes in China with Chinese-themed designs. A large UK fashion house released a scarf in a Chinese fashion designed for Chinese people, yet the scarf was largely ridiculed.
In our conversation we touch on the topic of where it is best for a Chinese person to be when they are involved in design. Is it better to be in London or perhaps in Beijing or Shanghai?
Liu said that there have been generations of modern jewellery designers coming out of Europe, New York and even Tokyo. Beijing and Shanghai have their benefits but London is better for connecting with the international community.
This answer led to the question of whether or not Chinese designers are moving forward in global design. The answer was yes and no.
Liu's work may have Chinese features but they are not overt, and are distinctive to her, whereas some Chinese designers stick to old tropes and old tried designs.
Liu talked of "language" in her works. What is or was highly prized in China does not translate to something that can gain global appreciation.
Liu's works, those spoken about above, and her earlier works, have brought her closer to the international world as a mouthpiece between aspiring Chinese artists and designers, and the London and European markets.
Liu is due to give a speech on the subject in Beijing before coming back to the UK and exhibiting her pieces at the Henley Festival where she has been invited by Reading Ever Culture Company to bring together other Chinese artists and designers with the UK and Western worlds.
Liu will be exhibiting "Mending" and other works at the Henley Festival from July 8 to 12.