As part of our ongoing series dedicated to fine jewellery , CPP-LUXURY has recently interviewed Wallace Chan the now legendary high jewellery designer who prides himself as being an ARTIST.
How did your company perform in 2018 and what are your expectations for 2019? (no financials!)
2018 was a special year. In 2018, I launched The Wallace Chan Porcelain, a material five times harder than steel, which is the result of a seven-year long experiment. I am most grateful for The New York Times for covering the story of the innovation, which is later followed up by CNN and The Economist. The first official launch of The Wallace Chan Porcelain was held in November 2018 at The Crosby Hotel in New York. After the launch, I spent the rest of the year preparing for my exhibition in January 2019 at Christie’s Gallery in Hong Kong. 2018 was a great year that led to an exciting start in 2019.
The exhibition at Christie’s Gallery is followed by my fourth consecutive year exhibiting at TEFAF Maastricht. This year, our focus is more on the promotion and education of jewellery art, culture and creativity. So naturally, there will be lectures and exhibitions.
The exhibition (SHAPESHIFTER: The Multiverse of Wallace Chan) was a non-selling exhibition. Most of the pieces on view were loans from my collectors. It is highly important for me to be able to borrow back pieces from my collectors for photography, book-making and exhibitions, and so most of my collectors are also my friends. But of course, jewellery and art lovers are welcomed to visit me at TEFAF Maastricht to share with me their thoughts. I enjoy exchanging ideas with people from different cultural backgrounds when opportunities arise because I do spend most of my days in my workshop when I am not exhibiting my works.
I create to fulfil my responsibilities for history. Trends come and go and it is difficult for me to keep up with trends – they move too fast. Time is all I need. If a piece or an innovation has to take a decade to be realised, so be it. My approach to creation and innovation is always to experiment a lot and fail even more.
Many of my collectors are experts on gemstones and jewellery. They were not satisfied with what they could find in the market, so they came to me with the gemstones they collected. It also explains why I got to work with some of the rarest gemstones. To complete the being of such great materials, I must only give the best of my craftsmanship and creativity, and always strive for higher excellence.
I do not think I have a brand. But it would be extremely difficult for an artist to survive without collectors.
Gemstones are inertly valuable, and many of these gemstones I worked on already belonged to my collectors. They came to me not for investment on the stones, but for collecting culture, aesthetics, craftsmanship, history, love, memories and the future. As a creator, those are my focuses. To convey such ideas, it is always important for me to innovate my tools, materials, techniques and visions. Each piece of my creation is also unique.
Social media, for example, Instagram and Wechat, is a great way to connect with people who enjoy my work. But my creations have to be touched and felt in person. In a world that is moving so fast, people are overloaded with information every single day. They may feel that they have already experienced or known a piece just by seeing its photos or reading about it on social media. But jewellery is supposed to share an intimate relationship with the human body, without holding it in their hands or wearing it on their bodies, the experience is not complete. What we can see or read on social media is often far from reality.
I only have a gallery in Hong Kong where people can visit by private appointments. I do not have a marketing strategy. I visit where my work is welcomed and appreciated.
My collectors are my friends, people from different parts of the world, who I share resonance with
Are you considering diversifying / expanding into watches?
Diversity is key to my creative journey. I started as a caver, a sculptor and a painter. Today, I specialise in jewellery art, large-scale contemporary sculptures, material innovation and more. I have always been interested in watchmaking – I did create a pair of jadeite watches some years ago. I believe in cross-disciplinary creativity. We should not confine ourselves in roles pre-set by the norms of the world.
At 17, Wallace Chan founded his gemstone carving workshop in 1974. In 1987, he invented the renowned illusionary carving technique “Wallace Cut”. After 8 years of research, he mastered titanium to create ethereal jewelry pieces then released the technology into the public domain. His innovation introduced titanium into the world of high jewelry to shape a new direction for modern jewelry making.
He is the first Asian jewelry artist to exhibit at TEFAF, London Masterpiece, and Biennale des Antiquaires. He was invited to deliver talks at Harvard University, Central Saint Martins, the V&A Museum, and the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Recognized as a top jewelry artist and innovator, he is featured extensively in international media. His one-of-a-kind creations are philosophical and carry messages of the past to become the heritage of the future.
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