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Jewelry designer lights up London with filigree inlay pieces

By XING YI in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-15 06:33
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Zou Xuewen (on right) poses for a photo with participants at a workshop on Chinese jewelry techniques in London in 2023. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In the video, Zhao, whose teachers inherited the technique from the Qing court's jewelry studio, reflected his career such as his participation in making national jewelry presents in the 1990s and creating jewelry props for films.

"I was so impressed by the artisan spirit of the masters in passing on the centuries-old technique and wanted to study filigree inlay with him," said Zou, adding that through several connections she finally got in contact with Zhao who was very pleased with her determination and agreed to take her as an apprentice in 2019.

Zou then suspended her study in London and went back to Beijing to learn the filigree inlay technique.

"But the technique was much harder to learn than I imagined. I started from making the gold thread, which is so thin that a small mistake in soldering could ruin one week's work," recalled Zou.

Zou achieved the status of intangible heritage inheritor of the filigree inlay technique in 2022 with the first of her major works — a set of filigree inlay jewelry called Fang Fei Ji, including a ring, a bracelet and a necklace, which draws inspiration from the traditional Chinese motif of flower and butterfly.

The jewelry piece participated in the London Design Festival in 2022 and Milan Fashion Week in 2023, during which Zou's jewelry garnered the interest of many people in the exhibition, and she then opened a workshop providing courses and experience in jewelry-making for the public at the workspace for creative entrepreneurs at Hotel Elephant in London.

"After five years of studying this technique, I still dare not say that I have mastered it," she said. "I remain a humble student in this trade but I want to introduce this ancient technique to today's people."

To make the ancient skill more accessible to modern tastes, Zou incorporates modern designs and techniques into her workshops, teaching customers enamel and lacquer bead jewelry techniques. During the past two years, she has taught more than 100 individuals and delivered lectures on various occasions.

"The art of jewelry embodies the aesthetics and values of a nation, and filigree inlay technique reflects the meticulous and inclusive nature of Chinese people," said Zou.

She also highlighted the importance of cross-cultural exchange, noting how exhibitions in London exposed her to concepts and designs from other nations.

"The heritage of one nation can be appreciated by the world," Zou said. "With the continuous efforts of our overseas Chinese artists, the traditional filigree inlay technique will cast its unique light onto the world."

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