A Shining Talent Beyond Her Years

ByXing Yi November 30, 2020

Jewelry artisans in Shanghai who have gained widespread recognition are usually veterans of the industry who have been honing their craft for decades.

Most of them can be considered senior citizens, with the exception of Huang Wen, the chief designer and deputy director of the design center at Lao Feng Xiang, a 172-year-old jewelry company in Shanghai.

Though she is only 42, the talented artisan has a prolific record that even her older peers would be envious of — she has won awards in contests organized at city-level or above almost every year since 1997.

Huang has won awards abroad as well, including those from the World Gold Council.

In 2015, Huang became the youngest person to be conferred the title of Shanghai Crafts and Artisan Master.

Born to an artist family, Huang learned traditional Chinese painting from her father, who worked at Shanghai Film Studio, before studying jewelry making at Huangshan Art Vocational School.

"I had to learn how to use the hammer, file and welder to make various shapes of jewelry out of raw materials," she recalls.

"It was a very tough three years for a girl. But it allowed me to understand the whole process of making jewelry. It was very helpful when I became a designer."

After joining Lao Feng Xiang in 1996, Huang worked as an apprentice to Zhang Xinyi, a national master for gold and silver smithing.

"There were many old masters in Lao Feng Xiang like Zhang, and they have taught me the traditional design and craft," she says.

But Huang was also eager to learn about new technologies, which she says has been crucial in her journey to success.

In 1999, she became one of the first in China to use the computer to create designs. In 2008, she helped open the 3D printing lab at the company's design center. The center now has 45 designers and more than 400 patents.

"I encourage young designers to try out their ideas," Huang says, adding that a necklace with an emoji pendant that was designed by a junior designer has become quite popular.

"I always ask them to design jewelry that they would like to wear themselves," she says.

In her 24 years of working at Lao Feng Xiang, Huang has designed many souvenirs, including the commemorative envelope for the 60th anniversary of the Long March, the brooch for the 2001 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, and the medal for the 2010 World Expo.

One of her all-time favorites is a brooch called "Wings of the Angel." The wings in this brooch are shaped like the petals of magnolia, the flower of Shanghai, and 12 diamonds are embedded on the platinum wings.

A total of 1,650 pieces were commissioned, with all but one presented as gifts to members of the Shanghai medical team who were dispatched to aid Wuhan, Hubei Province, in February when the city was hit by COVID-19.

The last piece can be found at the Shanghai History Museum, as an exhibit that commemorates the city's fight against the viral outbreak.

"The heart of the medics is like the angel and their grit is as hard as the diamond. Only they deserve to wear the brooch," says Huang, who led a team of 40 designers in producing 101 drafts of the design.

The arduous design process behind this particular brooch would normally take at least a month. Huang and her team took just a few days.

"Such works make me realize the meaning of my job as a jewelry designer — it is to spread the true, the good and the beautiful through the best materials and the best designs," she says.


(Source: China Daily)


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