When Flowers Bloom, The Butterflies Will Come
Miao Chunqi

From the first moment I got to know this technique of filigree silver jewellery at school, I was attracted to the beauty and complexity of the process and I became obsessed with learning more. Maybe it was because when I was little I loved to draw designs and patterns and I guess I just couldn’t stop. Although my dream of becoming a painter didn’t happen, nevertheless every day I was fulfilled by quietly studying and making silver filigree jewellery. At the same time I explored other jewellery-making techniques and combined these with modern design sensibilities to attract a younger, more modern audience. We know that in China today more and more people are interested in their traditional culture and silver wire jewellery has very distinctive ethnic characteristics. The meaningful patterns employed include dragons, lotus, clouds, butterflies and birds and are pleasing to most people’s eyes. For me it takes a lot of time and effort to take a product from initial design, choosing materials, making moulds, cutting, welding, polishing and thence to final wash. But I think my enthusiasm and passion, combining Chinese elements with world fashion, means that my products appeal to more and more people and can be worn daily instead of lying cold in a museum display. That’s all I want.  

The silver filaments process, also known as filigree, never uses just one technique in its production, and in order to achieve the perfect artistic effect, the filaments may be further processed with jewels in a mosaic or joined into flower patterns and so on. Because this process demands fine workmanship, it has always been regarded as not only delicate, but also a Chinese luxury. In the past it could only be enjoyed by the Royal family and a privileged few, and could be seen as decoration, gift or display of luxury in the court. While ordinary people were also exposed to a number of works, these pieces did not use the dragon or phoenix theme.

In the 20th century, artists engaged in this work became fewer and fewer and many are old, so the craft is in danger of being lost. Perhaps because of the requirements to make gold, silver, copper and other precious metals into fine filaments, then after weaving, pinching, welding and a series of other complex processes, to match the final shape according to the designer's pattern, this is a very difficult process to learn. This can, however, be a motivator and a challenge to some young people to take on and master the difficulties . Miao Chunqi is one of them, even though she comes from an ordinary family in Shanghai. Her works are beautifully fine and delicate, displaying abundant emotion, but also with an aura of newness, in some ways quite different from the traditional Miao jewellery, being not so large, ornate, complex or heavy and much more suitable for everyday wear.

Chinese people say that “Buddha exists in your mind”, and this mood of a new generation of jewellery consumers not only values cultural values ​​and spiritual experience, but also uniqueness, and this uniqueness is essential for modern artists to pursue.

I use the wires I already prepared and wind them into the desired pattern to create my design. The wires have to be tight, flat, never loose.
The wires are filled into the pattern I have already made.
This is the most tedious part of the whole process.
I heat the wires to fuse them together. This is the most essential step.
Because the wires are so fine, joining them must be carefully watched to get the right temperature to ensure fusion. Sometimes complicated work can take a month or more to complete.
After I have welded the wires, I anneal, wash and finally polish the finished piece.

click on a gallery item below to enlarge


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