Creating a New Collection: The work of Laura Ngyou
From the desk of Roz Eberhard, Director and Curator at Eclectic Artisans.
CREATING A NEW COLLECTION……a conversation with designer-maker Laura Ngyou into what inspired her current collection: ‘Molten’.
EA. Your new collection, ‘Molten’ is wonderfully organic in nature, where did the idea come from to create this new body of work.
A lot of my work is process led. I am continually experimenting and playing with materials. ‘Molten’ really began when I was teaching a class on casting metal. We were creating silver form through the famous technique of pouring metal into cuttlefish shells. It had just been snowing the night before and some of the students wanted to pour metal into buckets of snow to see what they could make. The results were fascinating and I couldn’t resist experimenting too. I am obsessed with natural curios and found object - so took the technique further pouring metal into various organic material I had collected from my travels in rural Wales, Scotland and the jungle in Borneo. The process was very satisfying and addictive!
EA. Being so organic, do you have a specific design in mind when you start, or do you allow the metals to form in their own way and then see what you can make of them?
I think it is a bit of both really. I do love the random nature of the process which creates such a multitude of varied and abstract forms. I tend to sift through the forms painstakingly selecting ones that stand out for me. Sometimes I will keep them as they are, but more often than not I will manipulate them, cut them up and solder elements together. I don’t really have a design in mind at this stage - in a way it is a bit like abstract painting or sculpture with metal. I think of each piece as a composition. The selection of gemstones to use with these forms is a key part of this process. Sometimes, the composition of a piece will start with a gemstone, which I will build the metal around.
EA. What is your favourite technique or material to work with?
I really enjoy recycling metal and creating something special from what is essentially scrap. Silver or gold odds and ends that have been cut off after making a piece, or dust that I have collected from filing. I also often get given old family jewellery from clients that has huge sentimental value. The client will ask me to make a new piece using this metal. It is really heart warming and satisfying to create jewellery that has such deep meaning and value to someone - something that could become a future heirloom. As well as this I enjoy the long process of melting the metal down and scrupulously rolling or drawing it into the required gauge of sheet or wire. It is very rewarding and in a way quite meditative.
EA. Do you ever feel that you need to follow trends when creating a collection?
Trends are not really something that come into my thought process when designing a collection. It is more about what forms, colour and texture combinations appeal to me at the time. However, undoubtedly seeing things in everyday fashion and the jewellery world must have a subconscious effect on my work. Like a lot of the natural forms that inspire my work, I never work directly from them. Things tend to filter into my designs from memory and imagination over a period of time.
EA. What is your favourite gem?
It is very hard to
choose just one ! I am always on the lookout for gems that are unusual,
especially in terms of form and the way in which they naturally occur and grow.
It would have to be opal with diamond and sapphire being very close because I
love the myriad colours and formations these stones are discovered in. I
think in another life I would have been a geologist/gemologist.
EA. What was
the biggest risk you ever took with a design?
As someone who likes to experiment I think I take risks all the time with designs. I like to push materials to the limit to see how they will behave. Often my work is very intricate and ornate, sometimes requiring a large number of solder joints on a single piece. For example, in a sculptural piece I made recently called ‘Study of an Epiphyte Reef on a ring’ there were so many elements, settings, different gemstones, gold and silver components that there were over 50 solder joints! It was important to try to think through the making process methodically in order to not accidentally destroy existing solder joints by soldering something else on. I also like to experiment with metal finishes frequently using keum boo, the ancient Korean technique of fusing 24ct gold to silver. This involves a long process of heating and cleaning the metal repeatedly in order to create a top-layer of pure silver on which the gold can fuse to. However, the gold and obviously most gemstones can be destroyed by strong heat from soldering so there were many design constraints which shaped this particular piece, whereas the process for me usually is more organic and serendipitous.
EA. What is your favourite piece in this collection?
I would have to say it was the piece I mentioned previously ‘Study of an Epiphyte Reef on a ring’, I feel it embodies everything that inspires me, miniature worlds found within natural landscapes, natural curios, rock formations, flora and fauna. It looks very different depending on which way you look at it. From the top it resembles a coral reef or psychedelic landscape full of exotic fungi and lichen,but when turned upside down it reminds me of cave structures, stalagtites, stalagmites and hidden treasures that might be found within.
EA. Do you create a new collection annually? Or when you feel it is ‘time’.
I don’t really have set
times for when I create collections. I tend to create whenever I feel inspired.
For me collections begin with a key piece and grow and evolve from here. I feel
the ‘Molten’ collection has a lot of longevity in it because the elements that
are created by the process are so varied and unique. It is rare for me to
decide to discontinue a collection unless it is for a practical reason. I tend
to revisit previously worked aesthetics and processes, adding to older
collections from time to time.
EA. How do you judge if a collection has been
I tend to listen quite closely to customer feedback. I am lucky enough to meet many of my customers face to face, so I hear about what they especially like about a piece. Through bespoke commissions I also get a feel for what clients like.
EA. Have you already started thinking about the next collection you will produce?
I have indeed! I recently began organising many of the natural objects that I have collected on my travels, displaying them alongside many of the metal samples I have created throughout the years. I became so engrossed in composing groups of elements in the same way I do with each piece of jewellery I make, so I have decided to create a series of wall pieces. The idea is still in its early stages, however, I am quite excited to combine wearable, removable jewellery pieces with mixed media non-precious material and found objects. I have already begun creating a collection of multi-functional boxes, where the lids can become pieces of jewellery, pendants or brooches and find it rewarding to make work that people can interact with in more than one way.
EA. Who do you think your jewellery appeals to the most?
I believe my pieces
appeal to those who are looking for something unique which as well as behaving
as a beautiful item of jewellery is also something to contemplate on, something
that you will discover something new about each time you look at it. Many are
attracted to the unusual gemstone specimens I like to use and the way these are
combined with abstract forms within the precious metals. With the Molten
collection, people often comment on being able to see lots of different things
in the elements used, for example a ballet dancer, icicles and faces. It’s
interesting to see what people make of them, appealing mostly perhaps to those
who admire work inspired by nature, the ambiguous and the intriguing!