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Wen Miao

Originally from Hebei Province, Wen Miao is a young creative based in Beijing. She completed an undergraduate degree in crafts at Tsinghua University and went on to complete a postgraduate degree in jewellery design under Teng Fei at CAFA. After graduating with her Masters in 2010, Wen Miao has been working in various roles, ultimately researching design aesthetics and collaborating with other designers. We spoke with her recently to find out more.

How do you view your role in design?

I practice design, but I am not necessarily a designer. I feel like I have to learn more about the industry and how it works before I can contribute to and promote it. My aim was never to become well known, but to develop my own learning and to be part of a process.

How do you compare your design education experiences?

There were a lot more restrictions at Tsinghua – we had to follow certain rules and work within certain boundaries. The course was also quite technical. CAFA, on the other hand, is a lot more open-minded, experimental and conceptual. Both of the courses I took balanced each other out.

Tell us about some of your design work.
A lot of the jewellery pieces I created at CAFA were very conceptual. One project, for example, was based on the individual experience of life – how different experiences mark and impact us in different ways. To demonstrate this, I create a ring embedded in paper. To free the ring, the user has to set fire to the paper. “Life” is symbolised by the paper, and “life experience” by the fire. How the paper is lit yields different results, much like our experiences in life.

You Are Here was a class project: each student was provided with a number that corresponded to a location on a map. We were then instructed to visit that location and generate something in response. I ended up choosing a mosque. The piece I created featured two circles. The larger circle is made up of magazines – a fast-paced publication that I thought embodied “Beijing” quite well. The smaller circle, which features 7 pearls (a special number in Islam), fits into the void of the larger circle to illustrate the mosque’s relationship with Beijing. Coral and garnet were also used for this piece.

In 2009, I also visited Australia. For one of the projects I undertook there, I handed cubes of red wax to friends and people that I met. Over time, the wax softened and started to mould itself. When the wax pieces were returned, I cast moulds of the resulting shapes. Each was different and unique.

How have you used jewellery to explore the world around you?

In China, jewellery is usually used to indicate social status. It is very materials-based. One project I completed in 2010 looked at the most simple format of jewellery: a gold ring. I extracted 1g of gold from a ring, transformed it into gold foil and combined this with another material. It became a process of re-design. When does jewellery cease to exist as jewellery?

My thesis at CAFA also focused on industrial production. I looked at modern industrial design, our relationship with jewellery, as well as replication and production.

Why have you stopped designing more recently?
I don’t think I ever wanted to become a jewellery designer. This was just a good medium for me to express my ideas. I’m more concerned with broadening my mind via the conceptual.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently researching aesthetic philosophy and the directions in which the market is heading. I’m building on collaborations with other local designers and, generally, fulfilling my interest in the future of Chinese creativity.

With thanks to Lynn Zhang for assisting.