Do you remember those Pin Art executive toys that were all the rage in the 80s? I confess I don’t really, or at least, not from their heyday. I discovered the odd curios that survived purges, languishing forgotten amidst forests of photo frames.
Do you remember that tingly delight as you pushed your hand against the pins? The fascination as everything moved, creating a perfect imprint of whatever you pushed up to it?
Imagine wearing something that responsive. Imagine the feeling as each individual pin or – in this case – bead rippled with your movement, with the shape of your collarbone, the twist of your head. This was my first, unforgettable experience with Wanshu Li’s jewellery.
Did I mention that it glows under UV light?
The launch of Craft Design House coincided with the launch of an exhibition that celebrated innovative craft and design in Scotland. The exhibition followed a competition that encouraged designer makers to challenge themselves with their practice.
Wanshu Li took part in this exhibition, and her collection included some incredible pieces, but her showstopper was a green collar. I couldn’t resist holding it in my hands and watching each link and bead undulate. I had never seen anything like it.
Moving Art on the Body
Wanshu, a recent graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art and artist in residence envisages her work as ‘moving art on the body.’
‘I would like to provide wearers with a live and intimate wearing experience for the body.’
Wanshu’s jewellery is intended as a ‘multi-sensory experience’ involving touch, sound and vision. Her unique work is characterised by the free movement of every single bead, painstakingly painted and attached individually. Her jewellery creates gentle sounds as it is moved. Each piece and each bead of each piece develop a luxuriously sensorial relationship with the wearer as they plays uniquely upon the skin.
From China to Edinburgh
Wanshu Li is originally from the town of Harbin in northeast China. It was there that she first displayed her creative flair and attended her first jewellery workshop. Wanshu went on to study Jewellery and Silversmithing at the Beijing University of Technology. Eventually, she arrived in Edinburgh to pursue postgraduate study at the ECA.
‘For me, [living in Edinburgh] was the first time that I lived and studied in a foreign country for such a long time…I found myself becoming more independent, confident and open-minded especially in developing my work. In order to find more inspiration, I often go to museums, galleries, and travel around Europe.’
Edinburgh appealed to Wanshu for its artistic atmosphere and cultural diversity and inclusiveness, but travelling in general is vital to her work. She actively seeks out new cultures and perspectives and relishes the fresh sources of inspiration that she gains from travel.
Exploring and pushing her materials is Wanshu’s favourite stage of her jewellery-making process. Her graduate collections led her to experiment with UV light and fluorescent materials. Her aim was to capture the essence of ‘free-swimming marine animals such as jellyfish or coral, which are soft, light, and glowing with characteristic amazing colours.’ Wanshu’s focus on these creatures made her determined to combine a sense of movement and light in her work.
In the future, Wanshu Li hopes to collaborate with fashion designers, lighting designers and dancers. She wants to continue pushing her work and challenging her practice in different ways.
We can’t wait to see what she will come up with next!