Interview with Ho Ching Chan
Winner of the 14th Annual L.A. Pai National Jewellery Student Competition
By: Emma Piirtoniemi
Ho Ching Chan, a recent graduate of NSCAD University’s Jewellery Design and Metalsmithing programme, was named the winner of L.A. Pai Gallery’s 14th Annual Jewellery Student Competition in Ottawa, Ontario. Her winning body of work entitled “Tangible Thoughts” is a sensitive and articulate expression of her emotional process, made physical through carved wood forms, lyrical silver elements, and the occasional glimpse of gemstone. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, BC, Wendy’s experience in the jewellery field includes receiving her Art and Jewellery Design Diploma at Vancouver Community College, working as a jeweller, G.I.A. certified diamond grader, goldsmith, and recently finishing her BFA in 2017 at NSCAD University. Wendy has relocated to her hometown since graduating, where she continues to work in the field and is developing her art jewellery practice as a maker and curator.
What does the recognition of winning the L.A. Pai competition mean to you?
Winning the L.A. Pai competition validates the hard work and time I’ve dedicated to the artwork. This experience motivates me to continue making art jewellery, and gives me the confidence to follow my own vision.
Describe your practice and approach to art jewellery.
My practice in art jewellery is meditative, following my intuition and trusting the end vision as a piece is formed. Wearability and craftsmanship are also key components to my designs to ensure my pieces can be worn on a daily basis. My overall approach is an unscripted process spurred by spontaneity in which I can unravel my thoughts and create something new.
You have had a wide range of training and experience in the jewellery world. What brought you and your work to the place it is now?
I am blessed to come from a line of jewellers who have been in the business for over 40 years. My parents are my major source of influence and guidance, who have helped mould me into who I am today as a jeweller. Moreover, former employers and mentors and the opportunities they most graciously offered have helped lead me to Vancouver Community College and NSCAD University. My experiences and refined skills acquired as a jeweller, diamond grader and goldsmith have been extremely valuable in forming my current work.These former positions have challenged my creativity and perseverance at times, and I am truly thankful for the knowledge, kindness and generosity they have bestowed upon me.
Describe the body of work that was shown at L.A. Pai. What is the inspiration/concept behind it?
The body of work shown at L.A. Pai Gallery is called Tangible Thoughts. This work consists of personal emotions conveyed through the wood I carve. During the initial process in exploration, I was reflecting on previous experiences, most of which I admit weren’t all that positive. Through the reductive carving process, every etch into the wood was a manner of release for my repressed emotions, just like how a guitarist finds relief from a strum of a chord or a painter from the heavy stroke of a brush. I guess you can say these pieces allowed me to find my own solace.
What is behind your choice of materials, namely wood?
I stumbled across wood by chance in an elective class [at NSCAD] called Material Matters, taught by Despo Sophocleous. Before this, the thought of incorporating alternative materials other than traditional metal making techniques never really occurred to me. Through this exploration, I’ve discovered the preciousness and diversity of wood in its weight, grain lines, colour and even scent. Working with this medium is a very inviting process and tantalizes the senses. As well, using wood challenges me to approach different ways of thinking and constructing.
The inclusion of metal and/or stone in your pieces is done so very sensitively. The addition of the moonstone in Wanderlust necklace is a particularly moving element. Can you speak to the thought behind these details?
Through the initial stages, I felt frustrated and lost. This piece depicts the maze of feelings I was experiencing. The moonstone placement is intended to symbolize guidance and the light it sheds to help navigate through life’s many struggles.
Is there a specific piece that you’ve made, which you feel best represents you as an artist? Why that piece?
“In Between” would be the piece that best represents myself as an artist. This piece best showcases my blended interest in traditional and contemporary jewellery elements. To achieve this merge of contrasting elements, I ground a lip for the agate so that the bezel setting would not be visible from top view. It’s also the first piece that includes my Chinese initials “澔” (Ho) engraved at the back.
Are there artists that you admire or are inspired by (in any field)?
I’m an admirer of many, but if I had to select 3 artists they would be:
Jeweller Aurélie Guillaume – Her intricate enamel work and entertaining illustrations never cease to fascinate me. The jewellery she makes is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also fun to wear.
Painter Erin Loree – Her control over abstract freedom really moved me when I was first introduced to her work. Her usage of colours and placement of strokes creates such a striking mix to me.
Ceramicist Maja Padrov - The vessels that she creates are very intriguing. Although her arrangements can be peculiar and unconventional for traditionalists, her work manages to achieve an undeniable sense of balance among the imbalance.
From your experience in this community so far, what are your impressions of art jewellery in Canada?
The culture of art jewellery seems to be more recognized and celebrated on the East coast. Being from the West coast, I would love to see the West coast catch up!
What is coming up next for you?
I am currently coordinating an exhibition with Mings Diamond. I hope through this collaboration, we can bring forward art jewellery and object/hollowware to celebrate with the local community. We are currently inviting jewellery artists across Canada to participate in our first exhibition, Canada 150 Art Jewellery Show. Call for entry can be found at www.mingsdiamond.ca/canada150artjewelleryshow. It would be great to merge traditional jewellery with contemporary art jewellery, and showcase it to the the public!