I really want to share this interview by Marlene Richey for my winning design in 2017 Saul Bell award. As an expert and the author of Profiting by Design, Marlene's detailed interview covers almost every aspect of my creative life. I'm sure after reading this interview, you'll have a much better understanding of who I am and stories behind my designs.
2017 Alternative Metals/Materials - Second Place
Interview by Marlene Richey
Sophia Hu started making jewelry six years ago after she left her career as an architect, when she realized that jewelry and architecture both design around the human body, each in its own way. Her winning collection of a necklace and earrings beautifully embody this philosophy, as well as honoring ancient Chinese architectural elements; experimenting with alternative, unconventional materials; and figuring out how to incorporate them into her work. This year, another design of her was also selected as one of the five finalists in the Silver category.
The Winning Piece:
Materials. Polyester fiber, stainless steel wire and handcrafted silver components. I love working with unconventional materials and discovering how they work together.
Processes and Inspirations. Drawing inspirations from traditional wood structure by evolving from basic details. The basic elements of my design are intriguing twists of intersecting squares. The repetition of geometrical rhythm generates an organic beauty with twisted curved lines.
In traditional Chinese wood structure there are no nails or glue used. To honor this ancient craftsmanship, I wanted to construct pieces that had no glue or thread connections. I had to figure out all the steps and details in working with fabric myself. The most challenging part was how to make clean transitions from different types of fabrics. After months of experimenting and improvements finally I found the perfect ways to work with fabric.
Time. 20 hours for the final design.
What did you learn from the pieces?
Attention to details.
Are you going to sell them?
Definitely! I have a collection of jewelry that is the same style and materials as my winning pieces and sell these at craft shows and online. They are very popular.
Do these reflect your current look/designs/brand?
It both reflects works I have done in the past and will definitely influence my designs going forward. I try to honor the materials and how they work together. I encourage people to reevaluate their thinking about the perceived value of some common materials in their everyday life. I believe jewelry design is a very special type of art. It is personal and intimate. It is to be worn. This makes it a very rare art form in the art world.
Did you try it on your pieces?
Yes! I always try on pieces before I sell them. I try on all the pieces I sell at ACC shows and on my website. My jewelry is very comfortable to wear.
Where do you live?
Las Vegas for three years now. Both my husband and I have professions that make it possible to live where we want. I am lucky to work out of my home.
Education and training.
I have a BA in architecture from Beijing Jiaotong University and my MA in architecture from Texas Tech. My husband is also an architect. I was a practicing architect for approximately 20 years before starting my jewelry design business. I was going to take a sculpture class at a local creative center and instead took jewelry. And I just fell in love with it. After the class I am self-taught, learning everything by myself, mostly from watching Rio Grande videos and YouTube.
How long have you been making jewelry?
Do any of your other passions influence your work?
Architecture is a strong influence on my work. Perhaps by fate, as I advanced my skills as a silversmith, more and more architectural features have appeared in my work. Space, light, shadow and layer play important roles in my jewelry design.
Who is your design/jewelry mentor?
Two architects influence my ways of thinking and my view of design greatly. One is Frank Lloyd Wright; his architecture belongs to and grows with its surroundings. The other is Carlo Scarpa, an Italian architect; his architecture takes you out of this world.
When are you most creative?
Describe your jewelry design business.
My business is called 6shadows. The name comes from the time when my husband and I had our own architect firm. When we worked late at night to meet project deadlines, there were two shadows on the curtains. We named our firm 2shadows. So I chose 6, my lucky number, in front of shadows as my jewelry studio’s name.
What is your artist statement/design philosophy?
“Drawing from my architectural training and practice, I truly believe the logic of beauty is embedded in every form of art creations as the critical role of golden ratio in ancient Greek architecture. I envision my creative life as an everlasting journey to search and perfect my golden ratio.”
How do you market/sell your work?
I started out on Etsy and built up a lot of followers through that venue. I sell from my website and exhibit at the ACC, ACE shows and a few other selected shows. My designs are also available in several nationwide high-end art galleries.
Saul Bell Design Award:
What did you feel when you found out you won a Saul Bell Design Award?
Unbelievable! One thing I hope the award will do for me is to open up the jewelry world a little more, since making jewelry is often such an isolating profession. I am very excited.
Have you entered before?
I entered a few years ago when I was less prepared; this is my second time. I learned so much from the first time and that influenced me to change my approach to designing and making jewelry.
How did you hear about the competition?
Since I am a Rio Grande customer I heard a lot about it through them and also from social media.
What is your favorite material?
I don’t want to limit myself to one material. As in my architecture practice, I select building materials according to their characters and functions. Good design is to utilize a material in its best way and to show its full potential. I want to discover new materials and see what I can create with them.
Are you influenced by trends?
Studio and Surroundings:
What is the one thing you most love about your studio?
My studio is in my home. I think of it as my secret garden. My husband made a glass door so I can close off my space from the rest of the house. I find great freedom in my studio to be creative.
What would you change about your studio?
More space. As my jewelry-making skills expanded, tools and materials are taking up more and more space. Especially quite often I’m simultaneously working on several designs in different mediums.
What is your favorite tool?
My jewelry saw, since sawing is the first skill I learned and it’s the first jewelry tool I bought. It reminds me of the very beginning of my jeweler’s life.
Do you listen to music, book on tape or watch tv when you work?
My husband installed a TV on the back wall of my studio so I can basically only listen to it. In this way I can concentrate, my eyes on my works, but still have some background TV shows or music.
Your advice to new entrepreneurs when starting to run an art-based business?
I changed my career in mid-life. My advice is to “Be Prepared.” Both financially and psychologically. And it is important to have a shoulder to lean on whether it is family or friends.
What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud?
I love the idea that I have found a way to communicate with the world through jewelry making.