1st Place - 2019 Emerging JEWELRY Artist 18 Years of Age or Younger
“I am a senior at Allen High School who has enjoyed the art of creation, particularly in three dimensions. The metals program at my school has inspired me to take on the field of fine jewelry as a career, not only to become a craftsman, but to design and create and share the most versatile form of art that I have grown to love in the past three years.” Christopher Liu
What is the title of your piece?
The necklace is called “Midnight.”
Where did you get the title?
As the piece developed I had the image of natural twilight moving into the night. That was the beginning of the theme.
What/who was your inspiration?
The piece was created by myself. But a friend and I were going to try to do a collaboration project. She is going into fashion and designed a dress.
The necklace was to enhance it. It’s a very natural and elegant look. However, in the end I moved a little bit away from the dress.
How long did it take to make the piece?
About three months of work at school. It was the third project of the school year.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to make the piece?
All the soldering I had to do. There were more than a couple hundred places to solder. I used a butane torch at first, and it was unwieldy. Learning to control the heat on a such a large project was a challenge. The last week of the project, the school bought a mini-torch, and this made a huge difference. I didn’t want to damage the piece. At this time I was learning and building on the skills from a year or so before.
Who did you tell first about winning?
I was at a skating competition. I am a competitive skater. I had just completed my last event when I got the news. I told my mom and coach, and they were both very excited.
Have you won other awards? If so, what?
I received an honorable mention in the 2018 Allen Independent School District juried art show. Then I was admitted to the Texas Visual Arts Association (TVAA) Annual High School Art Competition at the University of Texas. I received the Scholastics Art in Writing Gold Key Award for the necklace “Midnight.” 1st Place in the Allen Independent School District this year for Division One. And I have been accepted into the TVAA art show for this year.
Of all the arts and crafts, why did you choose jewelry?
Going into our high school, I switched from wanting to be an architect to a newspaper reporter, but what I really loved was art and engineering. This transferred perfectly to wearable art that I am able to fabricate using my innate skills as a maker and ability to apply all the elements of art and engineering in metal.
What was the first thing you ever made?
It was our first project in high school—piercing and riveting. I riveted two hearts together for a pendant for my sister’s birthday. This year I came up with a different design with a twist for her birthday: A sterling silver and wire heart pendant.
Who do you think has been the strongest influence or inspiration on your work?
Two people: John Garrott, my jewelry teacher, has been a metalsmith for the past 20 years, and he built a jewelry program at our school. His specialty is hollowware.
Last year I discovered Peter Keep on YouTube. By watching him work, he helped me understand I could do more and push myself further and further.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Inspiring others to do what they want to do. Finding that special thing that they want to do.
What artist, dead or alive, do you most admire? Why?
Japanese watchmaker, Masahiro Kikuno of the Academy of Independent Watch Makers. As a watchmaker, his goal is to make timepieces using the same techniques and tools his ancestors had done. He doesn’t use a lot of machinery, mostly working by hand. There is a strong artistic feel to his work. The level of detail is extraordinary.
What is your favorite tool?
The Foredom® flex shaft is very versatile. A lot of what I do is with it because it is so useful. It is my go-to tool.
What is your favorite type/piece of jewelry?
Necklaces and rings. Rings are easiest because of the amount of materials I currently have access to. It is a small piece and requires a lot of detail in a small space. Necklaces are the bigger version of that. This is the art piece for me. You can make it as intricate as you want. Necklaces are my show pieces. It is a lot of what I do.
Describe your studio.
School has all the tools I need. When I am at home, I have a jeweler’s bench and will bring my tools home to work.
What metals, gemstones and processes are most important to you?
Sterling silver was a game-changer for me. Getting a chance to work in silver was really fun and an interesting metal to work in. I am learning to do pavé setting in silver and it is a perfect metal for that.
Interview by Marlene Richey