Anna Hu: free to create
I wrote my first article about Anna Hu after I visited her presentation as a part of Paris Fashion Week in 2016. I have to confess that it is hard to capture all the tones and pauses at a first meeting. So after a conversation you often keep so many questions in mind that for some reason you haven’t asked. And sometimes it occurs that before you met an artist, you have seen his or her creations on photos and might have already fallen in love with them. The same has happened to me. Though I haven’t seen this necklace in real life, but I’ve already missed it. And here we are again, at the same place a year after. I enter the hall of Ritz hotel and see a plenty of gorgeous jewellery, but my eyes are searching for the only one.
– So many feelings in this necklace!
– Do you know the story behind this necklace?
– I know that it is related to the painting of a Chinese emperor, isn’t it?
– Right, this crane is a symbol of a specific Chinese emperor, the most artistic ever in the 3000-year history of the country. His name was Huizong from Song dynasty (1082-1135). He wasn’t only an excellent classical Chinese watercolor painter, but also a brilliant calligrapher and musician. His regime was the most week and dark time in terms of politics of China, but it was a real peak of the artistic period.
This jewel is very special, because Huizong has transformed himself into the crane, which is holding a jade flute, playing a traditional Chinese music to chase the disaster, the war, the miseries away from its nationals. The cloud made of Baroque pearl means the holly water dropping from heaven to earth, as in Chinese culture the emperor was identified with God. In that way he purifies human souls and cures their wounds. Basically, this piece keeps the whole story of him, and if you put the necklace to Huizong’s “Auspicious Cranes”, painted almost 900 years ago, you will see how they reflect each other.
That is how I started my art journey. I was inspired by a famous painting, which I saw in the Palace Museum of Taipei. While creating Gnossienne necklace I felt as if I continue the dialog with the emperor, as if he was still alive, and his painting had not been finished yet. I’m very happy that it has touched your heart, as this is a pure Chinese esthetic piece of art. Originally, it was designed to share with my private collector, who also collects his paintings. I didn’t expect you to point that one of all the pieces. I’m so happy.
– I am impressed how you conveyed your soul and all your feelings into this piece. So touching…Now tell me, has anything wonderful happened to you during this year?
– The book we were talking about, the Opus 2, is coming out in Paris in September 2018. It is devoted to my 10-year journey through a jewellery world. The book will have very interesting concepts and photos of 100 pieces of mine.
– What are you working on now?
– I’m working on something quite mystical right now. I want to show transition from the ocean to the mountains by mixing natural pearls with Kashmir sapphires. My new piece is a combination of unique gemstones. We have also applied different ways of mixing materials, not just titanium, but many other metals. After 10 years of creating I’m at a new stage of my life. I’ve just turned 40 this year.
– You create only one-of-a-kind jewellery. It takes a lot of efforts, time and needs serious investments, of course. Have you ever thought to focus not only on one-of-a-kind jewellery?
– Actually, because of my background of working for Van & Cleef and Harry Winston, I think I have archived a lot, so I can continue developing in two directions. The first one is innovative one-of-a-kind jewellery, and the second one is a limited collection. By limited I mean actually few, up to 5-6 pieces. For example, one beautiful flower in 5 different colors.
– So you think about diversity, don’t you? Is it because the market dictates its rules?
– Yes, so many people and excellent ideas….The skin color, the nationality, the age….The same jewel could look so beautiful in different interpretations. Actually, as an example I can cite a piece, that I’m working on right now. I have three private collectors, who like different gemstones, metal colors, sizes, but they all love the same flower. So I will make three pieces on one theme, and that will be my first step into future direction. However, this is not really a limited collection, like, for example, watches, where you just change the color or the stone size. We have to convert the shape of the stone depending on the setting and the combination of colors. Eventually, they all will be different, just with the same theme.
– Do you usually use only important gems?
– Yes, I stay true to the traditions of my family. I feel a special kind of enlightenment when I see amazing gemstones. Recently I’ve seen a marvelous 20-carat Kashmir sapphire. It’s not the right color, but still… For example, for my new piece I will receive the necessary stones from my parents: my mom takes care of the ocean, while my father is responsible for the mountains. (Both laughing.)
– Are you financially supported by someone? By your parents, maybe?
– Actually, I have nothing to do with my parents, they are already retired. They just give me the stones, but financially we are totally independent.
– Well, stones are big investments. I know that you used to work at Christie’s for many years, so I hope you can answer my question: how to make art high-priced and sought after?
– You know this is not really a priority for me. I feel that the destiny of my life is to design jewellery, and to transform feelings from my heart into them. I’m so into the process that I cannot think of a purpose.
– But you could suggest an idea for another people. There are so many talented designers in the world, but they can`t reach the level when their jewellery are high-priced and sought after by collectors. However, you managed to achieve that.
– I would say that everything I’ve created for the past ten years while working for three biggest institutions like Harry Winston, Christie’s, Van Cleef & Arpels, is not that important for me right now. Probably it has some value to jewellery pieces I create, because not so many designers have such experience and skills. But I feel that the only thing that would distinguish a true piece of art among others is the original spirit. That is why I have been reading a lot and visiting modern art galleries in Chelsea or Rome. I found and studied elements, which have nothing to do with jewellery art. For example, the Ying Yang Snake bangle is a collaboration project with Cindy Sherman, so in terms of artistic value it is worth a lot, because that’s my dialog with the most famous photographer of this century. I didn’t expect her to walk into my store, but it happened. If you calculate the cost of the gemstones, nobody will understand. However, when my collectors, true connoisseurs hear about Cindy Sherman and the story behind this piece, they couldn’t believe their ears. I hope I’ve answered your question how to make sure the price is high. You cannot describe art, and jewellery art is very specific.
My dream is to create the most beautiful jewellery for ladies. In this world there are so many queens, princesses, powerful and iconic women. In the jewellery world we have too many male designers, like Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, Graff, but jewellery are worn by women. That’s why I feel that my mission lies in devoting my personal talent to the very elite, special group of women, my permanent clients, the only one percent of the world, and my job is to make them happy. They have explicit taste, power, and elegant life.
– Your craftsmanship is absolutely perfect. Did it take a lot of time to find masters, who would be able to bring all your ideas to life?
– I am so lucky, because I have my experience at Christie’s, Van Cleef & Arpels. Now we cooperate with 7 different ateliers with 3 to 5 amazing masters working in each of them.
–To your mind, what is special about people who create one-of-a-kind jewellery? Which traits distinguish them from others?
– Everyone who creates one-of-a-kind jewellery has an amazing sense of humor. I also realized, especially after I turned forty, that I’m in my own world. I appreciate freedom of imagination and creativity in my work. Creating one-of-a-kind jewellery is a common thing for me. If you ask me to make something regular, I will feel suffocated, like I can’t breathe. But as for my collectors, just a typical talk between me and connoisseurs of my art is that they come to me and ask to create a unique piece without giving any guidelines. And that means no burden for me. If we take, for example, Monet and Gnossienne necklaces…These are two absolutely different and unique pieces. I think I have a very split personality.
– Well, I could find one trait that distinguishes such people – they should be independent in their feelings and mind.
– Actually, it is the opposite of fashion. There is always a trend, and jewellery art has no trends.
– Once taking a risk, you can remain happy for the rest of your life. Could you tell me if it is somehow connected to your life?
– When I started Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie, it was as if I jumped into the ocean and had to swim. My major trait is that I don’t realize the danger when I run into it. And when I realize, I learn how to survive.
– How success has changed your life?
– I never consider anything as success. Every year I tell myself something like, “Oh my God, I’ve done every possible try with no regret.” Then the next day I open my eyes and say, “Okay, one more new experience.”
Well, I should mention that my life became more exquisite. It’s like a glass of the best red wine: the older I am, the more mature and richer I become. After 10 years of Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie existence, I can finally say that there was nothing I did not experience for this time. I wouldn’t use the word “achieved”, because achievement means burden. I’m experiencing, trying out something new, taking risks without thinking of competition, because I want my spirit to be carefree. So I put everything related to the branding or business out of my head and stay pure for art. Luckily, I have incredible supporters that fulfill my artistic journey.
– What are your plans for the nearest future?
– I’m going to showcase 100 pieces at the exhibition next September.
– Do you mean Biennale 2018?
– I guess so. I turned down the invitation last year, because Van Cleef, Cartier, Harry Winston and other masters didn’t participate. It’s like you’re going to a beautiful ballet performance, but there are no true stars on the stage, so what’s the point? So I refused to participate. This year Glenn Spiro, Moussaieff are taking part at the exhibition, and these are the artists I fully respect. Therefore, I make a so-called preview of my big performance for the next year.