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August 21, 2019
Yawen in her studio space wearing our Santolina Hairclip & Dixter Bracelet
In the last series of our ’Portrait of a Maker & Crafter’, Yawen Chou shares her making process using Jesmonite and working alongside her partner Yenchen. Here she shares their creative journeys since graduating from the Royal College of Art. You can still explore stories shared by the other makers and crafters we’ve featured in this series - Vanessa Hogge, Maria Hatling,and Helen Johannessen.
Tell us how you ended up at Cockpit Arts?
My partner Yen and I found this material (Jesmonite) when we were studying at the Royal College of Art. Jesmonite can absorb water and dry on its own, so we came up with a recipe of mixing it with metal powder to make it rust naturally which produces a vivid colour.
Before I studied at Royal College of Art, I took up an internship at Cockpit Arts. Here, I found many designers and makers sharing workspaces in the heart of London. In addition to this, there is a big draw to their Open Studio events that happens twice a year and enables the designers and makers to showcase and sell their wares to the public. I came away hoping that someday I would be able to join this creative hub. And as luck would have it, it worked out!
How did you come about your beautiful signature?
We came about it through Yen’s 1st year project - “Something old, something new” at Royal College of Art. He was inspired by traditional crafts that produce patterns through natural processes and was fascinated by the cracked glaze ceramics as well as the science behind it. It encouraged us to look further into traditional crafts and develop our own signature process from our research.
The project also investigated patterns and colours that formed through the oxidation process, which inspired us to produce landscapes within our designs. This process is applied during the mould making and casting process of a series of objects we have created such as vessels and candleholders. By using Jesmonite, we found that it expedited the rusting of the metal, which produces a richer and more intense colour as each object ages.
What or who inspires your work?
We are influenced by the philosophy and aesthetic of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. The difference in our method is the use of alternate materials. Copper powder and iron are infused in our designs to create these unique casts and patterns to show off a fleeting moment of deterioration.
The idea of unpredictability and naturally formed patterns fascinates us. It conjures the meaning of inherent change and a process defined by time but also a collective memory as an object ages.
What is the best thing about being your own boss and least favourite?
The best part is definitely the freedom to have flexible working hours. The worst – not being able to press pause as you feel accountable at all times.
Yawen’s snapshots of her favourite place
What are your favourite go-to spots in London?
Fulham Palace's Walled Garden.
List three words that best describe you?
Natural. Imperfect. Willing to learn from mistakes.
Beautiful details of past work in her studio Jewellery Vessel made from Jesmonite
What is your favourite piece?
One of my favourite pieces is the Jewellery Vessel.
You can view more of Yawen’s work here.
Photography by Alun Callender, Yawen Chou and Ejing Zhang Studio
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