My name is Dongyi Wu, I was born and raised in China. I am a contemporary jewelry artist currently working and living in San Antonio, USA. I received my Master’s Degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States, and my Bachelor’s Degree from Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology in China. I have my work exhibited nationally and internationally, where I received several awards, such as the winner of the Preziosa Young 2020 in Italy, the finalist for the LEAP award in the United States, and the finalist for the ENJOIA’T 2017 Contemporary Jewellery Award in Spain.
Tell us about your work:
My works span across jewelry, body jewelry, fashion accessories, sculpture, and conceptual installation. Trying to push the boundaries of jewelry, I create the works with my unique and expressive language while making them wearable and well-crafted. Collecting ideas from literature books, my own experiences, and researches of psychology, I let free imagination and inspiration guide me in designing the object to wear. Moreover, I fascinate playing with a wide range of materials and giving them special texture, distinct tactile, and new meaning in the process of wearable artworks creation.
How did you start your metalsmithing/materialsmithing/adornment journey?
My mom isn’t a professional artist, but she loves art. When I was a kid, she drew large-dimension paintings at home sometimes. I felt that her process of creation was the magic shows for me. Influenced by my mom, I gradually found that I love to show people my vision, thoughts, and imagination through visual arts. I hold my Bachelor’s degree in jewelry design from the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology in China and my Master’s degree in metal and jewelry design from the Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States. I learned my metalsmith skills and critical thinking from these two learning experiences, especially in RIT. Furthermore, there is another training experience not really related to metal and jewelry, which also influenced my creation: because of the energized atmosphere of fashion in my undergraduate school, my jewelry practices have introduced some fashion elements of garment designs and editorial photos. I also hold my Dual degree in Fashion Design and Engineering at BIFT, where I learned about fabrics, sewing techniques, and fashion history.
How does your identity relate to your work? If at all?
I am a female and Asian artist pursuing my art practice in jewelry, wearable art, and visual art fields. And I feel my identity has and hasn’t influenced my work. I remember someone came and spoke to me: “I was confused if you were a male or female artist before you came here. I assumed you were a male when I saw your metalwork, but when I found your fabric objects, I hesitated. ” To be honest, I tend to let my inspiration guide me in designing objects to wear, and not trying to fit my pieces in a stereotypical image of identity. If I could leave blank in my age, gender, and race, I would like to do that. However, I find some of my inspiration has come from my background and experiences, such as eastern philosophy. So I would answer yes and no to this question.
What are the main concepts in your work?
As an jewelry artist, exploring and recording types of emotions is always essential for my art. I liken myself as a storyteller, who narrates stories that seem to be trivial and common but can actually express strong and genuine emotions. The inspirations of those stories have been collected from wide fields such as literature books, my own experiences, and researches of psychology. I transfer those personal experiences and vague feelings into visual arts, which allows me to create a unique and expressive language among my jewelry works.
Can you share a bit about your conceptual development?
I sometimes feel I am a film director of my art who always looks for the ideal “actors/actresses” to act my “shows.” I would not show them to my audiences until I find the best “actors/actresses” to bring the performance to life. Depending on the concept, I sometimes need more exploration to reshape and reconstruct the materials.
How do you take a break and reset?
Listening music. My music playlist has mixed various styles and languages, but it is interesting to find that they are still bound. It reminds me of my artworks: very different looking among individual series, but connected by secret rules. I enjoy creating a relaxing, joyful, creative, and imaginative atmosphere to get motivated and inspired when pursuing my art practice and taking a rest. When closing eyes, the songs might bring me to a small town that feels at ease. I imagine myself as a traveling person who narrates stories in the town, recording interesting and beautiful stories. The small but shining treasures found in the journey stimulate my curiosity and imagination to create unique and refreshing wearable arts.
What is your favorite tool, material, or process?
I am a jewelry artist who fascinates playing with a wide range of unconventional materials, such as plastic, rubber, fabric, and found objects. I transform and repurpose the alternative materials into wearable art, giving them special texture, distinct tactile, and new meaning during my creation. Every time I start a new project, I do researches to find the materials that best fit my concept. I explained to others that each material has its “own personality,” which we have to “respect” and “understand.” Exploring materials feels like an ever-new adventure for me: there are so many possibilities behind the materials. Moreover, I pay attention to the relationship among human bodies, artworks, and spaces in between during my creation process. I want to treat human bodies not as empty canvases for jewelry to fill in, but as essential components of jewelry. I believe jewelry is a visual language of human bodies that is delivered to others without real words.
What is something no one has ever asked you that you would like to answer?
The question could be: what are the new challenges and opportunities for the jewelry world because of the recent trends such as AI, and other computer techniques? With the new techniques coming into our lives, I expect to see more and more fresh inspirations and forms shown in the jewelry world. Although there are voices that doubt if computer skills will totally replace craft in the future, I believe some techniques or processes can never be accomplished with computers.
What do you want to see in the field in order for it be more supportive?
I hope there is more opportunity for metalsmiths, jewelers, accessories makers, and educators to get together, know what others are doing, share their experiences, or possible trade/buy others’ artworks. Also I hope to see a better platform to build bridges for jewelry artists, customers, galleries, and organizations so that jewelry lovers don’t need to seek each other.
*** All interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity