THE EDEN GARDEN OF RICHARD WU
When I want to express my feelings and emotions, I look for a special piece of nature, and combine it together with my inner senses – to create that new, special piece of jewelry.Richard Wu
Amid the grey canvas of an industrial city, Richard Wu paints his dreams with the vibrant hues of nature. His personal Eden, a sanctuary of plants and flowers, guides his hands as he creates his masterpieces.
Unlike many jewelers, Wu isn’t tempted by distant futuristic designs. He finds his muse in the natural world. Every leaf's curve, every petal's gradient finds a voice in his creations. Trained under the discerning eyes of masters at Buccellati, he melds the ethereal beauty of nature with refined craftsmanship.
Richard's affinity for nature is matched only by his relentless quest for new and innovative materials, and the honing of his techniques.
In Wu's world, the boundaries of imagination dissolve. Let's delve deeper into his story.
Maria Kerner: Where did you start your journey? Where did you learn jewelry-making?
Richard Wu: I started to learn jade carving in China. Then one day I went to Poland to see some stones, mainly amber. From there, I travelled to Paris, to see Place Vendôme. There, I saw some fascinating jewelry, and I thought to myself: Wow, this is beautiful, I gotta learn from this!
So I asked my friends for references; one of them was Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana in Milan. When I finished it in one month, instead of three, I asked the principal what should I do in the remaining months? He recommended me to one of the best stone-setters in Milan, and I studied from him for two years. He, in turn, recommended me to a goldsmith from Buccellati. I learned from him for another year, and then he recommended me to a great engraver, also from Buccellati, from whom I learned for yet another year.
I was buying jewelry for myself, and started thinking of selling it. Then I met a person who told me: you are so young, why don't you try learning and making jewelry yourself?!Richard Wu
MK: What a journey! Buccellati is a wonderful place to learn and hone your skills. But how did you decide to learn to carve jade?
RW: My parents are in the publishing industry. They publish books on art and collectibles. So, while growing up, I had lots of chances to read those kinds of books. Simultaneously, I was buying jewelry for myself, and started thinking of selling it. Then I met a person who told me: you are so young, why don't you try learning and making jewelry yourself?! So I decided to go to Suzhou, a city near Shanghai, where a lot of great jade carvers work. There I met my jade carving teacher, with whom I studied for two years.
Right now, jade is really expensive. And, especially while still learning, you need to be extra careful, because if the piece breaks, you lose money.
MK: That is understandable. But you use a lot of alternative, advanced materials, experimenting with the style. What is your creative process right now? Do you take orders from clients? Or do you create your own collections, based purely on your own visions and ideas?
RW: Right now, we make our own designs. If customers want, they can request customised alterations to the pieces: change the color of the stone or propose using their own stones.
MK: For how many years has the Richard Wu brand been in existence?
RW: I returned from Italy at the end of 2019, and then the pandemic started. That is when I decided to move all my tools and machinery to Shenzhen. We launched our own workshop in the first half of 2020. So, it has been three years now.
MK: Do you have people working together with you?
RW: Right now, I work with two colleagues.
MK: In terms of clientele, do you have mostly local customers? Or do clients come from the European, US or other markets?
RW: At first, it was a very focussed, local market. Then we started publishing videos of how we make our jewelry on the Internet, and new clients started coming from Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong. We do not have many European or American customers yet.
MK: But if you come to Europe or to the US, and participate in the exhibitions, for example Paris Couture Week, you will surely get them.
RW: I think so. This year I went to a Hong Kong jewelry exhibition, and many people showed deep interest in what we do. In 2024, we plan on returning to Hong Kong and also coming to Paris Couture. We're also looking into GemGenève.
I want to create unique pieces that will represent our brand and make it recognizable. I would love for people from around the world to see and appreciate our designs.Richard Wu
MK: That is amazing news! I know it can be scary to participate in big exhibitions for the first time, but I am sure you will do great.
What are your projections for the future? What are your visions, plans and dreams?
RW: I want to create unique pieces that will represent our brand and make it recognizable. I would love for people from around the world to see and appreciate our designs. I would also love to open a small workshop to teach young talents: designers, metalsmiths, stone carvers.
MK: So, in the near future, do you plan on staying and creating in China?
RW: No one can tell what the future holds. But so far yes. 85 percent of jewelry production in China is concentrated in Shenzhen, so it is pretty easy to find materials that I want to try, not just traditional yellow gold.
We are also looking into the possibility of opening a workshop in Europe. But we would love to participate in the European exhibitions first, to see how it goes, how the European audience welcomes us and our creations.
MK: You once said: "Nothing is art if it does not come from Nature". Is nature your main source of inspiration?
RW: Yes. Around my workshop, there is a garden with over 200 different species of plants. I really love flowers. When I want to express my feelings and emotions, I look for a special piece of nature, and combine it together with my inner senses to create that new, special piece of jewelry.
That is also the fun part of creating jewelry: you face lots of challenges, you push through them, and when you finally get what you want – it makes you so happy!Richard Wu
MK: Jewelry is not an easy path. What do you find most challenging in your work?
RW: When I first started working solo, I remember one of my clients asking me to set a diamond ring. And I messed it up. It was a tough time, both financially and emotionally. I even started thinking maybe I chose the wrong business.
Besides, for example, in Italy you can buy very high quality alloys. Meanwhile, in China, I have to make my own alloys, which was also challenging at first. But in the end, it transformed into my advantage. I started playing with different alloys, experimenting with them. Now I can make, for example, the color of gold a bit pinker or a bit greener, to play harmoniously with the design I have in my head. I also started using other materials: aluminium, titanium, palladium.
Sometimes when we failed, we had to stop doing it for months – to relieve the mental pressure and start again, with new creative and mental forces.Richard Wu
When we started enamelling our pieces, we also faced a lot of challenges. Sometimes when we failed, we had to stop doing it for months, to relieve the mental pressure and start again, with new creative and mental forces.
But that is also the fun part of creating jewelry: you face lots of challenges, you push through them, and when you finally get what you want, it makes you so happy!
MK: The client only sees the final result, and either likes it or not. But what he does not see is the amount of physical, creative and mental work that was invested in this piece! A piece of jewelry is an object, but this object contains within itself so much labour and emotion, so many dreams, failures and victories.
So I wish you all the luck and strength in searching, researching and moving forward, looking for the new beautiful ideas in your garden and making them come to life!
RW: If you are ever in Shenzhen, you are more than welcome to visit our workshop!
MK: Thank you so much! And I hope to see your exhibitions in Europe soon!