Veronica Kwok is a jewellery designer who aims to place historical themes in a contemporary context with her unique jewellery pieces. The Central Saint Martin’s alumna looked at medieval armour and weaponry, Ancient Greek mythology, Ancient Egyptian collars, Victorian sentimental jewellery and the Black Death for her inspiration. As part of our Global Young Talent of 2021, we had the pleasure of speaking with the Chinese designer and her most recent publication in Harper’s Bazaar.
Tell us a bit about yourself, you’re originally from Hong Kong, yet moved to England to complete a course in Jewellery Design at the prestigious Central Saint Martins, what inspired you to move overseas and study jewellery design?
I have been designing and making jewellery for along as I can remember, threading beaded jewellery and knotting friendship bracelets. As I became more experienced, I started creating jewellery for my friends and family, and I knew this was what I wanted to do as a career. Central Saint Martins is a top choice for many creative designers, due to its emphasis on originality, and the renowned end of year show where the final year students showcase their unique collections to visitors from all over the world.
Your work has strong ties with history, as you revive historical themes in a contemporary context, where does your fascination with the past stem from and which topics inspired your graduate collection?
As a keen student of history, I have travelled to many inspiring sites, including the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome, Easter Island, Machu Picchu, etc. For my graduate collection I was inspired by something closer to home - the armour and weaponry at the Wallace Collection, particularly the duality of chainmail and how it can be made of metal, a rigid material, but also be as flexible as cloth, and the idea of protection when wearing armour.
What’s striking about your designs, is how the pieces can be worn differently, could you lead us through the design process and the inspiration for this?
My piece ‘Crossed Fingers Necklace’ was inspired by cross necklaces and how they symbolise reassurance and safety. But I also wanted to make it more powerful. Inspired by images of humans brandishing silver crosses at vampires and other creatures of the night, I decided to create the ability for the wearer to form a cross-hand gesture, by slipping their fingers into the silver cross of the necklace for when the wearer feels an extreme need of protection.
“My collection revolves around the idea of spiritual and cultural protection, and also how the body naturally reacts when threatened.”
Your collection tackles a deeper meaning, and the underlying message of feeling safe in our age of anxiety, how is this topic communicated through your jewellery?
My collection revolves around the idea of spiritual and cultural protection, and also how the body naturally reacts when threatened. For example, my piece ‘natural defensive hand position’ expresses how the body reacts when something unexpected approaches the head, which is raising a hand in defence. My piece ‘Abhayamudra’ talks about the gesture of the same name taken from various Indian religions, symbolising fearlessness, reassurance, and safety, dispelling fear and bestowing divine protection.
What have you learnt during your time at university and what tips do you have for future jewellery design students?
Strike a balance between following your heart and taking other people’s suggestions. When doing a project at school, sometimes I felt pressured to make certain changes or design a piece of jewellery a certain way because I thought it would be better received. However, it wouldn’t work out the way I wanted and the end product was not what I had envisioned. It’s better to follow your instincts and do what you want. But also don’t be so rigid that you don’t listen to any advice other people give you because they might have unique insights that will help you push your project further.
“Strike a balance between following your heart and taking other people’s suggestions. ”
Discover Veronica Kwok's full collection
Words by Lupe Baeyens