The magic of muesli: Qiang Li’s quirky jewellery questions eastern and western breakfasts

Posted by Rae Gellel on

The positive feelings conjured up by food, whether a hearty meal or a guilty treat, are not unlike those experienced when enjoying a piece of jewellery. Like food, jewellery can be a pure form of indulgence, or something deeper, with sentimental and cultural connotations, capable of evoking memories or stimulating a litany of human senses.

It’s this connection that Chinese-born jewellery designer Qiang Li hopes to explore in her latest fine jewellery collection, Muesli. It’s a love letter to breakfast, the maker’s favourite meal of the day, and features pieces based on various eastern and western delicacies, made skilfully yet with a true sense of fun and joy.

Thank you for joining me, Qiang Li, to talk about your new collection. So, what first attracted you to a career as a maker, and how did you get started in the industry?

I think my attraction to jewellery has a long history. I was always fascinated by it as a child. I can still remember when I was about five or six years old, not being able to take my eyes off my mum’s earrings. I can’t recall what the earrings looked like exactly. They were maybe gold with rubies. I do remember that I put them in a little box, which was like their bed, and found some tissues to put on them, like a quilt. I treated them like my babies, and even got up at midnight to check on them.

Jewellery designer Qiang Li crafting her Muesli collection at her bench

When I was about ten years old, I got my first gift of jewellery, a necklace made from crystal beads, and I’m still wearing it now because I just love it. After that, I began collecting different types of beads to make into bracelets and necklaces, and trying out different types of materials, like paper or textiles, to make gifts for my family. I then started an Industrial Design course at university in China. It made me realise that I really enjoyed making, and I felt I could best express my personality through designing jewellery. So, I went to the Royal College of Art to train as a jeweller, which was the formal start to my jewellery career.

Can you tell us a bit more about the collection you’ll be debuting at Shine 2022?

The collection for Shine is called Muesli because it’s my favourite kind of breakfast, and breakfast is my favourite meal. It starts my day! For me, it’s also like magic – it's a bowl of treasure, it has so many possibilities.

Jewellery designer Qiang Li pouring milk into a bowl of muesli

My collection is about the eastern and the western breakfast. The collection also expands into other foods like doughnuts and mince pies, and I use these foods to tell the stories of different cultures. I feel that jewellery and food can produce the same kind of emotions – they’re both a special treat, a source of pleasure that triggers people's different senses and is all about sensory interactions. I’ve used eastern treats like dumplings and dim sum, and western ones like croissants and toast and pancakes. So that’s my collection - it will make people hungry!

Have you explored any new techniques or materials whilst working on this collection?

I learned that planning and creating a collection is a lot more work than I thought it would be. It's necessary to have a plan and a set of goals. Previously, I thought I needed to create something perfect immediately - but now I think it's more important just to start and see where it goes. I think it’s also a good idea to start a collection from something you really love, so that you have the passion to keep going. It's very helpful to talk to people from different fields and get their opinions and inspirations.

Qiang Li sketching a ring inspired by breakfast for her new Muesli collection

To prepare for the collection, I asked people how they felt when they were eating breakfast, and eating muesli in particular, and that was really interesting - everyone has different habits and lifestyles, and everyone eats their muesli differently.

How would you describe your design style?

I like to think of my collection as fun, but more than just that, I want to bring emotions and desires into my work. I want it to be elegant but joyful. I think that's my style. This collection is made with fairly traditional techniques, but I also used 3D modelling and computer aided design to develop some pieces, like the mince pie. I had to think about how it would work - the hinges and the findings, and being able to hide the chain inside the pie.

A computer aided design drawing of Qiang Li's Muesli ring

I often start a piece with gathering inspiration and making sketches. I’ll do the drawing and hand rendering, using colour, to see how a design will look. Then I start to test the designs and use Rhino to do the 3D modelling and look at different sizes and change details if I need to. I also have little 3D printers to test all the pieces, trying out different versions on my hands, and that’s a process that’s very rooted in my background of industrial design. So I really like to work using prototyping, and exploring the different techniques involved in using technology.

What do you most enjoy about being a maker?

I really enjoy making and developing my skills. I have a feeling of mindfulness when I'm making. I also like doing user research, getting to know my customers. Even if they're not my customers, I like to experience people's feelings, and get a sense of the emotional similarities between jewellery and food, and how they evoke some of the same responses in people. Having said that, it's fantastic to see the finished pieces on display. It’s the satisfaction of not only seeing the complete collection, but also seeing my skills on display, too.

I feel like each piece is a part of me and shows my personality. It's wonderful to see people delighted to wear my pieces, it makes my day. Some people experience a very deep impression from the work. People from all different countries connect to the dim sum and dumpling pieces. I think they go for the cake or chocolate from their experiences of what they like. So, I think that's a very attractive part of creating collections.

What kind of person do you think will be most attracted to your collection?

I think my ideal client or clients are people with a sense of fun, who are creative or curious and love food, travel and exploring new cultures, no matter their age or gender. So, the people who enjoy life, they are my ideal client. I always find it very interesting to meet this group of people and to chat to them.

What's your favourite piece in the collection?

I think my favourite is the Muesli Ring. Like I said, honestly, for me, muesli is like a bowl of treasure. Everyone can put whatever they like into the bowl and make it their own personal treasure. There are so many possibilities to be imagined. It’s like a bolt of memory sitting on your finger - it conjures feelings and happy experiences.

The little spoon also just makes you want to eat it. It was very important for me to get the proper texture of the muesli and the oats. I used 3D printing to test the proportion and the balance of the little spoon so see how it looks when it’s sitting on a finger, so that’s why it works so well.

So, what’s next for you - what are your professional and creative goals for the next two years?

I want to build my brand and continue developing new collections, and I want to start learning about and using more gemstones, because I love the possibilities presented in using colour in my work. Like another Muesli Ring, with different coloured gemstones as the treasure in the bowl. I also want to generally keep learning and developing my making skills. And then that's my goal for the next two years.

Older Post Newer Post



Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published