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A Conversation with Ger Xiong

We caught up with student designer and the GRAND AWARD winner in the International Metal Jewelry Artistry Awards. Meet Ger Xiong!
Distance

In 2018, Bead&Button magazine and FacetJewelry.com, in conjunction with the Bead&Button Show, launched our inaugural International Metal Jewelry Artistry Award. This new award, a companion to our BeadDreams Jewelry Artistry Competition, is designed to draw attention to metal and wire artistry. This juried competition drew entries from around the world, and was judged by master metalsmithing instructors Michael David Sturlin and James Carter, and former Art Jewelry magazine editor Hazel Wheaton. A Grand Award and an Honorable Mention were awarded in both the Metal and Wire categories. 

There was also a special category, Student Metal and Wire. The Student category was open to any student enrolled full-time or part-time in any educational program with the intent to obtain a degree or certification.

We're so pleased to share our interview with the GRAND AWARD winner of this Student Award, Ger Xiong of Las Cruces, New Mexico. His winning design is called DISTANCE. And, like many of our other winners, the conception and execution of his beautiful piece didn't happen overnight, providing us with loads of inspirational anecdotes.



24 Years and Counting2
One of Ger's piece's, titled 24 Years and Counting.
Key to Connect
Key to Connect

Ger, please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I immigrated to the United States from Thailand in 1993. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts with an Emphasis in Metals and Jewelry at The University of Wisconsin Whitewater in May 2017. Currently, I am attending New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, for my Master of Fine Arts. I explore my own personal history and cultural identity by story telling through metals and jewelry. [I am] interested in my cultural identity, and use traditional metalsmithing techniques (such as chasing and repoussé, chain making, and forging) to find a connection between certain aspects of my life. I find interest in my Hmong heritage and history while finding a way to navigate through my cultural identity. 

You speak a lot about your cultural identity. Tell us more about that!

I get a lot of my inspiration from my Hmong culture. There was a lot cultural heritage and identity was lost during our immigration to the United States from Thailand, and as I grew away from my culture while growing up. So researching and working within the Hmong aesthetic made sense to me as I try to find and figure out my cultural identity. So, much of my inspiration comes from the Hmong patterns, symbols, colors, and adornment.   

Let's talk about your winning piece. How did you choose the name of your piece? Does the name have any special significance?

I decided to choose “Distance” because I was looking at my identity through the idea of loss. My father passed away before I was born, so I was trying to find a connection with him through my family. When my family comes together, we number thirteen members and that’s what makes that number significant. “Distance” shows the gap between my family and I. We are apart from each other, with me trying to find a connection with them in order to learn about the loss of my father (as well as my cultural history). 

What challenge did you need to tackle to finish this piece, or what problem did you have to solve? How did you solve it?

One of the biggest challenges when working on this piece was cutting the piece apart after I finished using the technique called chasing and repoussé. It started as a whole piece and then I cut the piece in half that was then cut into thirteen little pieces that are now hanging from the top part. It was hard to cut apart the piece when you’ve spent so much time on it but conceptually it made sense to cut them apart. So mentally, it was hard to cut a piece when you’ve spent so much time on it but eventually when I was done with the chasing and repoussé part, I decided to set it aside for a day or two until I was comfortable enough to cut it into thirteen different pieces. 

What did you learn as you created this piece?

During the process of this piece, I actually had to let it sit aside for a bit and really think about how the decisions I made would impact the final piece. I was continually working on this until I reached a point where I just needed to have a little space with it so I can come back and really figure out how to attach the pieces together. That was really insightful because I came back to it with fresh eyes and ideas and it really helped bring this piece together.

comeTogether2
Come Together, which showcases the use of copper that Ger speaks to in Hmong culture.

Now that we know how your winning piece came to be, can you share with us some more about you as an artist?

While working with these materials and techniques, I continually think about the process and the materials that are traditionally used by Hmong jewelers and metalsmiths. So I work within processes that are used within the Hmong aesthetics to help find a connection with my Hmong culture. Copper in the Hmong culture represents a sense of protection and healing of one’s spirit and wearing this material further protects one’s spirit and body. Chasing and repoussé is  similar to the process that is traditionally used to show the patterns and symbols from the culture. I often think about the people or metalsmiths that use the same processes that came before me and I feel that my work is an homage to them as well as a personal statement.

Of all the things you’ve learned on your metalworking journey, what’s the one thing you’d like to share?

I would say that there is still a lot that I have yet to learn and that’s what makes it so worthwhile and satisfying. There are so many different techniques and materials that you can work with and I find that really fascinating. 

Do you have a mentor or teacher who has been an inspiration? If so, who and why?

I would really like to give a big thank you to Teresa Faris who was one of my Undergraduate mentors and one of my biggest inspirations. Without her teachings and mentorship, I would never have pursued Metals and Jewelry. Her knowledge, passion, involvement, and support really helped me to research and formulate my own ideas and helped me to think through both my work and myself. 

What are your ideas to help bring new people (especially young people) into metal- and wirework? Where should they start?

It’s hard to begin but I would say, start taking some workshops/classes. Look at communities near you to help you begin. Even joining online groups/social medias forums where you can communicate with each other is a good first step. I was hesitant to start at first but once I actually started working and using the tools, equipment, and learning the different processes, I really fell in love with it.

Thank you to Ger for sharing his story with us! Per usual, we are delighted to hear what challenges and what inspires young artists.



GEAR UP FOR 2019

We would like to wish a heartfelt congratulations to all who participated - and snagged an award - in the inaugural International Metal Jewelry Artistry Awards! It was a great way to ring in this new and prestigious competition. 

And now, it's time to look ahead to 2019's competition! For all you jewelry makers that dabble in metal and wire alike, it's time to take your dabbling to the next level...because the 2019 International Metal Jewelry Artistry Awards is now accepting submissions. Read up on the competition rules on our blog and how you can submit your own original work. Who knows? You could be featured on our blog as a winner come next year, and have unlimited bragging rights!!

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