Mona Liu is the founder and designer of Monajewelry, a jewellery brand. Originally from Hebei, China, she has moved around a fair amount, also living in Paris, France, and now being based in New York, U.S.A. Mona has beautiful designs and her work has featured in a number of high profile publications and work. We had the chance to talk with Mona about her life, career and aspirations. Here’s what she had to say...
Solstice: Could you give us some information on your story so far? Where do you come from?
Mona Liu: I created my eponymous brand in New York. Im an Asian girl coming from from Hebei. Hebei is located in northern China which was also one of the first provinces to be industrialised. As a major manufacturing centre, its steel production has long been ranked first in China. It is very similar to the Ruhr region of Germany or the Great Lakes areas of the United States. Hebei is a city full of energy and creativity,I spent my childhood in such a place, where my parents gave me a stable, happy and open environment to grow up in, and implicitly cultivated my ability to accept new things and to create in the form of art. I have always maintained a spirit of exploration.
Solstice: You studied and graduated with a painting major, so how did you get into designing jewellery? What made you want to become a designer?
Mona Liu: I would like to say, painting and jewellery design are interlinked and not conflicting. I believe that it is my drawing ability helps me become a jewellery designer. Actually, jewellery design is very similar to painting as they both are in pursuit of beauty. Painting is on canvas while jewellery is on human body. When I was in college, I pretty liked to travel around. Wherever I went, I would collect a lot of handicrafts then recreate them and resale, which made me very interested in making handmade jewellery. Because of my interest, which led me have a desire for various techniques and knowledge about these beautiful things. So I started studying in France and then went to the United States to study GIA. I think all of this is because I like this thing very much. After I have accumulated for many years, I want to create some jewellery of my own that can represent the contemporary aesthetics of Asian girls, and monajewlery is here.
Solstice: What are the highs and lows of being a jewellery designer?
Mona Liu: As a Jewellery designer, is an occupation which is full of happiness. I have witnessed the critical moments of many friends. They get married and give birth to babies, birthdays and anniversaries, etc. It is a very happy thing that I can do my best to add lustre to them at these significant moments of life, and it also gives me a plenty of satisfaction..
Of course, there are also downturns. When the market feedback is not good, not many people recognise you, or there are some technical problems that cannot be overcome, it is just simply very painful.
Solstice: What’s the biggest challenge you have come across so far?
Mona Liu: I presume the biggest challenge I face is the same as that faced by most people. In 2020, we experienced the epidemic of corona virus. All our offline stores were closed, exhibitions were cancelled, sales were bleak, and our team members have also changed a lot as well, and the whole industry chain has been , but fortunately, we still survived. This year, we hope to adapt to the current production model as soon as possible, to find our own breakthrough.
Solstice: What is the biggest influence/inspiration behind your work?
Mona Liu: Nature, I believe that the most beautiful elements come from nature, it gives us the most imagination and surprises,
The ocean is the source of inspiration for this project, exploring the feeling of knowing. Human curiosity, jealousy, and fear of the ocean are hidden in our daily lives. The sea gives us a sense of fullness. It is also a characteristic of the sea itself, the infinite spirit of the prospect. There is a free world full of fantasy under the blue surface. Desire and the sense of conquest of the unknown can be reflected in the sea.
Solstice: Will you continue to draw influence/inspiration from nature? Could you possibly create other collections inspired by the other elements (fire, earth, and air)?
Mona Liu: I think the theme of nature must be in my design elements all the time, and I will also try various creative elements to make them show up in a variety of different ways. In traditional Chinese culture, there is a saying that the sky is round and the ground is flat, so sky and earth have once appeared in my design as well. Our 2021 new designs are also on the shelves soon, and they have stories about nature, history and culture. Something to look forward to!
Solstice: Describe the process from concept to final realised product? What is your favourite part of the process?
Mona Liu: My creative process is very conventional and old-fashioned, I’d like to draw some quick and simple paper sketches. I like to observe those tiny details and look into different materials. Then the carved wax model is modified repeatedly, and eventually got the final version. I enjoy all of these creative process. If I need to say one of my favourites, it might be carve and making, as I really enjoy the satisfaction that the production brings to me. I can quickly concentrate on the small things, and feel very calm and satisfied in this production process.
Solstice: On average, how long does it take you to create a piece of jewellery?
Mona Liu: It may take at least a week for a piece of jewellery from drawing, selecting materials, engraving, and then to production. It may be different depending on the degree difficulty, and it even would be longer. Making jewellery is a very complicated and tedious process.
Solstice: What is your favourite piece that you’ve created?
Mona Liu: I have paid a lot of thought into each piece. After a detailed understanding of the drawing and precious production, I love all my jewellery like my own babe. If I had to choose one, it might be that when Monajewelry was profitable in the first month, I used the money I earned to make a diamond pendant for my mother, with 11 grams of gold and 4.5 grams of diamonds. The prototype comes from the safe buckle of the Chinese knot. It's not that this work is the most satisfying to me, but I think this is the most meaningful one to me.
Solstice: You’ve lived in Beijing, Paris and now New York. How do the cities/cultures differ? Which city is your favourite, and why?
Mona Liu: For a person who is in different life stage, I prefer different places. I grew up in China and I have strong feelings for Beijing. I am very familiar and attached to my hometown. Paris is the place where I felt the cultural shock when I went abroad for the first time. I also strengthened the skills I learned in this wonderful place, which is very important for my future development. I like Paris very much, too, both in terms of environment and culture. For New York, it is the place I am grateful and the place where my dreams began. And I believe that this place will carry my future.
Solstice: What do you want to be doing 5 years time? Can you see yourself moving into other types of design?
Mona Liu: I hope I can create more series that I am more pleased with, and I hope to cooperate with more talented fashion designers and various designers to make more meaningful series, so that more and better products can be presented to the public. In my vision, I hope that our future designs can intergrade more Asian cultures, and China also has many traditional handmade craftsmanships while I want to absorb them into my future designs.
Interview conducted by Declan O'Brian