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A Conversation with Xinhao Yang

An interview with one of the winners of the inaugural International Metal Artistry Award for student metalsmiths
Yang Positive and Negative 1
Yang Positive and Negative 2
Xinhao Yang's winning design, POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE.

In 2018, Bead&Button magazine and, 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 Honorable Mention winner of this Student Award, Xinhao Yang of Englewood, New Jersey. Her winning design is called POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE. 

 We were so happy to speak with Xinhao via email!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your design. 

I am a current graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I finished my undergraduate study there also, focused in Metals and Jewelry. I learned and tried many techniques during my six years' school life (undergrad and grad). Metals are my favorite materials because they are able to be shaped and they are wearable. I include any other materials that help to express my concept. I research the meaning of life and make artwork showing my philosophy. I am currently doing my intern[ship] in a studio and gallery in Englewood, NJ, learning to combine conceptual jewelry with commercial jewelry while working.

Xinhao Yang
Another piece called "MEMORY OF THE HOMETOWN"

Where did you get the inspiration for your piece?

My concept was inspired by a book written more than 2000 years ago, named Tao Te Ching. In the second chapter, it says: 

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore having and not having arise together;
Difficult and easy complement each other;
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow each other.
Therefore the wise go about doing nothing, teaching-no-talking.
The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,
Creating, yet not possessing,
Working, yet not taking credit.
Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

You would know what happiness is only when you had an unhappy experience. The worse the unhappiness you had experienced, the happier you would feel in the future. A pair of contrastive aspects always exist together. Positive and negative are a pair of contrastive aspects. We can’t experience positive without going through any negative cases. Don’t hate negative. Positive and negative are of the same importance in our lives.

What was tougher: the design or the execution?

I would consider the design is tougher. It is hard to find out the most appropriate way to express the concept. The process of execution is to research and use the techniques that already exist. Designing is to bring new ways of thinking to this world.

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

I had to find the right material and learn new techniques. I kept researching and learning and trying different materials and techniques and finally found the right ones.

Xinhao Yang Fetter
Another mirrored piece by Yinhao Yang, titled "FETTER"
Xinhao Yang Fetter SNAG exhibition
"FETTER," as it appeared in a gallery exhibition at the 2018 conference of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG)
photo by Kathryn Keil

How did you choose the name of your piece? Does the name have any special significance?

Outside the mirror, there is a positive world, while inside the mirror, there is a negative one. Wearing this ring, you could see many fingers reflected from the mirror. It shows a combination of positive and negative.

What did you learn as you created this piece?

The concept of positive and negative came before the design. I learned how to find the appropriate material and research for the right technique while creating this piece.

Why do you like to work with this material and/or technique?

I used mirror because it is the best material that expresses my concept. There is a positive world outside the mirror, while inside it, there is a negative one. I am able to show my view of both positive and negative sides of things through art pieces made of mirror. Another perfect feature of mirror is that it only reflects the present. Reflection from mirror is changing all the time as its surrounding environment changes. It is the same that people are changed when the atmosphere is different. Our experiences and minds are varied while the time is passing by. Art should only record the present.

What tip would you give someone who wanted to get started in metalsmithing, and possibly enter next year's Metal Jewelry Artistry Awards?

Follow your heart. Only make pieces that sincerely express yourself.  Play with the material. Metals are very interesting. You know how hard they are, while you will know how soft they could be. You know how cold they are, while you will know how hot they could be. You know how high temperature they can hold, while you will find they would melt at one point. When you can control the metal with fire and hammer, you can’t get rid of it from your life.

Congratulations to Yinhao, we can't wait to see what she does next in her metalsmithing career. Learn more about Xinhao Yang's work at her website, ! 

And click here to learn more about the other winners of the 2018 
International Metal Jewelry Artistry Award

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