Back for her third season with INLAND, Lina Hu, designer and business owner of the Montreal-based jewelry brand Arc Jewellery, is preparing for more than just the upcoming sale, she's getting ready to potentially be awarded the Canadian Art and Fashion Award CAFA Swarvoski Award for Emerging Talent: Accessories!
Congratulations on your CAFA nomination! How has this experience been for you so far?
It was quite a surprise when my nomination was announced—I am so honoured that my work is being recognized among such inspiring company! It has really motivated me to look at what I do in the context of Canadian fashion. Jewellery is kind of a funny thing that falls into art, design, and fashion, and I am much more used to thinking of my work from the point of view of art and design. Fashion is much more interactive. I can now better conceptualize what I do as a concrete relationship between object and person, and how it is part of fashion as a movement. This has made the idea of fashion more approachable to me as a designer. I now understand how I can carry not only aesthetic but also my own philosophy and ethics into the field. This experience has been really affirming, and I am more excited than ever to share what I do and collaborate with the Canadian and international fashion community.
What is the difference between Montreal and Toronto for you as an artist and designer?
I think the major difference between the design industries in Montreal and Toronto is the focus. Here in Montreal, I feel that we concentrate more at the local level, in fostering in the independent design community. There is a definite emphasis on buying locally and a deep interest in knowing who makes the things we use and wear, and how they are made. Montreal has always been a breeding ground for creativity and is especially nurturing for those who are starting projects, thus the inward emphasis on the design community is just an aspect of that. Toronto is just as supportive of their local designers, but the focus is more outwards, towards the national and international levels. Independent brands (in Toronto) tend to market at a higher level earlier on, and I think this is the result of Toronto being a larger and more internationally-minded city. This is reflected in the fashion you see on the streets. When I see a well-dressed person in Toronto, they are often wearing well-known labels, whereas in Montreal, I would more likely see people wearing local brands, probably something a friend has designed and/or made! I think that is why a lot of local designers start their brands here (in Montreal) but move on to Toronto, New York, LA etc. when they have developed to a certain point. This happens in art and music as well. At the same time, the inward focus is also the major benefit of working here. Since the community is so supportive of designers who are just starting out and studio rent is cheap in Montreal, there are fewer barriers here to trying new projects out, building a practice or brand and pushing it through the early stages.
Jewellery itself shouldn't dictate style, that is the role of the wearer's personality.
What got you started as a designer?
My background is not in art, design or fashion at all. I was studying and working in science when I first came to Montreal, and at one point, it just didn't feel right. Having worked largely with my head for most of my life, I craved using my hands, I needed to create, to get messy, to explore things visually. My mother was a jeweller and as a child I was always curious about her work. I enrolled in a jewellery course and when I held the first ring I made in my hands, I was exhilarated! Working with metal just made sense. Ever since then, I've been addicted!
What is your design process?
I usually start off with a series of rough sketches of an idea, playing with variations and looking at it from a couple of different angles. If the piece is relatively two-dimensional, I may do a quick mock-up by cutting it out of paper and then maybe making a prototype in brass. If there is a strong three-dimensional component, I usually start carving in wax right away, and I may do a couple of versions before I have one that I like. I use traditional techniques in my process, but I apply them to modern forms and ideas. Some of my pieces are formed by cutting, soldering and shaping sheet metal, while others are first carved into wax as I just mentioned, then cast into metal. I primarily in silver but use gold, bronze and brass as well, so there’s something for everyone.
Any no-nos in how to wear and pair jewelry?
I don't like to think that there are faux pas with fashion. Personal style is just that; personal. If someone is wearing something with confidence and putting forward an aspect of themselves, then it looks good, even if it is not what I prefer for myself. I tend towards minimalism. I rarely even wear both rings and necklaces at once, but I fully appreciate curated maximalism with layering etc. However, I do maintain that the jewellery itself shouldn't dictate style, that is the role of the wearer's personality.
Stay tuned for the CAFA Awards this April 15th to find out the results of Lina's nomination and then visit INLAND on May 6-8 at QRC West, 134 Peter Street, Toronto to meet Lina in person and shop her collection. #INLANDspring2016