Read time: 23 minutes, 59 seconds
In her new series The Secret World of Jewellery, Melanie Grant delves behind-the-scenes of the jewellery industry to share the secret ways and wisdom of its pioneers. In her first episode, Hong Kong based jewellery powerhouse Nicholas Lieou shares his experiences of guest designing for global brands in a journey that took him from the Royal College of Art to Tiffany & Co. This is his story.
A seed was planted
The school I went to was conservative and I did my best fit in but while I wasn’t very strong academically, I did excel in the arts. I’ve never really acknowledged how instrumental that time was for me and how fundamental the encouragement from my art teachers was in going to art school, but I think being creative mattered the most to me as a child. Just being able to create using the things available to me in Hong Kong shaped who I’ve become. My Dad was a banker, my mum a homemaker and I have one older brother. I spent my childhood in Hong Kong and the German School I went to had a thing for excursions so we went to China a lot in the 1980’s and 90’s which has helped me appreciate now, how far China has come. The vast leap forward in the Chinese cultural landscape still amazes me and I think my creative style has manifested into a combination of East and West. The work I do is so minimal that it feels neutral somehow becoming something entirely new.
I had my first encounter with jewelry when I was six or seven. I strung a random selection of plant seeds and pearls together to form a bracelet. I didn’t think much of it at the time but my mum took it to her local jeweller and had it made up in real pearls and gold beads. I was immediately taken with the results. I went on to study furniture and product design but the scale felt wrong so I started taking jewelry courses and the minute detail so captivated me, I never looked back. Central St. Martin’s came to Hong Kong looking for students and they offered me a place on the foundation year jewelry course. I also studied at the RCA who taught me to be unique and find my own voice. F.I.T. encouraged my commercial mindset and was more business orientated, focusing on the kind of client you might sell to and working backwards from there. Each institution had their benefits and honed my skillset to a finely chiseled point. I feel fortunate to have experienced a multitude of systems.