Tucked into a burgeoning online shop in the hidden corners of Twitter is a 20-year old jewelry designer whose artful works immortalize the beauty of nature.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my years of mindlessly scrolling through everyone’s favorite blue bird app, it’s that you should always keep your eyes peeled for incredible finds. It was during one lazy afternoon break that Twitter’s uncanny algorithm recommended to me a tweet that one of my friends had liked — an eye-raisingly impressive collection of floral-inspired jewelry pieces all handcrafted by a single artisan. Wow!
Of course, when confronted with something so elegant and pretty, it is only a natural response to click and peruse. To my delight and intrigue, I discovered that the profile, which doubles as both an online business and an Asian art appreciation account, is actually based in the Philippines.
Managed on Twitter, Hongjun Shouyi (虹君手艺) is an online jewelry store that specializes in commissioned pieces inspired by nature and traditional Chinese fashion. The shop, which translates to Crafts by Hongjun, is run by a young Filipino-Chinese jeweler who goes by her Chinese name Lai Hongjun (赖虹君). To her friends and family, however, she is simply known as Kat Lua.
At the mere age of 20, Lua has already masterfully assembled a wondrous portfolio of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and hairpieces that have attracted audiences from all over the world. In an interview with CHiNOY TV, Lua shares her valuable experiences as a jewelry artist and the inspiration that she takes for her craft.
A passion for art
Kat Lua has always loved creating — from drawing to painting to sculpting, she’s done it all from a very young age. However, if her current ambitious venture doesn’t make it quite obvious yet, her favorite form of art above all of these is jewelry crafting, which is a little passionate something that she now shares with the rest of the globe. Although she first started creating accessories privately for her friends and her own personal interests, Lua realized a potential demand for her work when several people began approaching her for commissions.
“I started selling and taking commissions for my work in 2019 and then made a separate account in 2020. I never intended for this to be a business though,” confessed Lua. “I only seriously considered taking it this far when some people were asking to buy my pieces, and so here we are.”
Most of Lua’s jewelry are meticulously crafted with metal filigree and epoxy resin, which she creatively molds into various forms according to her own personal interpretation of her clients’ requests. The results range from a vast variety of flowers to her more recent attempts on celestial objects. Petals and other complex pieces that cannot be accomplished by ordinary casts are personally hand-shaped with the use of pliers and copper wires.
“For my creative process, it’s not very linear,” Lua shared. “As soon as I get an idea in my head, I will try to note it down or draw it out, so that I don’t lose it or forget about it. Adding embellishments onto them — like flowers — gives a really nice effect. For a number of my works, it takes a lot of time for me to revise and redraw, then revise again before I can showcase the final product.”
A love for nature and ancient Chinese fashion
Since establishing her Twitter account in May 2020, Lua has impressively gained more than 6,000 followers, with a good portion of the following coming from online fandom communities interested in Chinese media: Some of them love C-dramas like The Untamed. Some of them love the popular fantasy RPG Genshin Impact. All of them love Hongjun for her works as a commission-based jewelry artist.
Commenting on the unique pieces she creates, which may or may not be influenced by a client’s fandom tastes, Lua stated: “I don’t consider myself a fan artist as much as others may perceive me.”
“I do my best to create pieces that are wearable in other occasions and are not all-too telling of any certain fandom. I prefer to make original pieces, such as when clients let me do what I want — or when they suggest a particular plant, but it is without attachment to any franchise.”
Speaking of particular plants, anyone who has been following the Hongjun Shouyi account will have noticed that Lua has a definite preference for ancient Chinese aesthetics and nature as sources of inspiration. While her interest in Chinese history is a simple joy that has been introduced to her at a young age at school, her love for florals is an expression of meaning and individuality.
“I love plants [and] flowers. I am particularly in love with peonies and lotuses,” explained Lua. “I love that plants and flowers have meanings attributed to them, and that those meanings are different from every culture.”
“I really like flowers, but I can’t bear to have real ones since it hurts to see them wilt, so I figured if I made jewelry inspired by those plants I would get to keep them forever. I believe jewelry is an expressive item, and the way one adorns their body with it is telling of their personality,” Lua continued.
A plan for the future
As far as Kat Lua is concerned, jewelry making is a career that she plans to see through. In addition to her current resin-manipulating skills, she plans to eventually pursue silver and goldsmithing once she finds a suitable space.
“I’d love for this passion of mine to continue,” Lua said. “Right now, I am comfortable with using Twitter [as an online shop], but I think a website would be nice. I might add silversmithing items in the future when I learn to do metalsmithing, but I don’t like to think about it too much.”
For her other more immediate goals, Lua hopes to be able to release other collections outside of her existing commission work in the coming months. When the pandemic subsides, she is also considering opening international shipping for clients abroad. For now, however, she is content to continue the pace she sets for herself.
“I prefer to go with whatever I want to do for the moment,” Lua insisted.
On a related note, when asked to give advice to aspiring Chinoy artists, Lua had this to say: “Take breaks, take inspiration from everywhere you like, and practice when you are able. There’s no use in forcing yourself to create when you are burnt out.”