We spoke to Maggie Chui, a jewellery artisan of highly original, exquisitely crafted art jewellery. After many years as a full-time music teacher, Maggie shifted gears and applied her honed sense of style and affinity for art to the realm of jewellery making & design.
As we speak, it’s obvious that Maggie is passionately interested in the challenges and possibilities of the vast materials, tools and designs she works with. And what started out as a hobby has now grown into collections after collections of inspirational art jewellery design. Here’s more!
- Can you tell us a little about your background and your journey into art jewellery design?
I used to be a full-time piano teacher. About 4-5 years ago, I started dabbling in the world of jewellery making as a hobby during my free time. It was something new to me and I’ve never made any jewellery before. However there’s something about it that really intrigued me and I learned by reading a lot from books wrote by other jewellery artisan, blogs, watching YouTube videos and what’s more, is to learned by many trials and errors.I still love teaching music and I still do it on a part-time basis. However I find that I’m able to express my creativity better especially when inspirations flow into my mind and my hands would want to work the magic.
- What was the first piece of jewellery you ever made? How have your designs evolved?
I started with making earrings. The choice of materials back then I used was different as I was still learning and experimenting. I actually started with wire jewellery and beads – mixing and matching different colors, types and sizes of beads to create different style. The size of the jewellery is much smaller compare with clothing and bags. It allows one to gain much space for creativity within a small physical space as I don’t live in a huge bungalow. Lol.. To me, it is a really fun and relaxing times creating interesting pieces.
At some point, I moved on to wire art jewellery which doesn’t required heating and soldering but only using mechanism joining methods to join and create jewellery pieces that has intricate curves, curls and shape. That was when my Art Nouveou style evolves. It was a Challenge for me at the beginning and again I have gained much skills and knowledge by trials and errors.
Started off as a musician and have a lot of interest is great and that always shown in my earlier works. As growing into more maturity, I seek the balance of life and favor clear, clean and crisp paths that are simple but not simpler. I reckon the modern, geometric and minimalist influences in my work now which has a crisp outline is actually an inner self reflection on the outer creations. Again, different technique is required and I have learned how to solder and use heat to join parts. The reward for me in this is really, discovering the endless possibilities to form and create different designs that have wins compliments!
- What are the materials that you use? Is there one in particular you most enjoy working with – perhaps a certain type of stone?
I work a lot with copper, Argentium silver, 14k Gold-filled and various natural gemstones. As both the Argentium silver and 14k Gold-filled are not available in Malaysia, I imported them directly from United States.I especially like to work with Argentium silver because of its great quality. Did you know it is also known as “The New White Gold”? It is a more superior product than silver plated product and is purer, brighter and whiter than the traditional sterling silver.
And really, there’s no best stone but the most suitable stone. The one you love at first sight. Lol… It’s important for you to know what you’re buying – in terms of the quality, origin and authenticity. For me, I did a lot of studies on stones and many of the type of stones that I use in my designs are discovered from various research. Over the years, I have learnt how to tell the different type of stones that may or may not work in my designs. I know I have over-invested on the materials and tools that I used. But I think it’s important for me to purchase them and run a couple of tests to ensure the quality of the end piece.
- How long does it usually take you to make a new piece?
I’m always filled with ideas, perhaps too many. They have overwhelmed me so I’m going to have to start filtering them. Or I’d spend all of my time making everything that I have in my mind without having time to eat and drink! Lol…The duration it takes to complete one piece of jewellery really depends on the complexity of the design and the materials that I work with. It could ranges anytime from half a day up to two or more weeks at a time.
- When someone asks for a custom design from you, what do you take into account? Do you try to capture the person’s personality or perhaps their style? Is there any type of assessment that your customers go under so as to provide a truly, one-of-a-kind gem for them?
It depends. If it’s a gift, I’ll start by asking for the recipient’s pictures, favourite colours, dressing style, lifestyle, any favourite type of jewellery – whether its earrings, bracelet, rings or necklace.If it’s for a special event or occasion, then perhaps something more eye-catching and dramatic would be ideal. But of course that also depends on the personality and the dressing of the recipient.
What’s more is that I like to make something that will looks good on the wearer, winning compliments and gaining limelight for them. When they gained attention and compliments, that’s what make my day and grant me great satisfaction.
- How do you balance creativity with commerce?
Materials come in different ranges and values and each type of materials has its own characteristics and beauties. It all depends on the jewellery artisan skill, style and taste to choose and put these materials together to create a unique work that is within a particular range. As creativity really is an endless and priceless gift, I am thankful with this gift of mine.Therefore, custom-made is made possible for everyone as materials and stones come in different ranges and values. For example, some designs that include normal glass beads and Swarovski crystals which have nice ‘BLING’ are very well accepted in Malaysia and are very affordable.
I will not start by asking my customers – what’s your budget? I always believe that the right question to ask is – what is it for?
- What has been your favourite creation to date? Why is it so special to you?
Each piece of my creations is made with heart and soul and really, many hours. There are some designs that can’t be recreated too. When I work on my wire art, I listen and give way to how the wires wanted to be twisted and turned as it really has its own character, which is why it may be impossible for me to recreate the flow of the same design.But there is a huge pendant that I’ve donated to the International Women Association KL that I’m particularly fond of. I named it “I Heard Music” and I designed it especially for the charity event as a tribute to the Women in Aid. It has an amethyst in the shape of a treble clef and it looks perfect.
- What is your favourite part about being the owner of Deheavenly Gems?
Learning how to manage myself – in terms of time, business, financials, productivity and even my social accounts. Over the years, I’ve learned to be more disciplined and maintained a healthy mindset. Running this small passion of mine really humbles me and I’ve learn so much going through the process each day.
- What do you consider the most challenging about running your own business?
I would say the same – learning how to manage myself. I’m a Cancerian – which normally refer to people who are highly emotional! Haha.. But also very creative. One of the most challenging things for me is, to maintain the right state of mind all the time that I could think, see and plan for what’s coming up next and of course, solving any encountered problems too.
- What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of starting a business?
It’s important for you to first understand who you are and what you’re really passionate about. As it will reflect on how you run your business. Passion can always be the best teacher who lead us, guide us and show us the path of ‘life learning’ if we allow it. Some choose to bury it, some have chosen to follow it. It is really one’s own choice and decision. What’s your decision?
- And lastly, if you could pick any celebrities to wear your jewellery, who would you pick?
I would say firstly, Angelina Jolie. I am totally in love with her especially in one of her latest film, the Maleficent. Her character and portrait is just so vivid and stunning in that movie. I could use my imagination if I could make her something to wear in that film.
Second, Emma Watson. Who are also well known of her great taste in fashion. I would love to see her wearing my new series of work called “Geometric Chemistry”.
Then, I must also pick Stefanie Sun Yan-Zi, a Singaporean singer. I have been listening to her songs and following her from the beginning. Her short hair style has always been one of her trade mark though she kept it long at some points. Would love to see her in my newly created ear cuff!