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Jewellery & Metal (MA)

Yan Zhang

Yan Zhang is a jewellery designer based in China. She graduated from Birmingham City University in Jewellery Design and Related Products with First Class Honours. Yan is now a MA student studying at the Royal College of Art. Yan is keen on exploring the possibilities of jewellery, using the language of jewellery to express contemporary social problems. Yan’s recent work focuses on exploring mental health issues to create ‘placebo’ jewellery, which triggers a re-examination of people’s mental health in the contemporary environment.

Exhibitions:

2017-June: Royal Horticultural Society, Chatsworth Flower Show, Chatsworth House, UK

2019-June: New Designers, Business Design Centre, London, UK


Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Jewellery & Metal (MA)

With the rapid changes in society and the flood of information we are surrounded by, what happens to individuals in this social progress, and what are the ways in which people seek mental comfort?  What is real mental equilibrium? 

Yan’s work is inspired by her own personal experience. When she re-examined her relationship with medications, she found that the presence of medicines that were more like a placebo gave her more security, greater strength and mental balance. 

The notion of the placebo originated in Psalm 116 in the medieval Latin version of the Bible. In Latin, the word means ‘I shall please (God)’ 


She began to investigate the situation of young people in different contexts, and how they seek spiritual comfort.  In fact, many people in traditional Chinese culture wear jade to bring good luck in the future or receive blessings for their own safety, but what surprised her is that most young people are not interested in the traditional approach to spiritual comfort. They are concerned about their own experience, beliefs and desires, and have more diverse interpretations. Their intimate objects have gradually become commercialised and technological. The cultural genes of the social environment we live in are silently invading our entire bodily systems, unconsciously contributing to our self-comforting habits. 

The materials of the work are jade and metal. In China, jade itself has a  positive meaning and carries people's spiritual expectations. In the past, traditional  jade carried the cultural genes of the people of that era, with mysterious images or statues of the Buddha. Compared with traditional production, the shape and content of  modern jade is unrestricted and free. Yan thinks that the ‘image’ born in the social and  cultural environment of the past has been replaced by another ‘image’ in contemporary society. People in each era have different views. In essence, they are looking for their own ‘placebo’. She combined elements of jade, scientific medical treatment and  personal intimate objects with soothing and healing significance to create ‘placebo’  jewellery, hoping that through these pieces the audience can reflect and look deep into their inner selves, to achieve what is a real mental balance.


Medium:

Xiuyan jade and Metal

Medium:

Xiuyan jade and Metal

Medium:

Xiuyan jade and Metal

Medium:

Xiuyan jade and Metal

Medium:

Xiuyan jade and Metal