BLISS LAU creates fascinating jewelry that elevates adornment to new heights. Pushing boundaries and blurring the line between accessory & garment, all of her creations seek to reshape and enhance forgotten parts of the body. Bliss’ own multicultural heritage is an important aspect of her work, as is her insatiable passion for culture, design and history. We met this elegant New York based designer in Paris last Fall and invited her to answer a few questions about her creative process.
To view more of Bliss Lau’s creations, please visit: blisslau.com
Interview by Melissa Unger
You have an interesting heritage, you are half Chinese, half American and you grew up in Honolulu. Please share an aspect from each culture that has been an important influence on your creative work.
The tactile experience of growing up in the islands with the sand between your toes and sunlight everyday will always be a part of my soul. I try to infuse the free-flowing feeling of Hawaii into my work, it is almost an intangible but is always with me.
To be a Hapa (a term in Hawaiian widely understood to mean half – Haole or Caucasian) is to intrinsically be a mix of two cultures. I find myself to be a mix of the islands and the city. I am inspired by the strength the city it is a very powerful aggressive place. Only retroactively am I able to decipher my need to cover the body in metal… to create a sort of protective sensual armor.
Have you always been creative? Do you remember your first form of creative expression?
I come from an artistic family, as a child my mother (an art teacher) made sure we took a sketchbook with us on all family trips even if just to the mall. She taught us how to see and look at objects, landscapes, and sunsets through the eyes of an artist from day one.
You began by designing handbags. Please tell us a bit about your creative journey and how it has evolved over the years?
I experience my work in a very visceral way. Earlier in my design career, as a bag designer I would learn about my vision almost retroactively…after completing a collection, I would sit look at it, and realize where my thoughts were. As I began draping chain and forming lines on the body, my mind awoke to a more lucid process of design and creation. On a very simple note, I chose to focus on jewelry because it was a more pure and clean internal creative expression for me. A much less painful object to create, I can give no ‘official’ reason why.
Ideas come to me most fluidly when my mind is in a relaxed almost dream-state, often this happens when am watching someone else dance. Or in the later stages of drawing, three hours into it when the music I am listening to seems falls in line with my heartbeat. I always think about Marimekko and the idea of designing visuals from sound, it seems to me a perfect creative expression.
I am a member of several NY museums and regularly visit them, I constantly listen to science talks and TED talks about design, happiness and creativity. I go to the library and checkout books, sketch daily, watch movies, sit alone in the park and always try to keep myself open to experiencing something new.
Occasionally I take some time with a blank piece of paper, scissors, chain and start to develop. Three dimensionally and two dimensionally back and forth until I’ve extracted all that I can from a concept.
Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?
A relaxed mind is the best place for me to be creative. Physically I could be anywhere. This is why I always have a mini backup Moleskine in my purse!
Is there any particular book, film (or other influence) that has had a profound impact on you?
Every season my fixation on a different concept or inspiration changes. Today I am inspired by the harsh lighting and compulsive detail in the movie Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Robert Wilson’s incredible lighting, and MC Escher’s repeated shapes. Also the tranquility of the Hawaiian Honu Turtle and the currents of the ocean possess the kind of freedom I want to express in my jewelry as well.
You also enjoy expressing yourself by sharing ideas, connecting creatives and teaching. Please share with us a few words of wisdom that you typically offer your students.
The class I teach at Parsons in New York is actually not for creatives, it is a class for adults who want to try something unknown. My students generally did not pursue a creative career in their lives but have a bursting feeling to let the creative person within themselves out. The class is designed to help guide students through the scary reality of how exposed and vulnerable it is to be creative.
I have created a hundred ways to ignite the dormant creative and bypass scary benchmarks like the fear of starting a new sketchbook… for example:
a blank sketchbook….can be very daunting! My trick, when you are scared to start… sketch on a small piece of scrap paper or a napkin.. something unimportant. If the sketch is bad just throw it away and try again. If you like it tape it in the new sketchbook. Eventually you will fill the book with pages and feel more comfortable putting pencil to paper.
A word that best describes your current state of mind?
Published: December 18th, 2012