Jenny Wu was heading to Art Basel in Miami, and the architect wanted her accessories to make a splash. So she did what anyone who thinks in three dimensions could do: she designed her own necklace and watched it shatter not only the event of that evening, but her life as well.
Explode in the best way: the resin necklace was a wearable sculpture, a sort of dynamic web that an artistic spider could create in a fit of passion. People reacted with joy, admiration and, above all, envy. A few asked to buy it directly on his neck.
Although an architect by trade, Wu understood that her work and artistry extended beyond her clients or her degree. She realized that with the rapidly developing 3D technology she used in her office and her experimental spirit regarding jewelry materials, she could have another way to express herself. That’s when Lace by Jenny Wu was born.
Some people call his work futuristic art; Wu sees it as a gem with unlimited potential. The description of the art is apt as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has one of Wu’s necklaces in its permanent collection. This moment made Wu realize that this blend of jewelry, technology and architectural expertise was going to be a lifelong pursuit.
Wu earned his Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University and his Masters of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is also a member of the design faculty of the Southern California Institute of Architecture and the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. She founded Lace by Jenny Wu in 2014.
She has always integrated technology into her career, seeking to think more deeply about design and how the technology at her disposal could shape her work at Oyler Wu Collaborative, which she co-founded with partner Dwayne Oyler in 2004.
“We focus on the design and less on the type of project it is. I love design-driven projects, whether big or small,” says Wu.
Her reputation as an architect grew and as a result she received many requests for public speaking. Each required a memorable outfit and accessories, says Wu, so she decided she needed to add fashion to her list of design-focused surveys.
Because she was surrounded by computers, 3D printers, and all the software she would need, Wu started designing her jewelry ideas on the spot. She started with the office 3D printer to create three necklaces, which she wore to conferences and other events.
“I thought maybe I could make a few and sell them. I never thought it would become a big business,” Wu says. “This kind of growth is exciting.”
The challenge, Wu says, was figuring out how to make the jewelry she was starting to produce as ready-to-wear for everyday people — not just a single prototype she could put on for a few hours. This meant investing fully in producing more of his jewelry designs and making them last as long as the wearer was interested in wearing them.
“I am a designer and a problem solver. [Creating her jewelry] takes a technology that is not made for this industry and converts it. It takes some trial and error, trying to figure out which materials were appropriate, durable, and wearable,” says Wu.
Today, she is an expert in 3D printers and testing new technologies not only for her architectural work, but also for her jewelry business. She draws by hand or works with a computer program to create her original creations. Then she moves that idea into production, seeing how the materials react, how it feels to wear, and how it lasts.
“Those are definitely artistic statements,” says Wu. “But, over the years, I really listened to customers and saw what interested them. What is the range I can play in the design? Some are more minimalist and still have that nervousness. Some are more maximalist.
Wu has now turned to other materials, including bronze and stainless steel, as well as more traditional jewelry metals such as gold, platinum and silver. Wu’s latest collection is made with carbon fiber using a proprietary 3D printer from a company that hasn’t previously produced jewelry with its technology.
“It is super light but very strong thanks to the carbon fiber. It’s lightweight, but it makes a statement,” Wu says. “It’s funny. To me, if you keep loving what you’re doing and loving it, you’ll keep doing great work.
Above: Jenny Wu uses her architectural experience and 3D printing expertise to create Lace by Jenny Wu, a jewelry brand that combines avant-garde and elegant design.
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