Swedish-born Hong Kong-based jewellery designer Malin Ohlsson nabbed top prize at the Spot Design Awards 2014, hosted by buymedesign at Mini Hotel in Central. Christie Lee reports.
Organised by Buymedesign and presented at the second edition of In Bed with Designers, which ran from 9 to 11 May at the Mini Hotel in Central, Hong Kong, Spot Design Awards 2014 saw some 50 budding designers competing for the coveted title. This year’s judges included luminaries from the worlds of design, publishing and retail, with Michael Young, Pinwu’s Jovana Bogdanovic and Indesign Media Asia Pacific’s own Raj Nandan being a few of the esteemed names.
After a day of intense deliberation, jewellery designer Malin Ohlsson came out tops with her silver necklace – crafted from 180 individual pieces that are cast and polished by hand. The Swedish-born Hong Kong-based designer was presented, among other gifts, a baby blue ceramic vase from Pinwu, and a two-night stay at the STRAF design hotel in Milan presented by award partner Design Hotels.
Trained as a silversmith, Ohlsson moved to Hong Kong in 2012 and counts her grandfather and grandmother – a carpenter and weaver respectively – as her inspirations. We catch up with the vivacious designer after the event.
What did you hope to get out of In Bed with Designers?
I was very excited when I found out about In Bed with Designers. It sounded like an amazing opportunity to showcase unique designs and for people to be able to get to know the stories behind them. I was hoping that the event would attract a mix of clientele, retailers and private clients. The greatest surprise was all the support I got from the other exhibitors.
Why did you decide to relocate to Hong Kong in 2012?
My fiancé and I had been living in London for almost four years when one day he sent me a text asking if I wanted to move to Hong Kong. My first reaction was: No! Why in the world would we do that? Upon reflection however, I felt like it could be a great start to something new.
It must have been daunting to start your own label so soon after moving here?
Indeed it was, since I knew next to nothing about the jewellery scene in the region. Fortunately I’ve been able to meet some amazing people, such as Ame Gallery’s Anna Cheng and Nathalie Melville, the creator of Hatton Studios. We all share a common vision: to promote the idea of contemporary jewellery in Hong Kong.
What is your design philosophy?
I strongly believe in the craftsmanship that goes into each piece of jewellery I try to show that in my design. I also enjoy making people smile and to make them reflect on certain things.
You work a lot with metal, particularly gold and silver. What draws you to the material?
Silver is an amazing metal. You can change the look of it quite easily by experimenting with the surface, by brushing or polishing it for example. Because I’m a silversmith, I like making bigger objects, and nothing beats silver when it comes to making a bowl or teapot. It is a hard metal but not so hard that you can’t manipulate it. Then, there is gold… I feel privileged every time I get to work with the material.
You exhibited The Homesickness collection at In Bed with Designers. What was the inspiration behind the collection?
I’m a very sentimental person, so when I first moved away from where I grew up to Stockholm, I felt really homesick. It didn’t help that my accent was different from everybody else’s, so I thought I’d make something that reminded me of home to wear around my neck, in order to show people who made fun of my accent where I came from.
That necklace has since developed into The Homesickness collection. It is such a personal piece of jewellery. Most people regard it as a surrealistic blob but the wearer knows exactly what that blob means. It’s as if all his or her memories of childhood, family and friends are being distilled into a single piece of jewellery.
What is missing from the Hong Kong jewellery scene?
The way that Hong Kongers and Europeans perceive contemporary jewellery couldn’t be more different! To pay for something that is unique and handmade is not a new concept to many in Europe, and especially in Scandinavia. What I notice here is that the craftsmanship that goes behind a unique piece of jewellery is not valued as much. The designs almost always seem to come secondary to the materials. The good thing is, that seems to be changing, albeit slowly.