Photo by Martin van den Hemel
Ho Ching Chan found something positive amid misfortune.
A 2007 graduate of Steveston-London Secondary School, she was only 15 when her mom was felled by illness. As a result, Ho Ching, also known as Wendy, skipped school to help out at her parent’s jewelry store. That’s when she discovered a talent for design.
“From there, I developed my knowledge and interest for jewelry,” she explained.
Chan’s talent was on display in the recently-completed Birks Iconic Jewelry Design Challenge. She was one of three finalists in the nationwide event held last month in Toronto.
“Two of my friends saw this challenge on Entertainment Tonight and encouraged me to apply, just two days before the deadline,” she said.
Participants were required to submit a 60-second video introducing themselves and their work. They were also tasked with designing a display case, jewelry styling for up-and-coming Canadian musicians, and designing an engagement ring. But “being on camera and having to speak in front of an audience” was her biggest challenge.
In designing a display case, Chan wanted to try something new and integrate elements not usually seen. She drew a portrait of a woman wearing a hat, and on the side displaying three rings along with a Birks ring box, she wrote the social media hashtag #beiconic.
“This adds character and narrates a story, and also leaves room for the viewer to imagine how they will wear and play with the rings,” she said.
For the jewelry styling segment, the finalists all worked with Fashion Canada using Birks iconic jewelry. Chan said she was fortunate to style emerging singer-songwriter Lisa LeBlanc from Moncton.
“I stacked, mixed and matched, and combined different metal colours and materials to showcase her vibrant personality,” continued Chan, noting portraits of the musicians will be published in February in Fashion Canada magazine.
In designing an engagement ring, each of the contestants were mindful that it would be worn daily. Therefore, Chan designed a ring that is “timeless, bold and versatile.”
“This is done by having the centre stone set with diamond-shaped prongs to reflect the Birks’ logo,” she said.
Chan, 28, has worked hard, and consistently, to sharpen her skills. She obtained a jewelry design and diamond grading diploma at the Hong Kong-based Gemological Institute of America in 2007.
She then earned an art and jewelry design diploma at Vancouver Community College, and was working as a gemologist in Vancouver—specializing in diamond grading and jewelry appraisals, when she decided to further her education.
“(Being a gemologist) was my dream job at the time, however after two years, with a curiosity in art, I found myself eager to go back to school again,” she said.
In April, Chan graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design having also won the 14th national jewelry student competition hosted by L.A. Pai Gallery in Ottawa. Her winning work, Tangible Thoughts, consists of personal emotions she chose to express in wood.
“I am realizing the form from the material, just as emotion is released from the mind,” she explains. “The abstracted lines and negative spaces become the tunnels for the eyes to travel, similar to wandering through a maze.”
Chan will be hosting a solo show in 2018. Follow on instagram @illluhocw for updates.
Meanwhile, Chan is helping to host the Canada 150 Art Jewelry Show at the family’s jewelry store, Mings Diamond, at Lansdowne Centre. The event showcases and promotes contemporary art jewelry across Canada, which she said seems to be recognized more on the East Coast.
“We want to share something new in a traditional jewelry setting,” she said. “We are very fortunate to showcase 18 esteemed artists and their work along with three governor-general award winners.”
As a second-generation jeweler, Chan says hands-on experience is important. So too, a trained eye for details, along with passion and knowledge.
“Honesty and patience is what makes us stand out in this business,” she concluded.