Before serving as a muse for all the many artworks, raw animalistic power was a channel for divine power. When human civilization was in its infancy, ancient Egyptian priests would raise statues of cats as the embodiments of Bastet, the spiritual protector of lower Egypt. One of the earliest interpretations of the sheer prowess of nature. Similar sentiment evokes Ming Song’s Le Lion Blanc necklace – a macabre piece with 102-carat Colombian emerald and Tahitian pearls. When one explores Ming Song’s oeuvre of animalistic creations, a question comes to mind: “Who is the master behind?”
As many do, Dennis Song, Chinese-born jewellery designer and founder of the award-winning brand Ming Song Haute Joaillerie, embraced his affinity towards creativity as a child. Fast forward to ten years ago in London, Song’s talent in 3D design led him to a competition in jewellery design, which he won. After graduating from Central Saint Martins and working in Cartier’s design team, Song has been garnering attention from the industry’s titans, as promptly proven by his collaborations with Alexander McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibition at London Victoria and Albert Museum and Forbidden City in Beijing.
VALUES /// PROBLEMS
What are three fundamental values that you would like to embrace throughout your career, that you pay special attention to during your work?
When one discusses the values in my career there are three very distinctive paths to follow.
Enthusiasm for creation, for new things, for change, for living a life of excellence...
Enthusiasm always makes the difference.
Perception of beauty. In an ever-changing world, one thing that remains consistent is our obsession with all things beautiful, whether it be art, sculpture, architecture, fashion or nature.
A sense of awe in art. It increases curiosity, enhancing our ability and desire to explore. Awe inspires collaboration and cohesiveness, bringing people together. It promotes mindfulness, making us more open to new things and more pro-social. It enhances creativity, increasing both flexibility and our ability to see things from new perspectives. It inspires hope, although it is not always easily accessible, awe experiences could make people feel like time is expanded, picking people up during down times.
They’re crucial for the creation of the focal point within every piece of my artwork.
What are three relevant problems that you wish to solve or improve with the help of your work?
The only problem I can think of may be that my inspiration is not always present and available, it’s limited. When there is no inspiration, I never release works aimlessly. Therefore, the number of works is too limited for anyone who appreciates my works. This troubles me.
#GAHSPzeitgeist /// FIRM
Why do you think people buy high jewellery?
Pleasure, beauty, expression or emotions, none of them can on its own explain the understanding of human world. But people like to praise and collect certain artworks for their profundity and subtlety, for the insights they provide, especially wearable artworks.
They make us see the world anew.
There are a plethora of high jewellery brands out there, each one attracting their own kind of art connoisseurs, collectors and investors. Such a rich landscape, however, has a lack of dark and conceptual pieces. Ming Song is one such gem. “Today's high-end jewellery is either traditional and classical or soft and lovely. The creativity of too many feminine butterflies, flowers and ribbons makes the design of each brand close to each other and lacks recognition. In the high-end jewellery of Ming Song Haute Joaillerie, I have boldly added some modern elements, and the structure of the styling is also very 3D stereoscopic, so that every detail of the 360-degree of the work has a look,” is what Dennis Song had to say about the distinct aesthetic and ideological value his brand carries. Each of Ming Song’s creations comes with a hand-drawn illustration, which takes the appreciation of high jewellery art to the next level.
His ambitions to push the boundaries of well-established design practices and stay true to his vision, was what inspired Dennis to strike out on his own. “As a professional designer, when you work for other brands, you can't sign it. All the inspiration and creativity need to serve the brand you work for. Many of your own whimsical designs should also be under the constraints of the brand. In the end, I decided to set up my own high-end jewellery brand after learning enough experience, so that the creative ideas are all original and unconstrained.”
How would you describe your tenure in Cartier?
It was in 2016, quite relaxing for me. The experience of working in Cartier in Paris has taught me that a world-class jewellery brand needs to be historically precipitated in addition to [having] the exquisite design. It also requires an extremely professional and experienced business team to complement each other. The transformation from art works to commercial products is a big knowledge, and good design alone is far from enough.
Your pieces often feature animalistic motifs. Is there a particular reason you feel drawn to animal forms?
In my understanding, I like to use spiritual animals as a source of inspiration. The nature is valuable as a source of knowledge and understanding, my inspiration often comes from the cognition of nature. In addition, the design of animal elements is much more difficult. It is not easy to design an animal's structure wisely. I really like to evaluate and study a difficult design from an epistemic and aesthetic perspective.
Which one of your creations do you think best expresses the way you position yourself as an artist?
Thanks for considering me as an artist but this question is difficult for me to answer. Since the establishment of Ming Song Haute Joaillerie, Only a handful of works have been published every year. Each piece of art has an extremely long design and production cycle, and they all have its own unique meaning and context.
Would you ever consider working with lab-grown diamonds?
I am still considering, but not very recently. This is a very interesting question. In fact, I have known lab-made diamonds for a long time and know that they have many types. A friend of the investment community told me in detail about the cultivation process and development prospects of laboratory diamonds. They can even cultivate real natural diamonds. I was very surprised.
Today technology is developing very fast, which is unstoppable. For example, before making jewellery, it was hand-carved wax mold. Now the 3D modeling technology can be completely replaced and all aspects are more rigorous. I believe that lab-made diamonds will gradually become more familiar and used by more people but this will not affect the value of the design at all. Even though technology is developing at a rapid pace, the ability to create art is irreplaceable by technology, so I am also very proud of my career.
#GAHSPpsyche /// CREATIVE PROCESS
Do you believe that conversations and the practice of exchanging ideas can help bring out creative abilities in people?
No, I don’t agree. I think creative ability is an innate potential, it is a high ability to think and work abstractly in flexible way. Creative ability is one of those things that’s hard to define, it is best seen as a perspective or a way of thinking, seeing and being, perhaps conversations and the practice of exchanging ideas will make people more capable of imitating, but true creation ability still requires spontaneous creative and innovative awareness.
What advice would you give to people who feel they don’t have enough motivation to participate in creative dialogues? What should they do if they are not aware of the right channels or are simply challenged by circumstances (not enough time, etc.)?
I think it is very important to find the right person to ask for career advice. While trusting in yourself, you must also listen to the guidance of professionals.
Don't engage in the design industry without enough motivation. Creative design work requires you [to] believe in yourself enough to take a risk, like spending a lot of time to drill the design in order to get a broader perspective. This is not just a career, but a way of looking at your whole life, it is a mindset. You must know that design is an extremely professional field.
/// ON SUCCESS
What is your definition of success?
I live my life.
What do you think it takes to become successful in the field of high jewellery?
Systematic and professional knowledge education, rich working experience, commercial awareness, indispensable design talent, and a heart of awe in art.
As a successful jewellery designer, what do you think are your responsibilities relating to the world at large?
Thanks for this sweet question but I don’t consider myself as a successful jewellery designer. My responsibility is to design more wonderful works of art so that more people can understand and love high-end jewellery.
Written and edited by Gennady Oreshkin
Image Courtesy of Dennis Song