Hailing from Amsterdam and living in Berlin, jewellery designer Nhat-Vu Dang’s unique playful designs take on a humorous, interactive element beyond the more traditional reflections of worth, sentimentality, exclusivity and glamour.
Functioning as wearable kinetic sculptures, the Momentary Jewelry collection is made almost entirely out of cardboard, with comical features that include a confetti-throwing mechanism and pop-up blocks of neon colour. The pieces were created for his final graduation at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie academy in Amsterdam, and are a refreshing reconsideration of the function of fashion accessories, and distinctly different from any we’ve seen before.
As a progression from the project Nhat-Vu has just launched his ACTIVATE! line, adopting similarly unexpected elements. Employing transparent and reflective materials, this line emits subtlety and mystery by obscuring bright colours to make the object appear to glow or float. Intrigued by his distinct approach, we asked him some questions about his curious, shape-shifting work. Also worth noting that Nhat-Vu is an identical twin with a sharp eye for photography — check his collaborative website with his brother Dang-Vu at danandnad.com.
How did first find yourself first making jewellery?
When I was in my first year of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam I felt the desire to wear jewellery. But I couldn’t really find anything that would suit me in any shop, so I started making my own rings. They were very minimal off-white rings made out of stoneware. People kept asking me where I got them from so eventually I made and sold several. At this point I still had no idea that something such as really contemporary jewellery existed, let alone that one was able to study it. I initially wanted to become an illustrator, animator or fashion designer. Until I met my friend Noon Passama who introduced me to the jewellery department. What attracted me was how much freedom the students had to explore and experiment, the diversity and possibility to work with so many different materials. For example, it was the only department one could melt and hammer metal, copperplate, enamel, and emboss.
Where did the idea for your Momentary Jewelry collection come from?
It was completely coincidental. I was on my way to the academy, I stepped into the metro and saw this little boy stare at a grumpy looking old man with a bushy beard and heavy eyebrows. When he finally noticed the little boy staring at him, he started to stare back, expecting the little boy to look away. But the little boy kept staring. So after he felt like he couldn’t win the staring competition, the old man stuck out his tongue and they both burst out in laughter!
Are there any other jewellery designers or artists you find yourself particularly drawn to?
I usually get inspired by artists and designers outside the jewellery field. To name a few, artists like Claudia Comte whom does big and graphic installations, Gary Webb’s colourful sculptures, Nathalie du Pasquier’s paintings, Uta Eisenreich’s photographs and designers like Rei Kawakubo and Nicholas Ghesquiere whom are always inspiring when it comes down to choice of materials and the experimentation in shape and proportion.
As for jewellery designers I really admire the technical skill of Felix Lindner, the simplicity of Marc Monzo’s pieces, the whit of Alexander Blank’s jewellery, the colours that Jantje Fleischhut uses and the way Noon Passama manages to combine fashion and contemporary jewellery.
The designs of Momentary Jewelry seem to encourage play and social interaction, have you tested them out in this capacity?
I’ve worn one of the cardboard brooches out once while doing groceries, the one where a neon-coloured tongue flashes out with every step you make. I was very nervous and self-conscious though, since I didn’t know how people would react, or if they would react in a negative way (I would’ve been screwed because it was my graduation project and I was very behind). But I got a lot of smiles out of people, and some made quick remarks while passing by (all positive!), and the kids absolutely loved it. I also let a lot of people wear them when I exhibited for the first time, and people would start to hopscotch, bounce or walk in an exaggerated and self-confident way. They’re so focused on making the effects happen that they totally forget about the people around them. For a moment they let their guards down, a carefree moment when other people can see a glimpse of their inner joy.
Do you think your time living in Berlin affected your designs at all?
I wouldn’t say directly, but there’s no doubt that Berlin has been very stimulating and has a lot of input. Living here has definitely enriched my life. Before I moved here I didn’t visit exhibitions as often as I do now and I had never been to the theatre before I came here. It’s all very inspiring, although most of the time I just allow the experiences to drift away into my subconscious and hopefully they’ll find their place in the future, in the pin of a brooch or clasp of a necklace.
What are you working on next?
My plan is to continue working on my latest project called ACTIVATE!. I just showed 13 pieces at Galerie Rob Koudijs in Amsterdam. It’s a collection of brooches which seem to float on your clothes and depending on what you wear, they radiate colour on to your garment. Necklaces made out of compartments that fit into each other so the wearer can customise the appearance of the necklace, and bangles that appear to float and radiate colour onto your wrist. I still have a lot of ideas for this project which I’m itching to realise!