Rho Tang

October 06, 2021

Rho Tang-Pistachios

Rho Tang is featured in our 2021 Exhibition 'Reinventing the Pearl' 
October 1 2021- January 16 2022

Not your grandma's jewelry, artists take a classic material and turn it contemporary. Perfect for wearing next to the fireplace and adding a sparkle to winter. 


Q: Where did you study Jewelry/Metalsmithing and when?

A: I’ve taken a few jewelry classes when I studied architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. Since 2018, I was mentored by Lisa Spiros at the Jewish Community Center in NYC.


Q: What inspires your work?

A: My previous career in architecture plays a big role in my perspective. Even though I am no longer practicing the profession, the complexity of it has always been a source of inspiration to my jewelry work. Even the simplest form of architecture offers depth and layers as light, shadow, human movement etc. juxtapose on the surface. This is what I’d like to bring out in my jewelry design.


Q: Do you have a favorite piece you've made?

A: It might sound cliche, but it’s always the next piece I make. I want to keep pushing myself to discover new forms, materials, composition and movement.


Q: What made you want to start making jewelry?

A: Going back to my background, architecture at Rhode Island School of Design is a relatively conservative program, it emphasizes on traditional drafting and model making by hands. And it’s what I enjoyed the most during those years. However, after graduation and working at large architecture firms for years, everything at work was digitalized. It made me miss working with my hands. As I mentioned in the previous question, I took a few jewelry classes at school way back, and I decided to go back to art making and now I am working full time as a studio jeweler.


Q: What is your favorite process? Why that one over others?

A: My favorite process is the initial concept and model making. I rarely do sketches, making a quick paper model helps me visualize the form I desire to achieve. It’s probably the most “creative” step out of the entire process of making.


Q: Who is your favorite artist/who do you wear?

A: There are many artists I admire, it’s hard to name one. And I like them for different reasons, some of them are strong political advocates that I think it’s important in art jewelry, and some of them explore unconventional materials. To name a few, Rachael Colley, Manami Aoki, Lisa Walker and of course my mentor Lisa Spiros. I collect many artists’ pieces, but I don’t wear them.


Q: Is there an artist on your personal wishlist that you hope to own one day?

A: Karl Fritsch


Q: What is something you would want someone to know about your work that they might not know?

A: I don’t like to over explain my work, but I remember not once someone asked me if the individual piece is laser cut. They are all hand sawed, the big pieces such as the necklace took me 6 to 8 hours just sawing not including polishing and assembly. I collect the mother of pearl remnants in a jar, I might use them to make something later.


Q: When you're not making jewelry, what are you doing?

A: My husband loves mushroom hunting, and I would spend time with him go to woods look for edible mushrooms. We just bought a house in upstate New York, we are looking forward to explore different hiking trails in the area.

Q: Pearls are a widely recognizable material, what drew you to them specifically? 

A: Mother of pearl is a thin coating of nacre adheres directly on the inside of oyster and abalone shells, Pearl, on the other hand, is formed by layers of nacre. Both mother of pearl and pearl share the characteristics of being resilient, shimmering and iridescent. There are not many artists I know using mother of pearl as the main material for contemporary jewelry making, maybe due to its fragile nature. For me, it’s the fragility that drew me to explore the potential, to achieve a balance of vulnerability and resilience. 


Q: Can you speak to the generational significance of pearls (either generally or in your work) as they are something we often see passed down as an heirloom

A: Both pearl and mother of pearl have been used in jewelry making or decorative arts for centuries. Pearl has been used in the past for creating heirloom jewelry.  These pieces were considered sophisticated and a vintage style that reminds one of older generations. There is a trend of nostalgia in recent years and a retrospective return to the past amongst the younger generation. That’s why I think this exhibition is really significant in terms of exploring new ideas, forms and usage of traditional materials.


Q: Have you always worked with pearls? If not, what pushed you to incorporate them into your work? 

A: I have not always worked with pearls or mother of pearl. From the jewelry making technical aspect, I like cold connections meaning heat treatment is avoided, instead I use rivets to join different materials. This method is carried from the previous series to the current work of  “Evolution of Being”. I look for different materials that could apply the cold connection technique. In addition, I don’t like overly decorative art through combining multiple materials. The natural beauty of the mother of pearl speaks for itself.


Q: Can you speak to your 'Reinvention' of this classic material? 

A: Mother of pearl was often widely used as an inlay since ancient times. Through the series, I want to explore and push the potential of the material through new ways of connection and create visual contrast of fragility and rigidity.


 Rho Tang

Beacon, NY

Click here to shop her collection!


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