Industry Interview: Adrienne Yeung
For this Industry Interview, we sat down with Vancouver jewelry designer and creator Adrienne Yeung from HEX Metals & Minerals! She discusses her journey designing jewelry, ethics of precious and semi-precious stones, and how to care for your jewelry.
We are also collaborating with Adrienne to host an upcycling jewelry workshop in Vancouver on Apr 27, 2019! If you’re interested, get more details and snag your tickets here.
Walk us through your background and how you got into jewelry!
I’ve always been drawn to making things, and arts and crafts have always been a part of my life. I like to think of myself as a “re-maker” as opposed to a creator. I enjoy deconstructing things and putting them back together in a creative way. For example, when I was a teenager, I would do a lot of t-shirt reconstruction.
I never went to a jewelry design school. I have a pair of pliers from a headband making kit from my childhood and a collection of beads as well as wires from the years. I like playing around with things and figuring them out.
Eventually, I went into jewelry making because it’s small, portable, and I don’t need a lot of equipment for it. Whereas for clothing, you need a sewing machine, etc. I also find there’s a sentimentality to jewelry, e.g., heirlooms, pieces from significant others, etc. and I think that’s really beautiful.
How did HEX Metals & Minerals get started?
I started in 2014 when I was working at a cafe. I made necklaces and the cafe had a section to sell things so I ended up selling my jewelry there. The rest is history.
In the beginning, HEX Metals & Minerals was very industrial — I would go to hardware shops as well as antique shops and use brass pieces. Ultimately, my jewelry is androgynous because I don’t want to restrict who should or shouldn’t wear jewelry. Jewelry is traditionally a very feminine item, so gender inclusivity is another important thing for me.
However, I find that when you try to embody an androgynous look, it is usually skewed more towards the “masculine centre” because it’s seen as more neutral, but I want to challenge that. I am personally drawn to more feminine pieces and a feminine aesthetic, so it’s been fun trying to incorporate that while being gender inclusive.
What’s your goal with HEX Metals & Minerals?
My main goal is diversity. I’m always thinking about how companies can do more and do better. I think it starts with transparency — companies need to be open about who they are, their decisions around the models they work with, and what image they put out in the world.
I also encourage consumers to do more too. Support with your dollars. Social media is also really powerful in challenging brands to do better. Spread awareness about the great things that companies are doing.
What is your process of making your jewelry pieces?
I make everything one by one. When I start a new design, I have all my metals and stones, look at what I have, and start to pair things in different arrangements. I actually work off an ironing board — it doubles as a standing desk! This process can take a couple of hours and I generally like to fiddle around with it when I’m listening to a podcast. I love experimenting with different things. I find it’s such a meditative and creative experience.
For HEX Metals & Minerals, everything is made to order. I never have more than one piece of inventory because I am a small business so I can’t afford to house everything. Plus, I don’t want to waste materials.
What materials do you use?
I really like raw brass because it lasts a long time and is really durable. I also enjoy using metals and crystals that aren’t traditionally jewelry materials like old silver or precious metals. I also don’t melt things down or add chemicals during my process.
Crystals are special to me because, obviously, they are beautiful and hold a lot of meaning. It can be hard to find the origin of crystals — I never 100% know where they come from. I ask my suppliers where they get them from, but even then you can’t be certain. I do buy crystals from local suppliers and support local though.
I also don’t use precious stones (and urge people not to buy jewelry that use precious stones) because it’s horrible for the environment and human rights. Precious stones include diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, etc. I strongly recommend everyone look up the environmental and human issues with these pieces before buying a piece of jewelry with these stones.
Speaking of precious stones being horrible for the environment and human rights, what dirty secrets about the jewelry industry can you share?
I’ve seen an overall trend towards using healing crystals and burning sage as being a part of an aesthetic and it makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes, I feel like it does skew towards appropriating Indigenous practices without their consent. I don’t think this is right because you shouldn’t “buy” into a culture. I’ve seen a lot of companies use another culture’s spirituality as a trend and it honestly makes me sick.
With (healing) crystals, in particular, it’s important to question how many people they have harmed before they came to you. There are certifications that generally apply to precious stones, but there really isn’t anything for crystals yet. Therefore like I previously mentioned, it’s so important to demand transparency from brands.
Any tips to help our readers on making their jewelry last longer?
Yes! Take off your pieces before you wash your hands, shower, or go to bed. Also, consider what fabrics and clothes you wear them with so they don’t get snagged or tangled. For example, a delicate necklace and delicate sweater combination would not be fun.
I also recommend having a good jewelry storage process. Untangling jewelry can sometimes result in breaking or weakening it. When you buy jewelry, it usually comes in a pouch, bag, or box, so make sure you save that box and use it to store your piece if you don’t have a formal jewelry holder.
What do you recommend doing with jewelry pieces you no longer wear?
There are a few things you can do and I feel like it’s similar to your clothing disposal suggestions! You can try to give the piece to someone, exchange it at a jewelry swap, consign it, etc.
If you know how to make jewelry, you could recycle parts of it (e.g. re-use the chain or charm on a necklace). Or, if you lost one earring, you can use the other one you still have and turn it into a necklace. For stud earrings, you can also put them on clothes as pins. There are lots of fun ways to upcycle jewelry for sure!
And if you’re based in Vancouver, come to our Recloseted x HEX Metals & Minerals upcycling jewelry workshop on Apr 27, 2019!
Yess love it! Do you have tips on creativity?
I draw inspiration from the items I use. Currently, I am inspired by raw brass and rough crystals. My design process isn’t formal, it’s quite fluid. It can take a while because I like to collect things. I allow myself the space to try a lot of different things and not pressure myself. If it feels forced at any time, I will abandon it right away.
Also, I think it’s important to work on your own timeframe. I’ve done seasons in the past, but that timeframe doesn’t really work with me. If I’m drawn to a certain aesthetic, I will run with that for the rest of the year.
A fun creative challenge I'm currently working on this year is my Astrology collection! Each month I make and release a piece of jewelry inspired by the corresponding sun sign. The design inspiration is crowdsourced from my social media followers and I try to take a non-literal interpretation of the sign's strengths and personality into the final piece.
How do you get out of a creative rut?
It’s important to recognize that creativity comes in waves. Honestly, just wait it out and be kind to yourself and remember that’s just how it is — sometimes you’re really creative and at other times you’re not. Lulls are necessary. That being said, I do like to challenge myself with new materials — I find that can help.