Weinan Pan is a talented London based jewelry designer and maker… But her life has always been nomadic, embodying the concept of the digital wanderer we are so affectionate about. We decided to meet her and let her tell the truly inspiring story of her life.
So, you are a nomad, in a contemporary sense. Why did you decide to leave China and start your business in London?
Weinan Pan: «My jewellery collection “Nomadic Tara” was once called “Nomadic Princess” (2019), often raising questions in potential customers. Thus, here is the story of me, my Nomadic Princess, and Tara.
I was born and I grew up in the fishing town of Zhuhai (meaning Pearls Sea, and now known as the most Romantic City in China) which is full of fairy tales and Buddhist mythology. The symbol of the town is the princess of the South-Sea Dragon King: a mountain named as phoenixes habitat. A big rock believed to have spiritual power, mysteriously lying on the middle of the coast-side highway. Many locals have Guanyin / Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva as their children’s spiritual godparent, and part of my childhood art education was copying Buddhist goddess images from local postage stamps and Thangka (Tibetan Buddhist Painting).
The word nomadic describes a lifestyle involving annual long-distance migrations. I have been living like a migratory bird since I was 16 years old, first pursuing education in Beijing (1998), then (since 2000) a career and a family. My Buddhist parents have been chanting the Green Tara Mantra for me since the first day I left home. Unlike most Buddha and Bodhisattva in the cross-legged meditation pose, Green Tara has her right foot extending from her throne to help whoever is in need. Thus, for me, Green Tara indicates true love through action».
What’s also truly inspiring is that Green Tara is a feminist.
Weinan Pan: «She could have reached Nirvana by giving up her female form yet, she insisted on keeping it, using her feminine power to benefit all sentient beings. She is known as a liberator and the Mother of all the victorious ones.
Thus, Green Tara, for me, is not only a protectress, a symbol of love but also a role model of empathy – principled, graceful yet determined. Brave enough to pursuit her goals, yet strong enough to move on. As Green Tara used to be a human princess, I named my jewellery collection Nomadic Princess to represent the challenging yet fascinating journey of Enlightenment which everybody can embark. The Nomadic Princess turned into Nomadic Tara the moment I realised that we do not need to seek answers in the outside; we have everything inside us.Weinan Pan
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My stay in the U.K. was not a decision, but a result of live-in-the-moment. I came here in the U.K. to study for one year, in 2006. However, I have been lucky enough to have some exciting internships opportunities right after my graduation. I had been a intern with the artist and sculptor Andrew Logan, and Fashion Designer Madame Zandra Rhodes. Then, in 2008 I started working for Dover Street Market International. I’ve been studying jewellery design and making since 2013. It started as a hobby, but then I met my 1st customer in London… In 2014 I slowly started building up my career as a London based jewellery designer-maker and set up my home studio (in 2015)».
You use silver to create your jewels, why is this material special? What is the philosophy lying behind it?
Weinan Pan: «The key features of my jewels are the use of sterling silver bonding with yellow gold, silver oxidisation, and patination. Sterling silver, the primary material of my jewellery, tends to naturally weather and oxidize… My additional experimental finishes exalt this characteristic and make my jewels continuously change with time and wear. This process represents personal life journeys and a sense of contentment achieved through honest reflection and appreciation for who one truly is».
Because of the heavily weathered appearance, some people thought that my jewelry was made with other materials such as bones. My jewelry inspires customers to further appreciate the design: forms, textures, colour; the craftsmanship, and the story behind it than the metals and gemstones.Weinan Pan
Where does your passion for jewelry come from?
Weinan Pan: «Everybody has memories to keep like treasures-in-heart and wants to carry with him/her all the time. As I found myself living in different places in my earlier years of life, it was hard for me to move around with bulky and heavy things. Thus, I am really into small, precious, long-lasting objects that are full of memories. Jewelry is the perfect answer. Moreover, I am not the only one who believes in it. Wearing jewelry is how Tibetan nomad carry their treasures and move around on the grassland swiftly. My jewelry is part of the owner’s body art rather than something locked in a treasure chest. Thus, my jewelry has a weathered appearance mirroring the bold, wild, yet peaceful nomadic spirit».
What is your opinion about sustainability, how can the jewelry industry become more sustainable?
Weinan Pan: «Jewelry business comes in different forms and sizes so it can have huge impact on the environment and has to be handled carefully. As a home based local micro business, I do the following things to keep my practice sustainable:
- Use recycled silver and gold.
- Go for local suppliers for cutting down carbon footprint.
- Go for local suppliers who practice ethical mining and fair trading into their business, using reclaimed gemstones.
- As I work from my home, I have a higher and stricter rules of metals treatments and how to deal with waste.
- Make-on-demand, to create jewelry for keeping.
- Considering long term environmental impact when adopting a new material into design and manufactory».
How do you manage to find a balance between your private and work life?
Weinan Pan: «Jewelry design and making is the love and passion of my life. Thus, making jewelry can happen at any time of the day. However, my nomadic life experience taught me that time and occasions to be with whom we love are unpredictably limited. It goes without saying that, when I have the chance to be with my loved ones, I do my best to make them feel my presence».
Furthermore, a meaningful design or artwork always comes with an explicit content, a higher purpose, and a deep story. Playing other roles in my life, interacting with people, experiencing the 3D world and retreating in nature are essential processes for my creativity.Weinan Pan
What is that cannot be missing in your bag/backpack when you travel?
Weinan Pan: «It depends on the destinations. But I am always the one who carries emergency items while travelling with my friends. I also carry something very random: I carried my ballet pointe shoes to many places including Tibet».
What is your relationship with travels?
Weinan Pan: «Traveling is part of my life and my path to learn and understand the world. I have been to Guangzhou, Beijing and London for systematic art and design training; Tibet, Switzerland, Scotland High Lands for academic research; to New Zealand for a possible migration; to Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia for professional scuba diving training and retreats. Travelling for me is also a way to joyfully spend time with my friends and family».
However, I haven’t left London since late February 2020. Not only because of the Covid-19 and the U.K. national lock-downs but also because I needed some time to digest the knowledge of what’s happening in the world. 2020 has been a valuable year for me to reflect on what I had learned and to further develop my design and techniques, and refine a clearer vision of my life purpose.Weinan Pan