"I made this for me and for people like me"
A Chinese American artist is turning stereotypes into jewellery.
According to Vice, Chinese American artist Ada Chen is modelling her jewellery from stereotypes faced by the Asian American community.
Graduating from Pratt University’s BFA program, Chen has been using jewellery to reflect her experiences of being a Chinese American woman.
“Social commentary is usually pretty digital; you consume it quickly,” Chen explains. “And jewelry is not something that takes two seconds to make—it takes hours and hours —and I think putting [social commentary] in jewelry makes the concept more permanent. It’s just a different way of expressing social commentary than I’ve seen.”
One set of earrings features a text conversation she had with men on the internet. Made from laser-cut acrylic, one earring shows the man’s speech bubble, in which he says he’s “never been with an asian girl before.” Another reads, “are you Asian or Chinese?” to which Chen replies, “Im chinese but chinese is a typa asian so.”
“My text message earrings, I’ve seen them going around, and [some people are] like, the messages are stupid but the idea is great. And I’m like, well, first of all, you looked at my collection,” Chen says. “I didn’t make this for you. I made this for me and for people like me, because I feel like we don’t get that a lot. They just happened to go viral.”
Another jewellery set features a silver teeth grill with Chinese engraving that translates to “speak Chinese, we’re in America.” The set also comes with a necklace that reads, “speak English, we’re in America.”
Chen said her inspiration for the set stemmed from her childhood.
“I mean, as a child, I said shit [like ‘Speak English’] to my friends because I was embarrassed. I didn’t want people to hear us speaking Chinese,” Chen explains. “And then the ‘Speak Chinese’ is what I would say to anyone who says that [to us]. Because it’s fucking hard to learn Chinese, so why don’t you try to learn it? But also, it points to how my parents would always say, ‘Speak Chinese’ because they thought I would lose my Chinese. And, in a way, I did.”
“I really do love making jewelry for people to own and for Asians in America who relate to my art,” says Chen. “I feel like there’s a lot that we haven’t been able to say yet—we’ve been a little silent. So, the whole point of my collection was to make art for us.”