Jewellery designer Ona Chan’s led a colourful life so far, from cycling in Bhutan to sailing in Columbo. She’s lived in Toronto, Sydney, Hong Kong, New York City and now calls Vancouver home together with her family.
She’s been creative from an early age, counting drawing, painting and sculpting amongst creative pursuits. After beginning a degree in fine arts, she later opted for design school, unsure of where a fine art degree might lead her.
After graduating, she worked in PR at fashion giants Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci. Chatting with her over tea recently, Ona recalled the changing fashion scene as the branding revolution mindset got underway, getting a first-hand glimpse into how the industry works on a large scale. These were the pre-tech days, before Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
She later felt the need to return to creating with her hands, this time taking courses in wax carving and sculpting. After selling commissioned pieces in New York City, she once again moved clear across the globe to Hong Kong, taking in the natural beauty around her as inspiration.
Now in Vancouver, Ona’s jewellery collections include simple pieces with “an added surprise or twist”. She finds an inner calm through wax carving, often referring to it as her ‘third child’ after her own two children. As a busy creative mom, she likes to create easy-to-care for pieces. “Who has the time to clean jewellery?”
One of Ona’s pieces recently caught my eye at local Kitsilano boutique Middle Sister: the Boyfriend Cuff. The simple, elegant cuff is dipped in either 14k gold, 14k rose gold or rhodium over bronze. A similar design features stone accents inside the solid geometric shapes.
“While hiking toward the Himalayan Mountains on the Tea Horse Trail, we stayed in the ancient city of Lijian, China. This UNESCO Heritage Site has been around since the Song Dynasty and it’s beautifully kept buildings often have Lattice Windows which are created on a geometric grid. This simple design inspired me to visualize a contemporary collection using a traditional element.”
Perusing her website, I noticed many pieces contain semi-precious stones, quartz and Swarovski crystals created with various finishes. I find that her evolving lines (with names such as Mantra, Lattice and Dragon) equate to both sense of adventure and individuality.
From rings and earrings to bangles and necklaces, there’s a variety of shapes and materials to suit just about every taste and wardrobe style. Ona likes to take ornate objects and pair them down to simple forms, resulting in a timeless, elegant style to her work.
Her Dragon collection combines her family’s move to Asia with The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo while the Mantra collection recalls her Bhutan and Nepal travels. “The jewellery defines who I am.”