Upcycling Hong Kong: The Circular Economy of Recycling Material Culture in Pearl River Delta Jewelry Design

  • GRASSKAMP, Anna Katharina (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


For centuries, jewelry makers and goldsmiths have worked sustainably and created circular economies by melting and reshaping precious metal objects and by dismounting and reframing valuable gemstones. This longstanding practice of recycling has also informed recent practices by which jewelry designers have creatively reused waste materials alongside pearls and silver to turn “trash into treasure.” This proposed project will research upcycling practices in contemporary art and design in Hong Kong, a city that connects local with global practices while remaining rooted in Asia, one of the world’s top waste-producing and waste-receiving areas. Understanding craftsmanship as a way of thinking, we will map and investigate the pioneering roles of jewelry designers’ sustainable practices. We will seek to further develop their practices as a means to find creative solutions for Hong Kong’s 21st- century waste pollution problems, and make these solutions accessible to members of the public, designers, and students.

Although prior studies have focused on creative strategies of reuse in contemporary art and design, they have remained Western-centric. No study has examined Chinese and, in particular, Hong Kong practices. We will fill this lacuna by adding a focused Asian case study to the field of global art and design studies that complements extant theorizations of creative reuse. This project will be particularly innovative in its combination of artistic research with ecology. It will contribute to the larger paradigm shift affecting the humanities in the Anthropocene and pave the way for future innovations in jewelry design and recycling.

The primary aims of the project will be to
(i) research, contextualize, and theorize Hong Kong jewelry design
(ii) add an Asian case study to Western-centric research on artistic practices of reuse
(iii) demonstrate the pioneering role of designers in the development of sustainability
(iv) educate students and members of the public, thereby creating greater social awareness about waste pollution and options for recycling
(v) enhance and share creative solutions to environmental problems
The project will produce the following outputs:
(i) One peer-reviewed research publication
(ii) An article of public interest on recycling in Hong Kong arts
(iii) A body of jewelry design works and small sculptural objects
(iv) The exhibition HongKong ReCycled
(v) A digital archive of Hong Kong recycled art and design works
(vi) A materials library of recyclable and recycled Hong Kong materials
(vii) Conference presentations
(viii) A hands-on workshop for members of the public
(ix) An international academic workshop on practices of reuse in jewelry
(x) A teaching component for arts curricula

Effective start/end date1/08/209/01/22


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