Capital Times

Capital Times finds out what makes Wellington’s creative people tick.

GOLDSMITH Nigel Wong has gold in the blood.

His grandfather came to New Zealand as a gold prospector, but eventually left the southern gold rush to open a dairy in Newtown. Nigel Wong is now the only son of the Wong clan, so there was an expectation for the Newtown boy to succeed.  This month he did the family proud, and won the top award for fine jewellery in the Regal Castings Jewellery Design Awards.

Where were you born, and what were some early influences?
I was born and raised in Wellington. My mother had come here via Hong Kong when her family lost their home in the communist revolution after World War II. 
I admired my parents’ strong work ethic and how they were both creative people in their own way.  My mother can see a jersey on someone that she likes and knit the pattern from memory, and she is a self-taught florist. My father studied to be an engineer before taking over the grocery business.

What kind of a kid were you, and which traits persist today?
Because my parents worked at the dairy seven days a week they sent me to live with my grandmother. I spent a lot of time on my own and became comfortable in my own company – a characteristic which is an asset in my work today.

What is one of the first things you remember creating?
I loved to make models out of plasticine, especially dinosaurs – green T-Rex’s. I once carved a wooden yacht out of a solid piece of balsa wood. My auntie once left behind an oil painting set before travelling back to China and I gleefully used that all up. 
What was the first work you created that satisfied you?
I was proud of the model boat that I carved out of a single, solid piece of balsa wood.

What recent work are you especially proud of?
I’m proud of winning the National Jewellery Design Awards with X-Tension.  X-Tension is an extendable gold necklace with a green tourmaline stone as its centrepiece. It was a challenge mechanically as well as artistically which satisfies me on two different levels.
My favourite piece though, and the piece that best reflects my style and personality, is my 2008 finals piece Vessel. Vessel combined artistry, engineering and a technical challenge with my love of sailing and the sea – the tanzanite stone is such a beautiful colour and the ring had a flowing shape that reminded me of the sea. Platinum is my favourite metal.

Is there a process you go through to enter a creative mind frame?
Often I won’t recognise the inspiration until I see the drawing I’ve produced for a piece or even after the piece itself is finished.

Are there any standout stories behind your art works, in the process of creation, or in the significance of the work?
I love windsurfing and other watersports, there’s something about the ocean that speaks to me. 
I love the multi cultural aspect of Wellington, particularly in Newtown. Many Chinese children are encouraged into purely academic pursuits but if your passion is in art or music or somewhere else then one message I would like to give is to follow your dreams.

What would be a dream artistic project for you?
In some ways, working at the Village Goldsmith is the dream artistic project. Its amazing to have such a great team around you and, like a sponge, you can soak up all the inspiration in the room. Everyone is really open with sharing ideas and with their feedback, which is rare in an industry where there is often a lot of secrecy and suspicion.  

Behind the crafty mind - Capital Times interview with Nigel Wong