Jizhi Li’s collection of jewelry creations for her thesis, “Perfectly Imperfect,” explores her philosophy on beauty and body image. Body ornamentation is often used to distract attention away from the imperfections and flaws in our bodies, and her artistic intention is to frame parts of the body to redecorate their imperfection. The project has earned Li multiple honors, and most recently, her dramatic leg adornment earned yet another: a Fine Art Award in issue 45 of Creative Quarterly, one of the top art and design publications in the world.
“The piece is for people with flaws or disabilities,” says Li about the sculptural adornment she created from tightly arranged, overlapping wires embellished with cloisonné. “It’s very sharp, looks a bit dangerous, and restricts leg movement.” The design replicates what it feels like to have a disability, something she knows firsthand—one of her legs was temporary paralyzed for several years due to an illness. “To me, flaws are what makes us special,” she explains. “I want to create art that emphasizes scars and other imperfections, and that helps people with them be more confident.”
Earlier this year, the same piece won second place in the Future of the Industry category at the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America (MJSA) Vision Awards, which recognize outstanding talent in the field of jewelry design. As a winner, Li will get a chance to display her pieces for thousands of buyers at the 2017 MJSA Expo, the premier trade show for professional jewelry makers and designers. “The MJSA expo is a really big manufacturing exhibition that showcases the best technology, gems and jewelry, so having the opportunity to show my piece there next year and meet people in the industry is very exciting,” says Li.
Li also won the 2016 Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Award, an honor that came with the prize of a coveted full scholarship for a professional training program at GIA in New York City. The curriculum complemented the education she received at the Academy and helped her build on the solid foundation she’s already established. “At the Academy, we focused on coming up with concepts and developing them into contemporary jewelry pieces,” she explains. “We also studied different techniques and materials—it was really fascinating for me, and I learned so much. Knowing these things also set me apart from many of my classmates at the GIA.”
Since earning her diploma from GIA in Jewelry Design and Technology, Li has been designing new jewelry in New York. “New York is a great place to meet others in the industry. You can just walk to places like the Diamond District and talk to people about things like which casting and trading companies are the best. When I talk to people in the jewelry business, I feel like my experience at the Academy helps me and makes me a little more special. I have a lot of things I can share, not only about fine jewelry but about all the other things I’ve learned and the steps I’ve taken in the past to get to this place.”