She’s an artist, she’s an alchemist, she’s Phuket’s own jewellery maker. Meet Alexandra Phúc Mueller and her jewels.
Art and alchemy have lots in common. Just as ancient sorcerers dreamt of transforming base metals into gold, so do artists transform things of no or little value into treasure – random sounds into music, words into poetry and colours into paintings.
But there is one art form closer to alchemy than any other. One that takes raw metals and polished stones and turns them into precious jewels. The craft of jewellery making is not only a modern-day incarnation of alchemy, it can also become elevated to an art form. In fact, it’s a little bit of both.
And so is Alexandra Phúc Mueller – a little bit of both; part artist, part alchemist. “I always loved jewellery – rings, earring, necklaces. But what I also like is the creative process. I enjoy designing and utilizing raw materials to end up with something beautiful,” she tells me in the living room of her Phuket home. The walls of that home are covered with paintings, large size photographs and graphics, indicating that the owner of the space has a knack for creativity.
But it’s what’s on the table between us that is the true expression of Alexandra’s artistic flair – rolls of silver wire, polished precious stones, scraps of metal I cannot recognize or name. And next to them – ready pieces: rings and earrings, bracelets and necklaces; each and every one of them made by Alexandra herself.
“I always thought that to make jewellery you need to go to a special school and have a lot of technical knowledge. But then, about a year ago, I bought some jewellery directly from a producer who told me that she learned how to make it herself. And that the best way to learn, is to start doing, “tells me Alexandra.
“So I did, I bought books, watched YouTube videos and this is how it all started.”
A year of trial and error, of learning from books and from the vibrant online community of jewellery-makers, resulted in approximately 30 hand-made pieces, which come in a variety of shapes and styles and are made with a range of raw materials. “I started working with copper and brass because I love the way it looks, especially the beautiful colour of hammered and oxidized copper. Though now my favourite material is silver, it’s much easier to work with. I learned a lot in this one year,” she explains.
But before she sits behind her work-station and begins cutting, melting, soldering and filing, she first has to source all the raw materials (silver from England, precious stones from India, brass and copper from Bangkok) and come up with the designs: “I sometimes take inspiration from nature, for example, I made one pair of earrings shaped like a Thai lime leaf, but other than that, designs just form in my mind.”
Once all those elementals are in place, it takes Alexandra at least 1.5 hours to make a simple ring and 3, 4 and more hours to complete a more elaborate design. But as labour intensive as it is, for her, it feels like relaxation “I focus completely on the piece I’m working on and enjoy it, it’s relaxing, a bit like meditation.”
And when is a piece finished? “It’s only finished when it’s perfect for me,” she says.
But even when the transformation of the base metal into a precious object of art is complete, the creative process is not. First Alexandra tests the ready pieces (“I need to see what it looks like and feel what it feels like, I am my own model,” she laughs), and then photographs them and presents them to the world, under her own brand name.
“It’s called Alchemy Jewels. Alchemists used to transform base metals into precious ones and that’s also what I do. I transform raw materials into precious, personalised jewellery,” she says and adds “When I finish a piece I am proud of my work and I can’t wait to show it off to others. Every new piece reminds me to keep doing what I love. If you have a dream, follow it.”
See Alexandra’s jewellery on Alchemy Jewels Facebook Page