With her porcelain features and delicate hands, it’s hard to imagine Michelline Syjuco wielding a blow torch or hammering brass sheets. The artist, in fact, has been making jewelry and sculptures by hand for close to 10 years.
Her jewelry pieces are hard to miss and consist of cocktail rings, cuffs and neckpieces made primarily of beaten and torched brass. Her “Metamorphosis” sculptures, again made of patinated brass, are large and imposing.
In the eight years she’s been at it, she has gained a following that appreciates the work that goes into her one-offs.
She recently represented the Philippines in the International Fashion Showcase (IFS) during London Fashion Week 2015.
While there, Syjuco recalled carrying one of her skull-shaped wooden bags and being stopped on the street and asked repeatedly where she got it.
“Oh, I made it,” she replied before handing out her contact details. “They wanted to buy but the pieces I exhibited then were already owned by Art Lab, my parents’ art facility in Ayala Alabang.”
Next month (Sept. 2-6), she is fulfilling a dream to exhibit in France at Maison et Objet Paris. Syjuco, with nine other jewelry and accessories designers from the Philippines, will showcase her pieces in the Philippine pavilion curated by design consultant Budji Layug.
The five sculptures and 40 pieces of jewelry Syjuco will exhibit are on their way to Paris. She included a sculptural, corseted top made of brass.
“Budji wanted me to do something that was representative of my work but in a dress form,” Syjuco told Lifestyle. “I used the same techniques I use in my pieces, where everything is hand-torched down to the last detail. Nothing is produced with a machine, everything is done by hand.”
She has two workers, but the direction—such as applying acid to the brass to patinate it and bring out the metal’s green and pinkish tones—is all hers. After patinating the sculptural top, gold leaf was applied but not on all the surfaces. Syjuco said she prefers the unevenness “because it gives it more dimension.”
For Maison et Objet, she made cuffs using brass, silver and baroque pearls. “I purposely chose baroque because I wanted to incorporate ‘gnarly’ pearls into my designs. I like using imperfect materials to come up with something beautiful,” she said. The result is the collection In Chasms Deep, including statement cuffs with textured surfaces in a variety of tones.
“Some designers come up with one collection after another. If I come up with one collection a year, that’s fine with me. The thing about my pieces is that they are very expensive to produce, because they are made by hand and I do practically everything myself,” Syjuco said.