School of Jewelry & Metal Arts Grad Lands Creative Quarterly Cover

Each year, Creative Quarterly—a prestigious publication that showcases top artists and designers—singles out the best of the exceptional work featured in its pages during the previous 12 months. A panel of outside judges narrows the choices down to the 25 best in four categories—fine art, graphic design, illustration and photography. The winners are published in Creative Quarterly’s special 100 Best Annual edition.

Last year, Academy of Art University School of Jewelry & Metal Arts graduate Jizhi “Gigi” Li’s photo of a decorative mouthpiece from “Perfectly Imperfect,” the jewelry collection she created for her M.F.A. thesis, not only won in the fine art category, the striking image also received the additional honor of being chosen for the cover of Creative Quarterly’s 100 Best Annual 2016, which will be published this month. 

“I was very excited,” said Li. “Every year, Creative Quarterly publishes four magazines with hundreds of images in each one. I never thought they would choose mine from all of them.”

Li’s clean, minimalistic approach to styling the photo she took of her roommate wearing her beautiful, slightly dangerous-looking ornamental mouthpiece, resulted in a mesmerizing image. Against a stark white backdrop, the model gazes upward with a somewhat distressed expression. Her hair is pulled back to reveal her bare face, neck and shoulders, drawing viewers to the fantastic mouthpiece that pries her lips apart.   

The photo also captures the complex emotions related to beauty and body image that Li explored while creating Perfectly Imperfect. “I think people have a strong reaction to my jewelry because it is very dramatic looking, and because my concept mixes pain and beauty into each piece,” she remarked.

Li found out about Creative Quarterly from Charlene Modena, director of the School of Jewelry and Metal Arts. Modena encouraged Li to send photos of her thesis work to the publication even though it doesn’t have a category specifically for jewelry. She thought the look and depth of the photos Li produced to document her project, and the intense journey they represented, made her images worth submitting.


A piece from School of Jewelry & Metal Arts alumna Jizhi “Gigi” Li’s Perfectly Imperfect collection is showcased on the cover of Creative Quarterly’s 100 Best Annual 2016. Image courtesy of Creative Quarterly.

“Gigi’s thesis has profound substance and a unique style,” Modena said. “The way she communicated and transformed her thesis concept through her photography went way beyond what I often see in a professional but traditional approach to thesis documentation.”

Modena was thrilled when Li contacted her with the news that her work had been accepted for one of last year’s Creative Quarterly issues. “That in itself was very exciting,” she said. “But later when I found out Gigi’s photo had been chosen for the cover of the 100 Best Annual, I got goosebumps. Getting there was such a long shot each step of the way.”

Li’s Creative Quarterly double-win is only the latest of her impressive achievements. Last year, an intricate leg adornment from Perfectly Imperfect earned her second place in the Future of the Industry category of the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America Vision Awards. Her prizes included the opportunity to show her piece to thousands of buyers and others in the jewelry trade at the recent 2017 MJSA Expo in New York City. 

“It was a really good experience,” said Li. “I was happy to have so many buyers and exhibitors see my work, and for the chance to tell people more about who I am and what I’m doing.”

In addition to continuing work on her own jewelry, Li runs a company called Metlab ( with two partners. The jewelry and metal accessory business offers a range of services, including design, 3-D printing, gem outsourcing and manufacturing.

For Modena, Li’s success is not only a testament to her talent and drive. It also speaks to the quality of training and education students pursuing a career in jewelry-making receive at the Academy. 

“Gigi’s Creative Quarterly cover and other accomplishments affirm and validate the distinctive, diverse interdisciplinary path taken by the School of Jewelry and Metal Arts and, most certainly, the innovation, dedication and hard work of our students,” Modena said.