When you're an artist...
. . . is there any difference in work and play? Not when you're Can Van Le. The word "art" takes on a broad meaning. It's more than a lifestyle. Its the kind of personal challenge that ensues each time Can sets out to design a new piece of jewelry. "How can I set this stone differently?" "How can this large stone be set on a finger half its size?" "What's a new twist on an old idea?" This is the process that Can Van Le greets in the morning and follows him to sleep.
Born in Vietnam to a jewelry family of 6 brothers and sisters, his father passed away when Can was four years old, leaving his mother to carry on the very non-traditional duty of running their jewelry store. In 1968, at the age of 18, Can learned the jewelry craft from his brother in law.
Then the Vietnam war came. The communists took the South and their family store. They were no longer allowed to work in precious metals, only in stainless steel. As the war continued, families fled. Enduring a perilous journey with 400 other passengers on a 20 yard boat, Can, his three-year-old son and pregnant wife landed at an Indonesian refugee camp where they stayed for one and a half years. Always practical, Can says, "I brought my fishing line and hook, seeds, and my jewelry tools."
When Can came to Denver in 1980 he had $52 in his pocket and an $800 debt for the air fare. Within a year, still learning English, he was able to pick up jewelry work again. "America has so many opportunities. I love it here. I am able to have so many resources at my fingertips, to make me a better person. Here in America you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Hard work makes me feel good, because I love what I do."
Now his store, at it's new location at Exposition and Colorado Boulevard, has 14 showcases displaying Can's utmost attention to detail. "Jewelry is such an ideal medium to demonstrate harmony between technology and art. I try to achieve a connection by blending the wearability and beauty of a stone for a practical yet fluid design. Behind each element is the quality of full attention to workmanship that I pour into each piece."