Celebrity swag bags at this year's MTV Movie awards will have a little piece of New West tucked in them.
That's because local designer Penny Cheng's jewelry line, Saniki Creations, will be included in a celebrity gift lounge for nominees and presenters in Hollywood this June.
"This used to be just a hobby - making jewelry," Cheng says, astonished at her own trajectory from hobbyiest to global recognition.
The Queensborough mother of three girls didn't set out to become a jewelry designer. Her oldest daughter would buy cheap jewelry from the mall, but Cheng found that it would discolour her daughter's skin. Also it broke easily, so she started fixing the jewelry, which eventually morphed into her making it.
"One day I popped into Michaels (craft store) to grab more supplies to fix their jewelry, and I thought, 'You know what, I'll just make my own, because that way I know it's well made, and it won't hurt the kids,'" she said. "I kept making it and making it. And I thought, I have to do something about all of the inventory," she adds, laughing.
Eventually, she started a website where she sells her creations. Cheng became involved with The Artisan Group, an American group through which she gained access to the awards event.
Cheng will send 100 of her chainmaille pendants - called Fidget - south for the swag bag; as well, one her chainmaille home decor pieces - The Tree of Life - will also be displayed on The Artisan Group's table in the lounge.
Cheng specializes in the technique of chainmaille weaving, a material that originates from the King Arthur's court-era.
"It was used for armour," she says. "It's like rings that are woven together to form a mesh. Apparently, through sword fights, it was harder for the blades to go through."
Cheng started making jewelry in January 2009. At first, she made beaded jewelry.
"I went to a craft fair, and I noticed everybody else was doing it. So with the competition, it was like there's no way I can sell anything," she says. "I was just Googling images to get inspired, and I saw this chainmaille bracelet. It was just a little bracelet, and I was like 'Oh, that's really cool.' I've always been the type of person that loves metal."
Cheng also teaches at Moody Beads in New Westminster and participates in local craft fairs/trade shows. She is a member of Artists in the Boro, a Queensborough collective.
As for the call of Hollywood, Cheng isn't able to actually attend the event.
"I wish I was," she says, laughing.
Still, a little piece of her will be there.
For more information about Cheng's jewelry line, visit her website at www.sanikicreations.com.