A preoccupation with structure, hidden spaces and exploring a person’s mind inspire Hee Young Kim to create a wonderful array of one-off jewels and collections underpinned by a focus on combining shapes, colours and layers.
The straight lines and clean angles of her designs represent the insides of tidy drawers, building floor plans and compact spaces. Hee’s desire to see and control this small world, whilst exploring its harmony and curiosity, results in understated designs fashioned from precious metals and clean cut semi-precious stones.
As Hee leaves the UK and takes memories of Central St Martins and Goldsmiths Fair with her, we talk to her about her designs, her personality and her drive to share the ‘happiness of jewellery’.
Adorn Jewellery Blog: You have a very distinct signature style. Is this something that has always been present in your work or have you spent time discovering it?
Hee Young Kim: My work is related to my character. I like clear, clean and correct things. When I think about and make something, the outlines are naturally dissolved by a moderate style. The starting point might be different but, eventually the end is similar. Also, I am always interested in buildings’ shape and interior design, specially angled lines make me curious and excited.
As you can see, my work is designed squarely with 90 degree angles. I feel that the right angle is the perfect one for a combination with others.
AJB: Your work has been showcased at Goldsmiths Fair and Hallmark Salon, as well as at Sieraad in Amsterdam. Have these events helped as important goals in your early career?
HYK: Yes, I believe that the value is really important for jewellery. The place and location to show the jewellery makes the value higher. Goldsmith’s Fair is the most competitive one in the UK and to be selected by the show means instantly gaining recognition which is why I decided to apply for Goldsmiths’ Fair first when I started my career.
I still carefully think where I can show my new pieces and I think these fairs are ideal. The visitors’ sensibility is quite elevated. They want to listen to the designer’s thoughts and I really admire their attitude. It makes my jewellery more valuable, I feel.
AJB: Tell us about your aesthetic.
HYK: When I prepared my degree show for the graduation BA course at Central Saint Martins, my tutor Caroline Broadhead said: “find your own style, try to get only yours”. At the time I went into a slump about my collection. One day I looked back at my sketchbook of 3 years work and then I could see that I had been interested in square, box shapes and inner space. Naturally I thought about myself, what I like, who I am.
All my collections are my story. Since the degree show, I have continued exploring my world.
AJB: Your understated designs explore your curiosity about the spaces around a person’s life. How did you initially come about injecting this concept into your work?
HYK: Everyone has their own space in a drawer or wardrobe. My hobby is arranging my stuff so whenever I feel depressed or my head becomes too stressed I open my drawers under the bed. There are my small things such as spare cosmetics, selected DVDs and collected vintage objects. My room is really tiny so I don’t have enough space to display them out in the open. Most of my cute small things are in the drawer and I spend time arranging them and making the place compact for the next time. To be compact, the object should have 90 degree angles.
Every piece has different shape, so when I finish there are some small empty spaces. I’m inspired by the empty one.
AJB: Please describe your design and innovation process.
HYK: At the moment, I don’t have proper steps. I am still enjoying the concept “arrangement and satisfaction” so the initial concept and related ideas are in my head.
I always keep my eyes and mind open to look for my favourites whenever I walk to my workshop or see interior magazines. I keep selected images and sometimes look back.
On the bus or during walking, a new idea may pop out and I sketch roughly the initial design immediately on to paper. Then, I try to draw different shapes as much as I can in the workshop and I select one of them to make a real piece. Repeating this way, sometimes directly making a series, is one of my pleasures as well.
AJB: Is each design a unique piece, and if so, is this a concept of your work that you’d like to continue with?
HYK: I usually make one-off pieces because I enjoy the making process and it takes a lot of time. Thinking and developing the design happen at the same time as making it.
It’s possible to make several of the same pieces but I don’t use a casting so the producing work can be really hard. Also, one limited item gives the owner a special satisfaction and it is a kind of loyalty for both of my work and my clients.
However, I do make some popular items again because I want many people who like the piece to buy and keep wearing it.
I want to share my happiness!
Interview: Lauren Rowden