Hanna Kim is an artist based in South Korea. We found her work while searching on Instagram and even though she doesn't work with polymer clay, her artwork is so inspirational, that we asked her to be a part of the Society with an interview about her life as an artist and the art that she creates. Enjoy the interview!
How long have you been interested in art and since when have you been involved in jewellery design? I was a kid who liked to draw imaginary pictures for fun and that affected my dreams to be an artist who makes those imaginations into “3D”. I was more into the crafts which enable the embodied object to have certain function, rather than fine arts, so I majored in Metal work and Jewelry in university after contemplating my future career. It could be ceramic arts or metal crafts, but I chose the latter for the solidity of material; it gives the work a more solid shape. I was interested in Art jewelry class in particular, so I went to graduate school for more study afterward. I’ve been working as a jewelry artist since I finished grad school.
Why did you choose this particular field of art?
Daydreaming was the biggest part of my time alone; traveling around the universe with my private spacecraft, which actually was an umbrella, or peeping into imaginary snakes coiling up in the closet as I’d seen around my grand mother’s place, and so on. It may sound somewhat abnormal (laughing), but I really enjoyed those secretive and innocent times. Due to my childhood memory, I was constantly thinking about doing something related with ‘imagination’ in the future.
As I went to the university for formative arts with the expectation of manifesting imaginations, art jewelry was quite a huge shock to me. There exists extravagant freedom of expression beyond mastering the difficult technique of metal craft, and I was especially fascinated by visualizing three dimensional forms based on various materials like before my eyes. Also, I can not forget the very first moment that I found myself in such an intense feeling with this very special impression when the crafted jewelry was put on the human body.
What material do you use to make jewellery and why? I usually use acrylic panels, it is a kind of plastic. The main reason I chose the material is that it is possible for me to express it with a colorful palette. Sometimes I select colors based on the mood when I go to work, sometimes the color I use infuses some special shape into my ideas. Now you can easily imagine how important the color is to my work. Acrylic I use is actually about 2 - 3.5 mm thick, but people may see it as almost 2D pieces in a distance. I process the raw materials thinly so that it has optimal thickness, in order to embody my intention of optical effect for my work. Obviously, I liked the light weight of the material as well.
What does the life of an artist in South Korea look like? Korea is a society with fairly good infrastructure overall. Everything is quick and convenient. It’s a great country to be provided materials or apply new technology if necessary. However, compared to Europe as known as the matrix of contemporary jewelry or the US where various types of jewelry are in great demand, for me it feels like there are less people in Korea who enjoy it. Selling works is directly related to the matter of living, so it is a bit more difficult to live in Korea as a jewelry artist than in Europe and the US, I think. That is why artists need to expand their boundaries to the outside of Korea. Luckily, it is easier to access to each individual via social media these days, so it became much better for artists to promote themselves to the public when they’re ready.
Your jewellery is a work of art that you exhibit in galleries. How does collaboration with galleries work? It is rather the invitation from the gallery than collaboration with them. They see my works from fairs or other exhibitions and give me an invitation to hold exhibits at their gallery.
According to the organic shapes and motifs you use in your creation we conclude that you are looking for inspiration in nature. Is that right? Yes, you got it right. Unknown lives in nature have been my long time interests. Before the works which are rooted in optical phenomena currently I’m doing, I made jewelry with dreamy shapes mixed with different features from many other species, observing the nature of exotic animals and plants. Looking into Mother Nature, I imagine unknown lives that may exist somewhere here on this planet and it brings me the inspiration for creating. In fact, optical art is quite an accessible theme among arts in general. My work can cause relatively outstanding optical effects. In order to build my own formative language, I’m working on creating the form that awakens the image of life, wriggling from one direction to another.
What is happening before the actual creation of the jewellery? Surly you are making some sketches of your design.
I use both an iPad and pencil for sketching. Each tool has its own flavor. It is very convenient to make it more precise and easy to modify when I draw with my iPad. Meanwhile I also love the feeling of the texture of pencil for rough draft. Many say that it feels the same way with actual pencil drawing if you put paper textured film on the iPad, but I think the feeling can not be tricked that easily. I prefer to use actual pencils on actual paper.
What is the most challenging phase of your creative process? It is the phase of deciding the form. Whenever I’m being hasty, or obsessed with the process too much, the result is clear; unsatisfying outputs. I tend to reproach myself if I found my piece in that situation, so I consciously take enough time to search for the right form.
Do you wear your own pieces? Yes, I do wear them time to time. It is the best way to figure out if my works are durable enough, or have any uncomfortable parts to wear. I try to wear my own pieces as much as I get a chance for it hits me totally different when I wear them rather than watching them as the work itself on my worktable or displayed for exhibitions.
Is there your jewellery currently available to admire in person? They are now on sale in Gallery O in Korea. Some brooch and necklaces were selected by International Handwerkmesse, Talente in Munich, and they will be displayed in March 2021. I hope things get better in Europe soon, and the exhibition will be held safely. You can find my other works except ‘Mistake of retus’ series, at Mydaybyday gallery in Rome, Italy. Actually, pieces from ‘Mistake of retus’ series have been shown only for a short amount of time, so it has less chance to meet in physical products abroad. I have a goal to make more pieces in the upcoming year so that they can be reached to more people around the world.
Do you have any favourite artists? I admire the work of Ramon Puig Cuyas, he is a jewelry artist is based in Spain. When I participated in JOYA Art Jewelry & Object Fair in Barcelona back in 2015, I had a chance to listen to his story. I’ve been envious of his ’small pieces’ which are picturesque and condensed with restrained senses as well, so I was very nervous when I met him in person. I could feel that he is an energetic and humane person in his eyes through our short conversations. After that encounter, I’ve been more encouraged to be working hard to create better pieces for a long time. I really love film art as well, considering myself as a ‘cinephile’. Agnes Varda, Paul Thomas Anderson, Coen brothers, and Bong Joon-ho are my favorite directors who have their own colors of auteurism making movies. Their interviews, or articles inspired me a lot as a person who creates arts, too. Recently I’m so into BTS band after I got to know them. From their ‘love yourself’ campaign throughout the world to their hard work to improve themselves as performing artists, I’ve been recalled so many good virtues from those young men. They have a positive influence not only on my attitude for life, but also on working for my career.
Do you think there is a difference between women and men in the craft field of jewellery making? For me it is a bit careful in answering the question. Regarding the work itself, there is the difference in senses between masculine side and feminine sides. I can see subtle differences of expressions even if delicacy is required in this craftwork field in common. Nothing can be judged by biological distinction, but I think it is just natural quality. Regarding the gender ratio of craftspeople, female artists occupy a larger range of the community. I guess this reflects several realistic matters to be a full-time artist.
Do you have any plans for your jewellery making in the future? I have two ideas within myself. I’ve been using plastic materials such as acrylic or resin for my work till now. Regarding the matter of responsibility for material choice as an artist, there is a sense of debt to the environment in my mind, choosing the material producing harmful by-products. For this reason I think about crafting the jewelry with more eco-friendly materials sometimes.
Another idea is that I want to talk about death with my work. In my twenties, the life of those singers and writers who died young inspired me very much. Besides, I had to go through with the loss of my family too early. For I was exposing myself to many books and films on death through the time, it was natural to think about death in my daily life. Death is the shadow of life, so it might become something that people yearn for as much as life. To be honest, I was overwhelmed once in a while by the impulse of death in the past. Now what I want the most is to make my life healthy and beautiful! (laugh) It is my wish to take every little step in life ahead of me, and then I want to meet my parents again who stayed with me only for a while.
Are there any events planned for 2021 in your diary? First of all, I’m expecting to take part in the Sieraad art fair in Amsterdam in November. It was supposed to be scheduled this year, but postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic situation. Still it is difficult to predict anything in the future, all we can do now is hoping for everything to come back to our daily lives as soon as possible. And there are some plans to have exhibitions with the jewelry groups I’m in. <Nomad>, contemporary jewelry group I feel attached to a lot, always have long discussions to decide new themes for exhibition. Current theme of my works of optical illusion was developed from our group exhibition; Kinesis-Body and Ornament. The exhibition expressed the movement of jewelry, so I ended up focusing on the possibility that the object can be seen as if it is moving, rather than the actual movement by means of any power. In 2021, <Nomad>> will reveal a new theme and you will be able to see it through our exhibitions. It is quite a thrilling experience to deal with new themes, and new materials, but as an artist I feel happy and grateful to have a chance to expand my old mindset and explore many potentials as well.
Is your jewellery for sale? Or where can those interested in your art find you?
Yes, you can purchase my works through the exhibition or fair I participate in. Sometimes I receive contacts from people who watched my portfolio on Instagram. So I’m trying to upload the information and news on exhibitions and works so please check out my Instagram!