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Jules Kim Promotes the Project Portraits of the Liminal

The artist and designer of Bijules, becomes promoter and mentor of the Portraits of the Liminal project, to be presented at the Fondazione Sozzani in Milan next autumn

Portraits of the Liminal. How did the project come about?


After 20 years of fashion and luxury experience, I am steadfast about creating a specific and authentic point of view. Instead of contemplating yet another jewelry collection, I decided to choose a more impactful way of communicating my jewelry and talent by exploring innovative ways to go forward with my work. And, as the tension of global issues mount, I’d like to find a moment of creative release that could impact a group of individuals who have the power to affect change. Fashion and luxury consumers can decide to make room for altruism through the spirit of product and experience. I have always adopted a three-dimensional approach to my work at Bijules jewelry: I only create when context, innovation and impact intersect, otherwise I will not create. “Context” encapsulates the heart and authenticity of each design and project while I seek to raise the spirits of diverse cultures, marginalized people and underserved communities through storytelling and passed traditions. “Innovation” challenges standards and eliminates excess in design, manufacturing and utility. I engage in risk through innovation and rebellion to push creativity forward one idea at a time. “Impact” must benefit all those involved in its process. From concept development to ethical business practices and the ripple effect of a final sale, impact imposes a duty to do better for the earth and its denizens.


Can you give us some details on its development?


Portraits of the Liminal represents an effort to ex- plore various approaches to what a portrait actu- ally is and how to utilize the liminal “in-between” as a point of inspiration. The act of redefining what we know and diving into what we do not, helps realize a new understanding of how we solve problems, design and ultimately evolve as humans. I have involved six photographers who do not define themselves by their work. Each of them explores and forecasts human nature according to style, environment, reality and adaptation. I do the same. I find the duality between the fleeting instant of a captured image and the eternity of fine jewelry quite interesting and herein lies the captivating intersection of this collaboration. The idea is to fuel each photograper’s inspiration with Bijules jewelry as an aspect of their portrayal. I will not dictate a creative direction, only a small representation of gold and gems. Using the portrait as the base and liminal exploration as further influence, the photos will be exhibited at the Fondazione Sozzani in Milan next fall. The Fondazione Sozzani’s aim is to promote and disseminate contemporary cultural and artistic activity and this chosen and immense community will not only showcase visuals, but also produce observations surrounding our world today with panel discussions and workshops. The need to produce through innovation, context and impact implies that all these elements exist not just in my jewelry making process, but also in the extension of the universe around it. As a young half-Korean identical twin, my sister and I grew up with a single artist mother. We three survived domestic abuse by escaping into the darkness of the night to the safe haven of a battered women’s shelter. We lived there for several weeks in hiding, praying that our father would not discover our whereabouts. If it had not been for that organization, I am certain I would never have produced one piece of thoughtful jewelry. It is in this personal quest for freedom that I draw power from my past and share it with pride through art and expression. I am not alone and this project will partner with an equally important anti-domestic abuse organization in order to bring the issues surrounding violence against females to light. I have recently moved to Milan after two decades in New York City and hope to contribute further to the safety of families who have encountered such grave circumstances as my own. The Portaits of the Liminal project will contribute sales proceeds to such the organization House of Women and create awareness of these issues through the strength of progressive group art. Each aspect of this project will become a positive ripple effect.


We've been hearing a lot about Positive Luxury lately. What does it mean when it's related to jewelry?


Luxury can no longer just be about exclusivity and a price tag while Mother Earth suffers at the hand of over consumption and production. Positive luxury can help reshape current consumer and business mentalities into a more ethical and responsible direction, which would contribute to individual and collective well-being, not to mention the safety of our planet. Jewelry has always been circular, as its raw materials are drawn from the earth and last longer than eternity. The human aspect of jewelry is what makes it less sustainable. We buy too much, we make too much. We don’t pay those at the source their worth. We undermine community development in exchange for greed. We lose track of provenance in exchange for profit. Rich white men stay in power. Diversity is an afterthought, not a priority. Countless issues weigh heavily on the jewelry industry and in reply, each business should implement a more empathic and transparent system.


How does Bijules build and create culture?


In the early days of analog, nothing was simultaneously recorded and public opinion took longer to manifest. I promoted parties with printed flyers signed with little “JK” initials in the upper corner and I got paid 5 bucks per head. The clubs and streets of New York City were celebrating what would become the last decade of grime and grit before social media took grip and changed the urban landscape, making everything accessible and available. The jewelry I made represented a lifestyle choice for fashionistas and club goers. I understood their drive because I was one of them. We created a movement of underground cul- ture that raised music, dance, style and originality to another level and I became a supplier of global trend and experience through the Bijules platform. This uplift, inspire and unite motion is the same today, 20 years later. It is of utmost importance to ensure that the people around me have access to beauty through diversity, quality products, story living and personal exchange.


How have your collections evolved over time?


As a self-taught jeweler, I began making hand cut silver nameplates inspired by graffiti lettering. Many of my cohort were renegade graffiti artists and they would scrawl my clients’ names as tags on bar napkins at Max Fish (Lower East Side skater bar), then I’d tape them to sheet silver and cut away. I handmade every piece for a few years and then my designs began to exceed my skill set at the jeweler’s bench. I began producing at my factory in Manhattan and the collection began to pick up speed. The ubiquitous Bar Ring hit a major fashion stride from 2005. From then each silhouette I created had to have a purpose. Nothing was lazy. The Nail Ring was born in 2008 and I immediately copyrighted it because I knew it would catch fire, like the Bar Ring. Today these two shapes, amongst others, are the most imitated in the brand’s history. A horizontal application of a ring is in nearly everyone’s collection. In parallel, I began making gold jewelry in 2009. Using high metals and gemstones reshaped the potential to explore even further and my most infamous fine jewelry silhouette is now the Compass Ring, worn North-South or East-West.


Do you think they are a reflection of the woman you have become today?


The evolution of my work is most definitely defined by my own personal evolution as a minority woman creative. I risk everything to be expressive and forge my work and self into unknown spaces. I avoid normality. I love the entire process. I liken its journey to childbirth. Once my designs are out in the world, I become quite proud of them and the steps they have taken to get there. This maternal pride is less about ownership and more about satisfying a carnal need to create, learn and evolve.

  • Carmen Amare wearing Bijules rings. Photo by Shana Jade

    Carmen Amare wearing Bijules rings. Photo by Shana Jade

  • Photo by Carolina Amoretti, one of the contemporary artists involved into the project Portraits of the Liminal

    Photo by Carolina Amoretti, one of the contemporary artists involved into the project Portraits of the Liminal

  • Rings by Bijules, designed by Jules Kim. Photo by Alessandro Simonetti

    Rings by Bijules, designed by Jules Kim. Photo by Alessandro Simonetti

  •  Photo by Ludovica De Santis aka Kamisalak, for the project Portraits of Liminal

    Photo by Ludovica De Santis aka Kamisalak, for the project Portraits of Liminal

  • Photo by Jon Bronxl for Portraits of the Liminal

    Photo by Jon Bronxl for Portraits of the Liminal

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