Kaela Hogg - The Material of Belonging
Kaela Hogg is a very talented jewellery designer and a recent graduate from Duncan of Jordanstone Art College in Dundee. Her artist's statement, featured on her website, describes her collection, Sirirag (see-ri-ruk), as exploring '...a sense of belonging in her identity culture where she creates movement within her jewellery to represent the transitioning of cultures.'
The pieces Kaela makes are beautiful, part metallic snowflake, part pixel art, the complex shapes sit alongside one another like a skyline of Thai temple rooftops.
Redbird is delighted to feature our conversation with this brilliant young artist.
Your graduate pieces were inspired by the Thai side of your cultural heritage and also Thai architecture. Can you tell us a bit about growing up with a mixture of different cultures and how it’s influenced you as an artist? Are your family creatives too?
I was born in Scotland but lived in Thailand until the age of four, before making the permanent move back to Scotland again for school. Ever since then, we would go back to visit once a year and I would always come back with stories to tell. Having grown up with dual heritage, I have been exposed to two very contrasting, yet exciting, cultures. However, there was always a sense of belonging that was always missing, whilst, at the same time, I also felt at home in both places.
Initially, I wanted the project to explore the cultural differences between both sides but as my final year progressed, I wanted to concentrate on the Thai side; the most unknown to the people that surround me. Interestingly though, all of the creatives are on the Scottish side of the family, with my Dad as a keen painter and my sister who studies Interior & Environmental design, alongside both my aunty and Granddad as creatives too.
Jewellery is an interesting medium for exploring ones identity, especially culturally. Can you tell us a bit about how you design a piece, do you start with drawings or do you work more sculpturally, directly with the material?
I take inspiration from my direct surroundings so I'll use drawings and photography as a visual starting point. Then I'll progress onto creating quite vivid paintings in my sketchbook and it can become quite abstract. However, for this project, as I was predominantly inspired by Thai architecture, I was looking at different features and patterns that I was attracted to. I would then draw up linear shapes which would then be translated onto Illustrator.
This is when the technological side gets involved, as I would take these shapes to create new ones by repeating and reflecting, and then going onto create my own patterns, which feature in my work also. Even though I have introduced technology into my work, my pieces are still very much hands on, as I like to spend time in the workshop experimenting with different compositions and structures. I feel I have a good balance of incorporating modern technology alongside traditional techniques.
Can you tell us a bit about why you choose to work with acrylic and aluminium? What are they like to work with as opposed to silver or gold?
These materials were initially introduced into my work as a way of injecting some colour into my pieces. This was done through creating a pattern on Illustrator and then sublimation printing it onto the said materials. Although my work isn't bright and bold with colour, I have subtle features of it in my pieces. With the acrylic, I have experimented laser cutting different shapes, alongside laser engraving which works most effectively on clear acrylic. After the surface design is applied to aluminium, I will treat it the same way as silver, where I will saw-pierce intricate shapes. By working with these materials, I've been experimental with how different materials are to be put together both technically and compositionally.
These materials are also considerably more lightweight, which allows me the flexibility of creating larger pieces without the worry of it being too heavy for the wearer. For example, my brooches can be seen as quite large but they do not tug on your clothes and are convenient for everyday wear.
Are there other materials or techniques you are interested in exploring through your work?
Yes, I have explored a technique called Keum Boo, this is an ancient Korean technique where you basically guild thin sheets of gold to the surface of fine silver. I have used 24kt gold in a few selected pieces where it subtly features in my work. In the future however, I would like to be able to brush up on CAD skills to create 3D models, which is definitely the way forward!
Partly because of your use of colours, geometry and architecture, your work is reminiscent of Giovanni Corvaja and Vicki Amberly-Smith. What contemporary jewellery designers have been your biggest creative influences?
Thank you! Giovanni Corvaja's work is simply stunning and I love the intricacy behind Vicki Amberly-Smith's architectural designs. I first came across the work of Lily Kamper when I was 17 years old at the Chelsea College degree show back in 2010. I was instantly amazed by her graduate collection and have been following her work every since. Her work to date uses strong, bold colour alongside creating geometric forms.
I also love the material combinations she uses and the different processes and techniques behind her work. The work of Anna Talbot also amazes me with the intricate shapes, layering and colours in her pieces. Talbot predominantly works in anodised aluminium, which is a lightweight material that allows her to create rather large pieces. Her work also has a narrative, in that, she is creating a story with each piece.
Although both of these designers are totally different, there are different aspects and qualities that I appreciate and can really relate to. Jewellery has to be instantly visually appealing to get me interested and that is certainly what they do!
Your work is going to be featured at New Designers in London from 24th – 27th June, which is a great opportunity to showcase your work to larger audience of collectors and buyers. How are your preparations going in the run up to the show?
Preparations are going well! I'm trying to keep myself organised and on top of various tasks that we need to complete before going down but so far so good. I'm also making some pieces for myself to wear during the exhibition, I think its always good for people to see how my jewellery looks on! I am really excited to feature my collection at New Designer's alongside the work of many other graduates in the UK. This is a really exciting event to see what the newest emerging designers are offering to industry.
There are various ways of selling jewellery, online stores have changed the way a lot of people show and sell their work. How important do you feel it is to have your work seen in the physical, in a gallery or boutique for example?
I feel it is immensely important to have my work seen in a physical space. My jewellery features a lot of movement and intricate detail and this may not always translate well into photography. Being able to interact with the jewellery physically is important to be able to appreciate the work that goes into creating every design. Being able to see my pieces also allows for the wearer to understand how each piece works. Photographs can go a long way but it is definitely more beneficial for my work to be seen in the flesh!
When you’re creating a piece do you think about who might wear it, or who you would want to wear it? Who do you make your jewellery for?
When creating my pieces I don't have a specific type of wearer in mind. I like to think my pieces can appeal to a wide variety of people. My collection is mainly aimed at women however, I can see a specific type of male wearing my pieces too. I'd love to see one of my brooches on a really cool, hip and elderly lady with bright blue hair! However, during my degree show there was a lot of interest from a younger audience too.
When I was a wee girl I loved to look through my mum’s jewellery box and hear her tell me about the history or story behind each piece, which looked to me like treasure. What is your first memory of handling jewellery and what was the first piece you ever owned that felt special, like real treasure?
When we were born, my sister and I were given gold Buddha necklaces from my Mum along with gold bracelets to match. For her, this represented things such as: health; protection; and good luck. Although I am not Buddhist myself, I definitely appreciate and respect my Mum's way of life and I am amazed by the practices that they follow. I loved wearing this gold jewellery when we were younger as we would often only wear them on special occasion. To this day I still regard them as treasure. I still own these amazingly detailed silver ankle bracelets my Dad brought back for my sister and I from his trip to India. I loved them because they would jingle and they also came in a beautiful wooden carved jewellery box.
You can see more of Kaela's stunning jewellery pieces online through her website: http://www.kaelahogg.com
Or, please do go and see her work in the flesh, at Part 1 of the New Designers show in London from 24th - 27th July. You can find out more about New Designers and buy a ticket via this website: http://www.newdesigners.com