From printmaking to welding to pottery to jewelry making,
But no matter her medium (or her zip code), an abiding interest in natural elements and universal symbols—from the tiniest insect to the ever-present moon—provides the common ground for her creative output: these days, mostly outdoors-inspired jewelry and hair accessories, cast from her hand-carved wax designs. Even if her works are all ultimately open for interpretation: “I like the idea that people can see the same thing and form a completely different narrative from it, that these symbols can mean multiple things,” Jieun explains. “And jewelry can be an especially powerful medium—people assign meaning to it, and it can have power and energy like a talisman.”
Read on to learn more about Jieun’s jewelry practice and
How did you get started making jewelry?
After I graduated from college, I learned how to weld and how to do metalwork and steel fabrication. That was really fun. I had never worked with metal before, and I was surprised by how forgiving and malleable it was. I was doing large-scale stuff once in a while at a foundry, but I realized that I wanted to work on a smaller scale and be a little more controlled and detail-oriented, so I started making
How did you pick up the skills of the trade?
I’m self-taught as a jeweler. I took one weekend workshop about wax carving, but on the metal end of it, I read books and watched YouTube videos and just kind of figured it out. Realizing how thick things needed to be in order for them to be strong, things like that—it was a lot of trial and error.
What inspires you?
Symbols are something I think about a lot, especially in
What’s your production process like?
For my jewelry, I mostly use the lost-wax casting process, so I carve things in wax and then have them cast. I don’t do the casting myself, but I do everything else. I work on prototypes when they’re in metal form, and then they get molded so I can make multiples. I finish each of those, sand them, file them, patina them, polish them, and seal them, and do the soldering for earrings and pins. Just this year, I took my first jewelry class, so I’m getting into a little more into fabrication from sheet and wire. That’s been really fun, and it’s lent itself to a different aesthetic.
How has your move to New Mexico influenced your work?
I moved to New Mexico from the East Coast two years ago after coming here on a road trip and falling in love with it. I’d never been to the Southwest before that trip and I felt like I really needed to spend more time here, which is a feeling that I have with a lot of different places. New Mexico has a really unique type of beauty. The state slogan is “the land of enchantment,” and I feel like that quite often when I’m in the landscape—it feels like I’m walking through a dreamscape or something. The colors here are really different from the East Coast—the flora here is so beautiful and pastel—but I love them both equally for different reasons.
There’s also something about the pace of life here that has really changed things for me. It wasn’t an easy adjustment, but ultimately, it’s been really beneficial to the way I’m working and the amount of
Do you create art every day?
Most days, but not necessarily every single day. There are definitely days that I take off. I love being in nature, so I try to do that as much as I can. Being
self-employed has given me a lot more flexibility in terms of being able to experience the world, which is a really important thing for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about the act of making things and putting things into the world versus experiencing the world and seeing what’s there already.
You opened your shop in 2013. How has your work evolved since then?
I think with time I’ve developed more of an understanding of the way metal works, and my interests have shifted in a natural way. I’m getting to a point now where I feel more comfortable with the medium, and I feel excited to play around a bit more. In the
What are some of your goals for the future?
I moved to the desert with a car full of rocks—I love stones and minerals, and I have a ton of them, both specimens and gems that I’ve accumulated to use in
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