2017 Emerging Jewelry Artist 22 Years of Age or Younger - Second Place
Yeonjung Hong is a Jewelry and Metalsmithing student at RISD. The elegant and clean lines of "Embrace," the piece that won her an Emerging Jewelry Artist Saul Bell Design Award, were designed with a sophisticated sense of design as well as crafted with care and skill well beyond her years. Korean born and raised, she has come to the United States to expand her knowledge of jewelry making. And in return we get the privilege to see her graceful designs and jewelry grow.
The Winning Piece:
Brass and CZ stone.
Embrace was a school project. I had to use one sheet of metal and set a stone. The piece is completely hand-fabricated. I designed a flat paper pattern that would hold a tube-set stone. I used a lot of pieces of paper to come up with my final design. The piece is soldered and plated in 24K gold with a matte finish. My instructor at RISD, Johan Van Aswegen, was extremely happy with the ring.
This ring is one of a series of rings with stones set in them or “embracing” the stone with metal. I am fascinated by the simplest forms I can find and am inspired by the movements of wrapping and embracing.
It took me five hours to physically make the piece plus more time figuring out the design and how it would go together.
What did you learn from the piece?
I am still discovering what my aesthetic looks are and this piece proved that I love simplicity best. I design and make jewelry I would like to wear myself.
Are you going to sell it?
I wasn’t planning to. It is my one and only ring.
Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?
Yes. Definitely. I am still exploring various materials I can work with and our program encourages us to use any material that supports our concept. But from this piece I will continue to design similar pieces and explore its fundamentals.
What do you like most about the piece?
I love the fact that the stone is sitting high on the ring. The metal around it makes the stone the main focus.
Did you try it on?
Yes. Many times when I was making the ring.
Where do you live?
Providence, Rhode Island; however I am originally from Korea. I am a senior at RISD in the Jewelry and Metalsmithing Department. In high school I went to an art school in Seoul and then to Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul to study fiber arts. I decided to study in the United States to broaden my artistic insights and instincts, since there are more opportunities to study arts here.
When did you discover you loved making jewelry?
Going back to when I was a child and making tiny objects. One Christmas I received a gift that was a set of beads. Beads were the beginning of my love for jewelry. And I am interested in fashion but my eyes tend to go to accessories. I like the objects that sit on peoples’ bodies.
How long have you been making jewelry?
For three years.
Do any of your other passions influence your work?
I get inspiration from the movies I watch. I like very quiet movies, one of my favorites is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Who is your design/jewelry mentor?
Every RISD faculty member has been my jewelry mentor. They are very passionate about what they do, and also they are experts on jewelry techniques that they are open to any questions I ask. They are extremely supportive.
When are you most creative?
I am most creative late at night. It is the time when I am full of thoughts and get emotional, especially when I am taking a shower.
Saul Bell Design Award:
What did you feel when you found out you were a winner?
I was really surprised. I got a call when I was in the middle of New York City during Thanksgiving and I didn’t expect it at all since I am just a beginning jeweler.
What made you decide to enter the competition?
I was looking for any calls for a competition. I have never entered a competition before. I saw it on the SNAG website and I get my materials from Rio.
What is your favorite material with which to work?
My favorite material I use most often is brass. Copper is too soft. I like the tone of brass.
What do you love about making jewelry?
I like handcrafting small things. The process of making jewelry is what I love doing. It is amazing to watch an idea become a piece of jewelry.
Are you influenced by trends? If so, what is one trend you follow?
Yes and no. I am really interested in fashion and I watch lot of runway shows for high-end brands. However, my style is a simple and clean aesthetic.
Studio and Surroundings:
What is the one thing you most love about your studio space?
My studio space is at school. I love being surrounded by my peers in one place, and we all love making jewelry at the same time.
What is the one thing you would change about your studio space?
Maybe I would go for better lighting.
What is your favorite tool?
I really enjoy soldering, so the torch and soldering board.
Do you listen to music, book on tape or watch tv when you work?
I need to focus on what I am doing, so I listen to music.
What work inspires you?
I get inspired by surrealism painters such as Salvador Dali and the other surrealists. I like the twist in painting reality, how they expressed their inner self in painting.
What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud?
Whenever I see a finished piece and it is what I planned and designed, it makes me very proud and motivated.
What jeweler would you most like to have dinner with or visit their studio?
Jiro Kamata is a Japanese jewelry designer who is currently in Germany. He creates really fun, colorful works and uses interesting alternative materials.
Interview by Marlene Richey