Jane Kim's thoughtful and detailed product design elevates everyday experiences
As designers, we have the opportunity to elevate the most ordinary, everyday experiences, through our products and spaces.
London-based product designer Jane Kim seizes that opportunity masterfully.
Two of her creations–Glasses for Water and Intuitive Cutlery–dig deep into the acts of drinking water and using cutlery as our tools to eat. In both these projects, there is an evident pursuit to magnify knowledge and awareness for a user, as well as enhance the taste and experience of what they consume.
The commoditization of water and its immense popularity continue to peak today, and Jane responds to this growing consumption through her project Glasses for Water. However, this collection of delicate, extremely thin crystal glassware goes many steps further than just responding to that trend; Instead, it celebrates the sensorial experiences associated with water –bringing attributes like aroma and taste into play.
Glasses for Water is a collection of carafes, tumblers, and a fluted flask– all hand-blown in lead-free crystal. Each piece in this collection responds to a different kind of water–Sparkling, Still, Filtered and Tap Water– and is intended to highlight and build on the qualities and beauty typical of that particular type of water.
From a similar philosophy, but entirely different materiality and fabrication process rises Intuitive Cutlery. Jane's collection of 'Lost wax brass cast' tableware is the result of an investigation into form, balance and a tool's pleasure to hold, but also into the shape of cutlery, closely concerning the actual food that we eat and the way we eat. The resultant pieces are unusual, thoughtful and attractive while avoiding the overt emphasis on aesthetics which is common to contemporary cutlery.
There is a quality, prevalent in both these projects which makes Jane Kim's work extremely compelling–It is the unique pairing of a strong scientific understanding of subject matter ( water, cutlery, etc.) with an almost romantic desire to improve life through the impact of designed objects.
It is also apparent that Jane has a firm grasp on an understanding of materiality. For her collection of brass Intuitive Cutlery, she employs a painstaking casting process–The lost wax casting process–a centuries-old method that allows one to achieve a significant degree of detail. In contrast to this traditional fabrication technique, Jane relies on extensive 3D printing to develop prototypes and explorations for each of her works. For the Glasses for Water collection, delicate paper prototypes were developed, before the final crystal outcomes, allowing Jane to achieve the subtle and nuanced forms that make water and the experience of drinking it, paramount. Both projects were developed during Jane's time at the Royal College of Art, as a student of the MA in Design Products program.
Recently, we spoke with Jane, as she prepares to showcase both her glassware and tableware collections at the London Design Festival of 2016. As a part of the multi-faceted designers' collective Form&Seek, Jane will exhibit these products at BOXPARK and the London Design Fair respectively, next month. Here is our conversation with Jane.
MD: Jane tell us a little bit about the two works you will be exhibiting at the London Design Festival this year.
JK: For the collection of Glasses for Water, I wanted to elevate the water drinking experience. In celebration of water, this is a project exploring a new way of delivering the subtleties of water through the taxonomy of glasses: There are two carafes for still and sparkling water, three tumblers for varieties of still water and a sparkling water flute.
The tall flute is for sparkling water, as the smaller surface area keeps the bubbles in for longer, while the short tumblers are for still water varieties as follows: Mineral Water (250ml Green) –This glass tapers in like a wine glass to capture the distinctive aromas of a fine mineral water. Filtered Water (300ml Turquoise)–A pharmaceutical grade of water is aptly presented in a beaker-shaped glass. Tap Water (350ml Royal Blue)–This glass tapers out to increase the oxygenation of tap water, which tastes better when oxygenated.
I will also be showcasing my collection of tableware. Through this collection, I express how I feel–that the power of cutlery is often underestimated. Using tools to eat is a representation of civility dating as far back as the Prehistoric era, and entire cultures have been founded on differing attitudes to eating with differing tools.
My re-design of contemporary cutlery centers around the form, it's balance and pleasure to hold, but this project also asserts that the shape of cutlery should evolve more closely with the actual food that we eat and the way we eat. A collection of works–Exploration of Cutlery, in sycamore wood– exemplifies how different priorities in cutlery design lead to different outcomes in form, whether it be ethnographic, food specific or commercial in focus.
This exploration lead me to the final result–Intuitive Cutlery–, A four piece set of intuitive cutlery that when held, elevates the dining experience and feels natural to hold and use. I will present two, four piece sets. One geometric (circular, square, triangular in the shape of their stems) and the other uniformly triangular. Both aim to elevate cutlery on an intuitive level and provide for a more elegant dining experience.
MD: How do these projects respond to the broader Form&Seek theme of 'De-Construct- Re-Construct’ this year?
JK: To deconstruct, is to reduce something to its constituent parts, and to reinterpret it. Both my projects aim to do this.
I have deconstructed drinking water into Sparkling, Mineral, Artisan, Pure, Filtered, Spring and Tap waters, to then analyze each in origin, source, flavor profile and characteristics. This research fed the design language of the glassware, both as individual pieces and a stacked range that embodies the colors and layers found in water.
MD: What are the primary materials and techniques you have employed to create these two collections? Were you involved in a hands-on way, in the fabrication and final production?
JK: For the glassware, I modeled prototypes in paper before 3D printing for user testing. With products such as tableware, I find it necessary to ensure that the form feels natural to our grip and in our hands, and is not uncomfortable in any way. Therefore it was critical for me, to use and hold the objects in the form they would be as finished products. 3D printing is very useful in that respect. I was involved throughout in the making process, up until the point that the craftsman blew the designs into their wooden molds.
MD: Tell us a little bit about your experience with material experimentation in the past.
JK: I started my professional design experience working for Chris Lefteri, as a research intern. He runs a completely materials-led design practice, and this is where my design roots are; in material and enhancing its beauty. So, naturally, my approach to designing products starts from the material. With lead-free crystal, it's potential to embody my story in a subtle and delicate way, as well as providing limitations that kept my design pure, was what appealed to me the most.
MD: What reaction to your design are you anticipating (and hoping for) from viewers at the London Design Festival?
JK: I would like users to enjoy water drinking at a similar level to how they might enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail at a bar. The goal is to make the 'water-drinker' feel special and catered for in a restaurant setting or even at home.
MD: Thank you, Jane, for speaking with us. We are thrilled that we had the opportunity to learn more about your work, and see how the elevation of ordinary everyday experiences is achieved!
Readers, look out for Jane's work as part of Form&Seek at the LDF 2016. Do follow Jane's work on Instagram ( j_kim.design) and Twitter (@jkim_design), and follow the link below to her website.