Multiculturalism is something that we like very much and in we firmly believe in, as part of the essential generative process of fine arts. The more you enrich yourself with knowledge from all over the world, the more you travel and learn the importance of being “citizens of the world”, and the more your art grows. There is no doubt about this. This is the case of designer Jiwon Ra and her fantastic works. We had the pleasure of talking with her about her life in various countries around the world, the last of which are the United States, about her new collection and her future projects.
Tell us about your background. What was it like growing up and living in different cities (Seoul, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York)? How do you think growing up there has formed your artistic side?
My name is Jiwon “Christine” Ra. I was born in Seoul, but I moved to the UK at the age of 6. I relocated to Hong Kong where I spent my high school years, and then my family went to live in Tokyo, and I moved to New York to study Fashion Design and Fine Art at Parsons School of Design. As a result, I speak four languages – Korean, English, Mandarin, and German, so I’m a Third Culture Kid through and through and my global identity is a large part of who I am. As a Fine Artist and Fashion Designer, my work is firmly rooted in my multicultural upbringing and daily observations. Growing up all over the world has not only shaped my artistic eye but also cultivated my unique perspective/outlook back on the world.
How did you get into fine art, sculpture, and fashion design? Can you tell us about your career?
I can’t exactly pinpoint a moment what I got “into” Fine Art but I feel as though I have been nonstop sketching, painting, sculpting and sewing my whole life – from the moment I first picked up the tools to do so. Over the last few years, I began to merge my engagement in 2D/more traditional art forms with wearable art, and my current interest in creating sculptural, one-of-a- kind garments reflects that.
As for Fashion Design – I was first introduced to the fashion industry as a model when I was 12 years old, and as I grew older and my eye/appreciation for fashion grew, my focus and interest shifted from being in front of the camera to being the creator of the garments I used to wear. To me, this was quite an organic transition.
Could you introduce the SS22 Memory Relocation Life in Motion Collection?
The iconography of boxes – and therefore cubes is explored through a variety of mediums including wire, ceramics, fabric, and PVC piping throughout the ‘Memory Relocation Life in Motion’ Collection. In addition to the wearable sculptures on the models, I also presented a large scale, hand-bound artist book showing conceptual architectural studies of based on sculptures I created out of wire, plaster, ceramic, modular sculptures over the past year.
Tell us about the inspiration of your works. Do you draw inspiration from anything, anywhere or anyone to aid creativity?
Moving boxes hold a lot of symbolic meaning to me, so I used this along with the iconography of cubes. I wanted to explore the idea of boxes in many different materials, including wire, ceramic, and patchwork. These sculptures help me move my memories, experiences and deep attachments tied to each place from the past into the present, wherever I go. Inspired by the book “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, a good way to describe this project is that it mediates on “what immigrants sacrifice to achieve a home in the world, questions what it means to be part of a nation, and what can be done to escape its rigid, systematic, intimate bonds.
What do you find to be your most favorite part in the process of your work?
Back in April 2020 at the height of COVID in New York, I went to Jejudo Island in South Korea, where I was fortunate enough to meet professor 한홍곤, a renowned South Korean ceramics artist based in Jejudo. He agreed to take me in as his apprentice taught me his unique pottery process and glazes that he developed – the techniques and learning of which I applied to the ‘Memory Relocation Life in Motion’ collection. Throughout the four months that I was there, people from all over the world came to visit his studio. My favorite part of that experience was meeting and working with an eclectic range of people at the studio, getting inspired by the sharing of ideas and experiences while honing a craft that connects us all. It’s so important to show up and immerse myself in the work of other artists/designers, forging friendships that lead to collaborations and the give and take of support. At the same time, I believe it is just as, if not more important to show up to work, experiment, and practice at my own studio to progress in my own creative path without excuses – and that is what I enjoy doing most above all.
Could you introduce the FW22 Denim Tea Party Collection?
DENIM TEA PARTY consists of denim looks meticulously hand constructed through combining traditional boro patchwork techniques and experimental, highly stylized silhouettes.
Tell us about your honors and awards.
Most recently, I was honored at the Goodwill Evening of Treasures – an annual event hosted by Goodwill NYNJ to raise support for their mission to help safeguard our environment. I was the winner of the Goodwill x Parsons & FIT 2021 Sustainable Design Competition, so I was invited to speak at the event. I believe the goal of this event was to raise awareness about and celebrate the designers (such as myself, Greg Lauren, Tracy Reese, Yeohlee Teng) that utilize pre and post-consumer waste to create upcycled garments in their work. I donated my artwork to the auction they held to put unemployed people who lost their jobs due to COVID, helping individuals with disabilities to secure independence and breaking down racial barriers to employment. My design was bid on and sold for charity in support of the Goodwill COVID-19 Crisis Fund.
What do you hope you’ll be doing in 5-10 years time?
I hope to be continuing to create more artwork with the aim to minimize textile waste within the environment, challenging the infrastructures that are entrenched in waste and inefficiency and offer a more conscious consumer base a product that is not only sustainably made, but carries a level of intimacy that, overtime, grows with the owner.
Website and Social Media:
Instagram: @jiwonchristinera @cjrarchive