I’ve so been looking forward to bringing you this lovely interview with London based jewellery maker and designer Gina Myungji Cheun of All Its Forms. Beautifully crafted handmade pieces from recycled metals…
Here Gina talks about her story, detailing the materials she uses, her love of Soft Modernism and her passion for the Circular Jewellery Movement – giving new life to old pieces and transforming them into something new… The pieces I am wearing are the Fluid Twisted Ring and Sculptured Huggie hoops (which you can have made using your own gold), and the Gold Earlobe earrings. Read on and enjoy!
Please tell me how you got started in jewellery design and how that led to creating your own business?
I’ve always liked playing with 3D objects and creating textures from hard materials since I was young. I enjoyed making little things such as assembling robot kits for my brother and spent hours hiding somewhere playing with treasures I found in the garden.
First I decided to train myself to be a jeweller through short courses during evenings and weekends for a few years, invested in a bench and tools, and then made sure I spent a lot of time on my bench every day making jewellery. Being in London as a jeweller has great advantages as we have direct access to amazing jewellery educators and Hatton Garden is an amazing cluster of the best manufacturers in the UK. I wanted to combine my experience in fashion and making sustainable jewellery by launching my online store, All Its Forms, in 2020.
You have gone to a lot of effort to ensure the traceability of your materials, can you tell me a little bit about the suppliers you use?
Just like you would want to provide the best food to your family, I aim at sourcing the best materials for my customers in terms of quality but also impact on the environment and society. The jewellery industry is accelerating its work on sustainability and I really appreciate being able to be part of it. I spend a lot of time researching and learning, the jewellery industry is very generous to share so much resource and I am very impressed that so many people want to change the jewellery world all together.
To reach our goals, jewellers need support from their suppliers on providing transparency on the manufacturing and mining process throughout the entire supply chain. In return, jewellers must encourage their suppliers to source materials responsibly. We also need support from our customer, accepting to pay a slightly higher price for more ethical products.
Our recycled metals are sourced at a local supplier in Hatton Garden and come from broken jewellery, electronics, and medical supplies. They are melted and refined in the UK and I am able to buy them as clean gold sheets, wires or grains. I work with a casting company who only uses clean refined recycled precious metal such as gold, silver and brass. The traditional lost wax casting method is the main technique for our Soft Sculpture collection. I make sure to keep low stock levels and recycle all metal scraps in my studio.
At the moment I am focusing on sourcing ethical stones for our Conscious Bespoke collection and Recycled gold collection which are due in Spring 2021. I am very excited to be working with the community of Small Artisanal Mines, where 80%-90% of their profit is going back to the miners directly so they can provide a better quality of life to their families. There are also great traders in the UK and USA supporting the communities of female artisanal miners as well as providing jewellers with transparency on each stone’s journey from mine to market. I really enjoy being involved in this industry switch even though I play such a tiny role, being a start-up.
What inspired your love of the Soft Modernism that characterises your designs?
I have been a big fan of Modernism for a long time, but I find it sometimes too cold with its structural shapes and hard edges of solid materials. Soft Modernism added textiles, warm textures and soft shapes to Modernism and provided comfort to people with a touch of luxury.
Inspired by Soft Modernism, my Soft Sculpture collection features pieces that, although sculpted into bold shapes, comfort people with the smoothness of their shapes and empowers them by not contriving their movements.
Our jewellery contains the memory of the handmade process such as freckles, sand casting textures, which creates a feeling or warmth. I also think that’s the beauty of handmade products that tell the story of the makers and reassure people of its value.
Transforming old pieces into something new is a beautiful idea. How are people responding to your Circular Jewellery movement approach?
First, thank you!
When I started making jewellery, some of my friends brought me their family gold to make new pieces and allow me to practice my craft. This is how I started All Its Forms, with huge support and trust from people around me who gave me the opportunity to use their own gold. At first, I was only making bespoke orders, recycling my clients’ own gold to make them jewellery and therefore avoiding another mining process. My clients loved the outcome of having brand-new jewellery which keeps sentimental and financial values whilst supporting a local maker. Of course, when you have meaningful jewellery, you never want to take it off! The whole process of making bespoke jewellery is really special as it includes sourcing stones, designing and making jewellery for a particular person, in a particular context, whilst retaining my design identity and personality.
It’s all the amazing feedback I had on the Conscious Bespoke service that led me to create the Use Your Gold collection which is rooted at its core in the Circular Jewellery movement. It is at its early stage as melting gold is not straightforward and I’m aiming at simplifying the process further over time. I think running a sustainable brand is like being on a journey where I will constantly evolve and improve my practices together with the industry and with the support of my clients.
What jewellery do you wear yourself? How does it make you feel?
I always wear my Bob diamond ring, which I created with my mum’s gold and set a little diamond on a handmade granule. This was the first diamond I bought from an ethical diamond trader in Kent and mined from Botswana. This ring has now become part of me and I never take it off, it’s like having a little companion with me all the time. I also wear a jade pendant from my mother which she used to wear when I was young. My mother was the most influential person in my life with a strong positive mind. The pendant reminds me of the huge support I had (and still have) from my parents and brings back childhood memories. I also enjoy wearing ear cuffs, statement rings or bangles with jumpers (which I love as much as I love jewellery). One of the great benefits of doing my jewellery is that I get to try all on me!
This post is a collaboration with All Its Forms
Dress: Georgia Hardinge & Jumper: Thought Clothing