GEM TALK WITH HEEJIN NO, SKIPWITHS CO-FOUNDER, ART CONSULTANT & CURATOR
The series of interviews with women and men who have personalities, story to tell and their own GEM style. They make it happen for themselves all over the world and follow GEMOLOGUE by Liza Urla.
Name: Heejin No
Alma Mater: Sotheby’s Institute of Art, MA Art Business, Ewha Womens University, Seoul
Occupation: Co-founder of SKIPWITHS, Art Consultant and independent curator
Hometown: Seoul, Korea
LOCATION AT TIME OF INTERVIEW: Interview at Skipwiths on Clifford Street, Mayfair. My main areas to hang out for work and family time are Mayfair and North London, as well as all parts of Hampstead Heath and Kenwood House. Restaurants: We love Bellamy’s in Bruton Place in Mayfair for dining out: attentive staff, lovely owner and fabulous chef who cook real food that is not sacrificed for the sake of aesthetics. Classic, clean with French vintage charm. I am a hungry eater so overly dainty malarkey is not for me. Ginger & White in Hampstead for best café latte and Laduree for sweet treats. Shops: I like to window shop at Liberty and Fortnum & Mason when I have time during the week, and La Coqueta and ILoveGorgeous (children’s clothing shops) on weekends. Galleries: I like museums such as V&A, Royal Academy, Tate Modern, National Gallery during weekend with family.
IN THE BEGINNING: I always drew pictures and created something with my hands ever since I can remember. My papa always took us to historic sites, beautiful temples and museums as well as engaging in creative activities with us. He was young and a rather hippy father. He was also my best friend and not afraid of being seen playing with his own children, unlike the typical serious and strict Korean fathers of the time.
I grew up in Korea as a part of more affluent generation compared to my parents’ Post Korean War rebuilding generation. Encouraging your children to do art or music was somewhat trendy at the time, so the fact that a lot of my cousins and close friends went on to pursue these as a career when they grew up is not that surprising. It felt very natural to do something related to art or music.
ART: When I was younger, art was my creative output and that was all I did. I loved making something both visually pleasing and clever: whether it was a piece of scientific experiment, writing, poetry, dance movement, drawing, painting or sculpture.
Now being a responsible grown-up, I see art as business and I am loving this new ear of art for me. Being Korean, I have a great access to many wonderful Korean artists. My expertise in and access to established Korean and Asian artists, such as Kwang Young Chun and Nam Jun Baik, and as well as up and coming artists is appreciated here in Europe. Whereas Korean people appreciate me more for my research and expertise in American and European artists of the Post-War generation, as well as contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lictenstein, Ed Ruscah, Anish Kapoor, Gerge Condo and Louise Bourgeois. I like this mixture and it is never boring.
LONDON DEBUT: After completing a Masters degree at Sotheby’s Institute and an internship at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art department, I worked as a sales assistant for Bonhams. One day in 2007, I had an accident: I bumped my head into a brand new crystal clear swing door at my office which was being installed with no signage. I was off work for a month with a terrible concussion; my brain just did not function – I could not even read anything. Out of the complete boredom, I organised an exhibition from my bedroom for an east London Gallery. The positive response and feeling of achievement helped to put my career onto a completely different course.
ARTISTS: It is such a hard question for any art dealer or curator! Artists I passionately like are as below; Dead artists: Johannes Vermeer, Joshua Reynolds, William Morris, for undoubtable greatness, Duchamp for its pure genius, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein for their exhilarating money driven markets. Living artists: Anish Kapoor, Ed Ruscha, George Condo, Glenn Brown, Kwang Young Chun, Ufan Lee, Yayoi Kusama for just general purpose of admiration and in view of any sort of ownership for my collection. Chiharu Shiota and Roshid Johnson for internationally recognized young to mid-career artists.
I also have passion for cultivating and discovering British-educated Korean and European artists, as that is what I feel most connected to. I am quite proud of being one of the first buyers of many of great young artists who are now taking their steps into established international galleries and museums, such as Eemyun Kang, Catherine Story, Tim Ellis, Yujung Chang, Hayoung Kim, Jill Mason and so on. Also there are some of new talents I am eyeing up such as Hyojin Park and Richard Moon.
TOPSHOP OR CHANEL: Neither. Simple clothing with accentuated jewellery or accessories would be the best description for my style. The quality of the fabric and the design are all I look at. I do not want to feel that the clothing on my skin is overly precious.
I tend to keep it simple and stick to a few good brands I feel comfortable with. I buy a lot of clothes on Korean trips – my mum has introduced me to brands such as KUHO and DEWL. Their fabrics, elaborate designs, and quality are outstanding and different from what I would get in Europe. Often my Korean clothes are semi- tailored according to my taste.
Whenever I went to Beijing, I would make Qipao dresses or clean-cut tailored dresses from my wonderful artist friend, Xing Danwen’s taylor, Mr Jaozan. After I watched ‘In the mood for love’ three times, I made my first two qipao dresses and now I own more than ten wonderful Qipaos! This is the most adventurous thing I ever did for my wardrobe!
ONLINE SHOPPING: It happens rarely as I prefer to check fabric and shape. I ask my mum to shop for me if the shop is Korean since my favourite brands don’t do online shops, which she loves anyway. For my baby, I do more than is necessary but I know the fabric and quality before I buy online and they just look so cute. (macarons-fashion.com, babaa.es, belleenfant-boutique.com)
GEM STYLE: As my clothing style has been always quite simple, I add jewellery to make my look unique: it is the means I express my personality and mood.
FIRST JEWELLERY: My first jewellery was given to me by my parents when I went to university: Korean families often celebrate this new stage of life by giving presents. It was a pearl set consisting of earrings, necklace, ring and bracelet and some gold chains.
As I got older, I started to collect some ethnic and vintage jewellery from my travels around the world. I have bought stones such as topaz, amethyst, perridot, garnet, taurmallin. I even designed my own cocktail ring, necklace and earrings. I enjoyed the whole process and would like to do it more.
I bought a stunning blue opal stone many years ago in Australia and made a pendant by drilling a hole. I think it is stupid to damage a great stone like that but at that time I was mid 20s, thought it was cool to string it with leather cord. I will probably restore the stone with more beautiful touch and give it to my daughter one day.
MY EVERYDAY JEWELLERY: When at home, I only wear my wedding band (triple thin lines of yellow, white and rose gold) and stud earrings. My engagement ring is very precious and I only wear it on special occasions. It is from my husband’s family collection: an 18th century serpentine shaped gold ring with many small band of scales attached together with small stones of ruby, diamond, onyx, garnet and turquoise enamel.
Most days, I wear spiral-shaped diamond earrings, a diamond bracelet, and a diamond eternity ring, all from a Korean jeweller, Goldendew. I also wear an old family ring, which is early 19th century Georgian revival style: crafted from gold and set with a single emerald and two diamonds.
ROLEX OR CARTIER: I never wear a watch and I don’t own a serious watch. Anything more than a thin bracelet is too heavy for me. But I see the investment value of Rolex as I closely watch auction markets for watches sometimes. I may change my mind one day: never say never!
ART JEWELLERY: I became aware of artist jewellery when I travelled to Figueres to visit Salvator Dali’s house and museum in 2002; there I saw his eccentric watches and jewellery. Then I started to notice that great Modern artists such as Calder and Man Ray also made whimsical pieces of jewellery. They were very expensive to acquire but now I see their prices soar even higher. Since then I have had my radar on contemporary artist jewellery made by Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry, Roni Horn etc.
After having my first child, I was coveting some fine jewellery by Van Cleef & Arpel or Bulgari as a reward for being a good mother. My husband persuaded me that this kind of serious jewellery should reflect my personality and passion, therefore an Anish Kapoor mirror pendant would be perfect.
In London, Louisa Guiness and Elizabeth Cipriani represent great artists’ jewellery.
FINE JEWELLERY: There are lots of amazing jewellery houses. Van Cleef & Arpel and Bulgari are all about innovation and art. Historically, they are one of the first jewellery houses to focus on unusual design and concept rather than the size of stones. I would like to have my special bespoke piece from them one day soon.
JEWELLERY AS AN INVESTMENT: Personally, I simply enjoy wearing jewellery. It is too uncertain to invest in diamond or stones. For artists’ jewellery, I definitely see some investible quality as they are limited edition pieces and made as a miniature art by great artists. To some extent, fine jewellery can be investment with exceptional design and provenance such as Elizabeth Taylor or if you can be ‘the provenance’.
VINTAGE JEWELLERY: I have always liked to collect antique Chinese jewellery pieces, and over the years I have accumulated a rather eclectic collection! They are late 19th to early half 20th century pieces made from jade, ranging from sculptural pieces to silver ceremonial pieces and trinkets. Some pieces are collected individually then put together into big necklaces for me to wear. My favourites are the vibrant kingfisher feather ornaments. Some necklaces are made out of 19th century silver bra clip and trinket!
My mother-in-law left me some magnificent jewels from the family collection and I am very grateful to have been chosen as one of the new owners – I will later pass them down to my daughter. I particularly like the ornate Victorian bracelet with diamonds, seed pearls and emeralds, which I received before my wedding.
FASHION JEWELLERY: I prefer vintage jewellery over fashion jewellery. I have a friend who founded a wonderful middle market Italian brand ‘Trisori’. The collection uses 24k gold plated silver with semi-precious stones and it is well priced. Pieces are fun, bright and practical. I own quite a few pieces and wear them in summertime or when I want to feel cheerful. I also discovered wonderful Eshvi jewellery from gem-a-porter blog – I would love to have something from ‘braid’ series
POWER COMES FROM: Inner peace. (I learnt this from my favourite animation ‘Kungfu Panda’ and it is very true.)
PERFECT GETAWAY: I liked to explore historical and cultural sites in Korea, Basque country in Spain, and Morocco with a bit of roughness as well as just relaxing on the beach in Maldives or Southern Europe. Also, an English country walk is always refreshing even though it is often rainy or grey. Food is important part of my getaway, since I do enjoy good local food wherever I travel.
MY WEAPON OF CHOICE: Smile and laugh!
WILD WISH: Just reading books without any disturbance with piece of mind.
I would love to hear what you think by leaving me a comment below. Thank you!
SHOP MY FAVOURITE JEWELRY ONLINE:
I am extremely happy to announce that my new jewelry book – GEMOLOGUE: Street Jewellery Styles & Styling Tips – is now on Amazon. I’m so excited. It’s the first book of its kind solely dedicated to jewellery.
GEMOLOGUE jewelry blog by Liza Urla is a celebration of fine, fashion and vintage jewellery featuring talented jewellery designers, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews. This jewellery blog’s goal is to encourage and educate about jewellery online in a fresh and original fashion to inspire women and men across the globe in a fashion and travelling context.
Jewellery blogger, writer Liza Urla, the founder of GEMOLOGUE, is a London-based and NYC-educated gemologist, who has travelled to and lived in many countries. She is now one of the most influential digital jewellery tastemakers. Her jewellery influence has been acknowledged by Financial Times, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
*Photographed by Julia Flit. Styling and Art Direction by Liza Urla. All photos belong to GEM Kreatives for GEMOLOGUE.
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