Jae Yeon Kim’s wacky 3D designs are “a gentle way of revolting over unhealthy tradition and stereotypes”

The designer tells us how they anthropomorphise their creative tools, and why their move to Berlin has been the best development for their creative practice.

7 April 2022

Jae Yeon Kim is one of those creatives whose inspiration knows no bounds. A mix-match of “non-existing fantasy and real world observations”, Jae looks to things as diverse as their friends’ eccentric anecdotes, abandoned toys on the street and animals’ weird behaviours. Loving to mix all these elements together like a big “Italian ragu sauce”, the creative sees great potential in the “fusion power when things that cannot be mixed are harmoniously, successfully mixed”. And, with Jae’s fantastically absurd, weirdly hypnotic and garishly transcendental designs, we’re inclined to agree.

This clear attachment and deep consideration of their creativity translates throughout all of Jae’s practice. When forming a character, Jae explains that they avoid 3D and start with good old-fashioned pen and paper. “This practice may not work for other artists”, Jae recognises, “but this way helps me to be more explorative, intuitive, and even romantic.” Viewing their creative tools – such as their Apple pencil, tablet and laptop – as leading independent lives, Jae likes to give them names and sees them as creative teammates. They see this process of anthropomorphising as helping them to develop behaviours and characteristics throughout their work. But, they’re also not ashamed to admit that it also may be a way of “not letting go of my child’s heart”.

Born and raised in Seoul, Jae studied at Goldsmiths university from 2016 to 2019. With there being a large writing requirement on the course, Jae often felt there wasn’t as much room for exploration of different mediums. It was for this reason that it was only upon their returning to Seoul during the pandemic that they first interacted with 3D design. In part down to their engineer dad, with whom Jae often “discussed new technologies and mechanical programs over coffee or dinner together”, Jae now attests to being completely won over by the “level of visualisation” that 3D design offers.

Having moved to Europe as a means of finding their own way, Jae instead recalls finding themselves feeling less included; studying at an “elite, white-British dominated institution” and a place where the logic of finance and capitalism ruled. Moreover, with their Korean identity and name, they found themselves “existing as a young Asian woman who didn’t speak English well, from a middle class background and looking naive – I felt quite stuck in the pod of stereotypes”. It is for this very reason, the creative explains, that they explore such surreal and unearthly themes. This focus on the eccentric, extraordinary and ideas of unconventional beauty, is a “gentle way of revolting over unhealthy tradition and stereotypes”.

Having now lived in Berlin for the past five months, Jae has been overwhelmingly pleased by the difference in culture they have experienced. A place they view as “integrating a wider capacity of the refugee community, LGBTQ, BIPOC” individuals, they tell us that they have come to realise that “this kind of environment really helps me to understand how the world is intricately entangled and also how immensely we can influence each other”. This admiration of diversity and difference comes across brilliantly in Jae’s project Drag Rangers. Looking to explore the “meaning of diversity” and to do so in a “very soft way that can even encompass kids”, the figures in a range of clothing styles, and figurations dance freely, exuding a warm, liberated merriment.

The natural progression from their digital 3D work, Jae explains, is making their characters into physical figures. But, looking to take things even further, if Jae does manage to get round to real-life sculpting, they wish to distribute their creations to children, collecting social analysis based on their reactions. Moreover, having always loved working with contemporary choreographers and musicians, Jae wants to get back into collaborating. An exciting year ahead undoubtedly awaits.


Jae Yeon Kim: Drag Rangers (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2020)


Jae Yeon Kim: Polo Man (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2021)


Jae Yeon Kim: RGB: Blue (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2022)


Jae Yeon Kim: RGB: Red (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2022)


Jae Yeon Kim: RGB: Green (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2022)


Jae Yeon Kim: RGB: Green (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2022)


Jae Yeon Kim: Monster (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, Lydia Chan, 2021)


Jae Yeon Kim: Alter Egos: Third Ego (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2020)


Jae Yeon Kim: Swaying (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2021)


Jae Yeon Kim: Ugly Thought (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2021)

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Jae Yeon Kim: Inflaty (Copyright © Jae Yeon Kim, 2022)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.

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