Remember Lisa, the charming woman we met via Twitter in March of this year? She was in the market for a hot pink kiln, and as she was researching, she contacted us via Twitter and invited us to read a blog post she had written so that we could assist her in finding one. Her inquiry inspired us to write a blog post of our own about social media and how it can be a successful research and communication tool.
For those of you who missed the first post, Lisa is a professional goldsmith and jewelry artist and owns her own jewelry label, ProonK. Her jewelry is far from typical, and this post only features a glimpse of her eye-catching work.
Check out Lisa Juen’s blog to discover more about her inventive concepts. Many of her pieces are shown in galleries and museums all over the world. Lisa is from southwest Germany and has traveled extensively. I was able catch up with Lisa since that first lovely exchange and was giddy to have another chance to capture her motivations—this time unraveling some insights into her style, philosophy and techniques as a jewelry artist. Here is a look-see at the interview:
Bernadette Bennett: What is ProonK? How did you come up with this name and what does it mean?
Lisa Juen: ProonK is my jewelry design label that I founded in December of 2011. I decided to start ProonK because I wanted to reach a bigger group of people to wear my jewelry. I am a trained jewelry artist, which means that I usually make one-off pieces that are then on show in contemporary jewelry galleries and museums. I love making this kind of work and it makes me who I am but it only addresses a small group of jewelry collectors and connoisseurs. There are still a lot of people who have not heard of art jewelry, and I wanted to create something that makes it easier for them to understand what jewelry artists are trying to do but on a “tamer” level and more affordable.
The name ProonK derives from the German word “Prunk,” which means pageantry, pomposity, pomp. I chose the name because of the bold, pretty forward meaning; it shows my German heritage but also my desire to engage in traveling, in different cultures and languages.
BB: How have your designs changed over time?
LJ: My designs change with the way I change. All of my jewelry pieces show different phases, desires and wishes in my life. They are also very much influenced by my environmental surroundings and what I can find there. I would say my work is a good mixture of my personal feelings and the outside influences I find in daily living situations and travel.
BB: How would you describe your style?
LJ: I consider the ProonK jewelry range to be clean, straight-forward and timeless. The pieces are definitely eye-catchers and are known for not needing unnecessary decorations.
For my art-jewelry pieces, I find that I am always trying to create some sort of balance in the components of my pieces. This can include technique, materials and composition. I create this balance by working with contrasts. Also, all of my pieces have some sort of background meaning or story that influenced their creation. I think I do consider myself to be a narrative jeweler but I do not mind if the audience might not be able to catch the story that is hidden in a piece. I quite like the interaction that arises when a viewer tells me what they can see in a piece.
When it comes to style in my pieces, I think they are quirky, colorful and maybe a little bit over the top sometimes but I think this is what makes them charming!
BB: You decided very early that you wanted to be a metalsmith and professional jewelry artist/designer. What led you to your passion for jewelry-making?
LJ: When I was younger, I knew that I had to find a job that would allow me work with my hands. I am always fiddling with something and it makes me happy to create and find an outlet for my ideas.
BB: I see a lot of themes and contrasts throughout your work. From where do you draw your inspirations as an artist?
LJ: My inspiration either comes from the inside: my dreams, wishes and desires, sometimes things that have happened in the past that are hard for me to let go; or it comes from my daily environment. Sometimes the pieces can be small statements based on things I see on a daily basis, pointing out modern society’s issues. And sometimes they are entirely fantasy-based.
For a very long time, I mainly worked with words or headlines as a starting point. Within the last couple of years, I have incorporated visual materials more and more into the initial process. I guess for me, starting with words is more concept-based, whereas using visual materials is more intuitive. Both ways are interesting, and challenging.
BB: You were educated in silversmithing and goldsmithing; however, I see that you also work a lot with laser-cut stainless steel. Can you tell us more about this?
LJ: In addition to being a trained jewelry artist/designer, I am a certified German goldsmith, so I know how to cut and make jewelry “properly.” However, I am very much intrigued by new technologies and I like to find a way to use them in my work.
When I first started laser cutting, it took me a while to welcome and accept it. I thought it would take away too much of my own hand-making process. But, instead, I found that the laser-cutting technique delivered exactly the look and feel that I was looking for and that, despite the cutting, there are still many other things for me to do to create and complete a piece.
I believe that the visual impact and message of those pieces is stronger because of the laser cutting, than if I had hand-cut them. Also, as mentioned before, I like to use a lot of contrasts in my work and I find it very intriguing to see what happens when an industrial technique is juxtaposed with a traditional hand-making technique like, for example, enameling.
BB: Can you describe some of the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating stainless steel into your designs?
LJ: For me, the advantages of the material are strength and weight. I also love the color, and it still amazes me every time I see a perfectly mirror-polished, stainless-steel surface. The main disadvantage is the finish. Despite the great look, mirror-polishing is a real pain!
BB: Can you tell us about one of your stainless steel pieces from design to completion?
BB: Which of your designs is your favorite and why?
LJ: I usually do not have a favorite design. Once a piece is made, I am fulfilled with satisfaction and happiness but that feeling wears off very fast. I am more interested in the way the piece was made and the process of creation than I am in the final outcome. Although aesthetics and looks do of course play a crucial role and all of my pieces fill me with pride.
Right now, I am still very much intrigued with my last piece: A belly-belt/necklace/brooch I made for the exhibition “Mirror Mirror,” currently on display at Espace Solidor in Cagnes sur Mer, France. The show will also travel to Velvet da Vinci Gallery in San Francisco this fall. The piece is called “Yin+-Yin” and pays homage to Suzy Solidor. I like the piece because of its size, the unusual ways it can be worn and because of the opposed design elements that shape an interesting contrast of old and new.
BB: Which artists do you admire the most?
LJ: I admire Christine Graf’s enamel work. The precision and patience she demonstrates in her pieces is incredible! I also like Helen Britton a lot. The way she uses materials in her pieces is stunning and a little quirky, too. Recently, I stumbled across Denise Julia Reytan. Here too, I love the way she uses materials and colors. I admire Patrick McMillan, an artist/designer who recently founded his own jewelry company, McMillan Metals. Seeing what he has achieved keeps me grounded and gives me hope.
BB: How do you like to spend your time when you are not making jewelry?
LJ: When I do not create jewelry, I like to go and roll with the guys at BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). I also like to cycle, cook, bake, sew and read. When all of the mentioned is too much work, I play with Frida, the cat.
BB: Are there any “behind the scenes” secrets, tips or advice you would like to share with our readers about your creative process?
LJ: I guess it is important not to stagnate. Keeping moving is the key, whether it is in the form of traveling, mastering new techniques, or starting off with challenging starting points. Once you get stuck, change the scenery or your point of view and things will look entirely different.
BB: In your experience, what’s the best thing about making jewelry?
LJ: The satisfaction that comes with holding a new, finished piece in my hands, knowing that it was my hands that created it, shortly being followed by the question, “OK, what next?”
BB: What do you think are the qualities that define an artist?
LJ: …Having the will to keep going, not giving up. Being a little bit cheeky and being confident.