Hwajung Yoo CSM Winner

Hwajung Yoo, winner of the Winterson Prize 2022

The winner of this year’s Winterson Prize is Hwajung Yoo, whose final year collection 'Time to be...' draws inspiration from the intricacy of watch movements and, in the process, reflects on the vitality of ego and its relationship to time and place.

Winterson: What lead you to explore these themes in your work?
Hwajung Yoo: I am interested in the subject of people's identities, egos and potential. And I have often addressed it as the central theme of my projects. As the subject of 'Ego' is quite broad, I have brought a different approach to it every time.

The project 'Time to be...' began with the concept of 'Alternative ego; another me' that I became interested in whilst working in three countries. As there were distinct lives as a student, a working person, and a Korean in England, Germany and France, I felt my egos in the spaces and the time went by differently. This became the project's starting point.



Winterson: Were there other sources of inspiration you were looking at?
Hwajung Yoo: Artists Grayson Perry and Nikki S. Lee have been wonderful inspirations for me to approach the visual languages and cultural contexts of alternative egos. In 2019, I listened to Perry's lecture at the university. He showed an illustration of a woman wearing a T-shirt with the word 'ARTIST' on it, picking a different T-shirt with another job in front of a mirror. Simply dressing and undressing can create him a different identity, which impressed me at that time. Extending this view, he has shown his gender-fluid identity in his fashion and accessories, This has inspired me to use jewellery and materials that traditionally represent femininity and masculinity in my projects.

Image 1: Pearl watch ring, sterling silver, fresh water pearl, watch movement, Hwajung Yoo
Image 2: Dual watch, sterling silver, fresh water pearls, calf strap, watch movements, Hwajung Yoo

Another artist, Lee, photographed her different selves belonging to various subcultural groups in the United States in her work 'Projects'. Through her drastic transformation, I felt the homogeneity and alienation of cultural identity with them. This led me to use only one material, the pearl, to express various selves in different colours and forms.

Winterson: The forms you are exploring are an elegant play on traditional jewellery shapes. Is there a reason for that?
Hwajung Yoo: There are a vast amount of different people and styles in this world. However, traditional jewellery has a base that audiences can think of in common because it has an accumulation of images and perspectives for the wearer. I felt that if I added the watch's movement to this, I could more effectively convey vitality to these contexts.

Winterson: The Ticking Pearls Necklace is an extremely complex piece, and yet is such a beautiful, simple idea. Can you tell us how you arrived at the design?
Hwajung Yoo: The second hand has the most noticeable movement amongst the hands of a watch. If anyone looks at a clock and feels impatient, then perhaps this is because of the second hand. It is constantly moving to a different position, sometimes forcing us into action, and by this movement it conveys the power and vitality of the watch.

As actual action also defines me, the second hand can also represent the vitality of people's ego. With some experimentation, I've been able to place two pearls, traditionally representative of femininity, on a second hand of a watch. The pearls rotate every second and create a living elegance. I was able to develop several designs based on this concept.



I also made the gold background metal simple, so as to hide the watches' movements. I wanted people to focus on the pearls until they made a single line and the perfect pearl necklace every minute. I found this to be not so simple to implement in practice due to uncertainty and complications. Nevertheless, it was a valuable challenge to learn a lot.

Winterson: What inspired you to use pearls in this work?
Hwajung Yoo: The pearl is one of the traditional materials that represents femininity, so I wanted to use its historical value to communicate with the audience. In addition, my projects often use pearls as a medium to describe people themselves or their egos. Unlike diamonds and gemstones, the pearl is opaque, so you can't see inside. Nevertheless, it has a beautiful colour slightly different from the subtle background colour. I thought people's invisible and latent souls were similar to these pearl features.

Winterson: What's next for you?
Hwajung Yoo: In the short term, I will further develop this collection to show my style and make it wearable daily, whilst breaking away from traditional jewellery shapes. In the long term, I want to keep creating empowering jewellery to encourage people to look at their egos and consequently have more confidence in their lives.

Image Credits:

With thanks to Hwajung Yoo and the CSM BA Jewellery team. With thanks to Angela Tozzi @angelatozziphotos

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