Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Year of Irish Design 2015: Kiki Na Art

When I was on the Galway Fashion Trail this month, I was exposed to a lot of new and wonderful brands, labels and shops. One that really caught my eye, in particular, was Kiki Na Art which was being stocked in the wonderful purveyor of Irish design, My Shop...Granny Likes It. Bright, bold jewellery pieces that combine images of figures from pop culture with geometric patterns and hand-painting, stared out of one of the display cabinets and immediately set the group of bloggers gasping in delight.

Cue dozens of Instagram posts - one from myself as well!

But I didn't want to leave it there.

I was intrigued and wanted to know more about these pieces that danced somewhere between art and design and stood out so boldly from everything else on display.

I contacted the lovely Ciarna, who is the genius and craftswoman behind the brand, and she gave me a little more insight into the world of Kiki Na Art.


Moi: Can you tell us a little about your background?

Ciarna: I am an artist who studied Fine Art Painting in Galway. When I finished up college, I moved to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam for 6 years, where I met my husband and worked as the Art and Music Project Manager for the Christina Noble Children's Foundation (absolutely brilliant Charity!). When I moved back to Ireland with Duc (my husband) in 2010, I found it difficult to find work and decided to use that time to give my husband’s art and my art a chance. Duc is an extremely talented painter and we wanted to really give that a go - which meant being broke and choosing an alternative way of living. I have always loved photography and always wore jewellery so when I moved back to Ireland, I started to play around with ideas.  The idea for this came very organically. I started off doing them for creative fun and for friends using different materials but, eventually, I found a formula that worked for me. I started out making them in my back room two years ago. They’ve come a long way since then!

How did you come up with your concept for your label?

I am a big fan of Joan Baez and wanted to make earrings with her on them and my sister had also bought me a pair of Frida earrings when she was away - so I developed the idea from there with a lot of hand drawing and individual design and pattern on each piece. The name Kiki Na came from a nickname given to me by a certain group of friends in Vietnam, who called me Kiki, and the kids I worked with, who called me Kieu Na, so I combined the two. I make every one [of the pieces of jewellery] as a one-of-a-kind, as I treat them as unique illustrations, and that was important to me from the start. I really value individuality.

Which pop culture icons would you wear on a daily basis, if you had to choose one or two?

I would wear anyone I admire and respect. I am quite political and would be inclined to wear people like Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela or Angela Davis but I am also into art and music big time so I wear anyone from David Bowie to Frida Kahlo. Realistically, I wear the ones I make and I usually make ones that are more popular such as Bjork, Bowie, Blondie or Grace Jones etc. These people are true artists and usually the styles and photographs of these people are amazing. I keep making pieces that I think I will keep for myself because I love the person, shape or design but eventually I end up selling them!

Why are handmade pieces and craft important?

Because individuality is important and things develop naturally from eye to hand. A designer who cannot make their own pieces is like a painter who cannot make their own paintings. Eventually things can get bigger and develop to a concept made by machine but to start out hand making and crafting your creative pieces is vital to allowing a greater development of said piece.

What do you think of the Year of Irish design?

More of this I say! I studied Fine Art, not design, so I find myself lagging behind in what’s happening but this year I started a back-to-work enterprise with my jewellery. Now, I have a platform to really develop my stuff and part of that is to discover what is out there for designers in Ireland. The Year of Irish Design is something I honestly need to look into more for my own stuff and I'm glad it’s there for people like me who need to discover more in what’s happening with Irish Design.

What do you think of Irish design?

I love anything expressive and fun and I see a lot of that happening. Although, sometimes, I think the minimalist trend has reached some sort of peak and that a lot of stuff is along those lines. My motto is go big or go home - haha - but I understand that that is not for everyone and that minimal forms of expression are more accessible to a lot of people. It’s all very subjective. So when it comes to Irish design I love to see all the different expressions out there. I have stuff in OmDiva and its great seeing people making some beautiful works of art through jewellery design and clothing design. Ruth, who runs OmDiva, is great for allowing a space for different forms of expression and design whilst managing to stay on trend.

Which designers do you admire?

Ah, Jaysus...I’m crap at this! I love fashion, design and art but I’d be able to name more artists that I love than designers. I do love the whole advanced style thing happening - Older people in fashion - I also love the non conformist styles and the different body types out there and I think fashion design needs to catch up a bit more with that. I think I'm more into artists – all kinds of artists – musical, like Roisin Murphy (her style!!!); fashion - Irish Apfel and Vivienne Westwood; art - Frida Kahlo. I love eccentrics. I'm a second hand shop girl so when it comes to designers I am not great. I do like COS because, as Irish Apfel, put it – ‘I love to accessorise... my mother said buy a lovely simple black dress – you can dress it up or dress it down’. COS is great for nice material and simple monochromatic colour clothing which really suits my jewellery but who their designers are?... I’ll [have to] google it!

What inspires you?

Big Question. Everything!!

What would you like to do with your brand in the future? Are there other avenues you'd like to explore?

Go bold or go home! I plan to expand to wearable art pieces and wall pieces but who knows... I'm someone who likes to go with the flow – not that I am resting on my laurels – I work hard at what I do but it’s like this; in Asia, the turtle is one of the most respected of creatures, as they move very fast by following streams and ending up where they end’s a Buddhist thing I guess.

If you had to describe what you do in five words or less?

One of a kind; individual.


So, if you're after something for the individual, something one of a kind, something hand-crafted and filled with love, hit Kiki Na Art up. It's hard not to fall more in love with (the already desirable) brand when you hear from Ciarna. Her passion, sense of fun and no-nonsense and inclusive attitudes are rather refreshing. And, I think, visible in the art/design that she produces.

Thanks to Ciarna for chatting with me!

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