Clerkenwell Design Week saw Copenhagen native and multi-disciplinary designer Kia Utzon-Frank showcase and launch her brand KUFstudios on the London stage. Collaborating with Clerkenwell London via their ‘Design Undefined’ exhibit, Kia presented her all encompassing designs, comprising of a variety of projects. Something Curated speaks to Kia at her Hackney studio, where she discusses breaking the rules and shares her inspirations and aspirations for KUFstudios.
Something Curated: How did KUFstudios start, what was your personal journey?
Kia Utzon-Frank: The idea of KUFstudios started when I was asked to exhibit at Clerkenwell London during Clerkenwell Design Week in May 2016. I design across jewellery, products and most recently cakes. I asked them which pieces they were interested in showing and to my surprise they answered “All of it, that’s what’s interesting!”. I have found it really hard to figure out which box to put myself into as my projects are so varied and diverse. Having the opportunity to present my entire body of work in this way was an exciting and rare chance for me to carve out my own niche.
I had just come up with the concept and name for my cake sculptures, KUFcakes. I wasn’t actually planning on starting a brand, but as the team at Clerkenwell London wanted to exhibit all my pieces across the various disciplines, it was quite natural that starting a brand was the obvious way to make the most of this opportunity.
SC: Tell us about KUFstudios in your own words and the vision/ethos behind the studio?
KUF: KUFstudios is a multi disciplinary design brand, encompassing my versatile practice across various disciplines. It is an ongoing experimentation of ideas and aesthetics, expanding according to where my multifarious experiments take me.
At the moment, my practice is formed of six KUF categories: KUFjewellery, KUFtwist, KUFcakes, KUFstring, KUFstuff and KUFidea. New categories are added to house new concepts. Each category has roots in the KUFidea, which is an idea developing method I have created – making a model a day and experimenting with different materials and methods. By using this method I invented the patent pending Louver Twisting Comb (KUFtwist), the big foldable string structures (KUFstring), came up with a concept for bespoke luxury cakes for events (KUFcakes), designed an adjustable plant hanger, other interior design objects (KUFstuff) and made gradient and modular jewellery (KUFjewellery).
SC: What are you currently working on and what are future plans for KUFstudios?
KUF: I’m mainly working on getting the cakes of the ground. I’m also working with a big company on the development of the window blinds system and I’m making jewellery. In between this I’m also preparing an investor’s pitch for a group of interested investors. My future plans for KUFstudios is to create a team for each of the categories so I can work in the realm of a creative director, with a team of creatives.
SC: What other projects are you involved in or any favourites you have been involved in the past?
KUF: I’m working with textile designer Fay McCaul on a big installation. We’ve developed a new fabric to use for the blinds that makes it possible to incorporate rigid materials like wood, metal and plastics for the slats instead of a plain textile fabric, which is typically used. It has solved a ridiculous number of issues I’ve struggled with, in relation to the function of the blinds. We have applied to exhibit with the Crafts Council at ‘Collect open’, which is an international art fair at the Saatchi Gallery in February. We are waiting to find out if we’ve made the final selection.
SC: Most inspiring place you’ve visited (space, museum, exhibition or city etc)?
KUF: This must be Jørn Utzon’s house ‘Can Lis’ in Mallorca where I had a 1 month residency, developing my idea and method. The house is built so you never really know if you’re inside or outside, if there’s a window or not and the light is numbingly beautiful. It’s the most considered living space I have ever experienced.
SC: Finish this sentence: “Always …”
KUF: “Always throw yourself in the deep end”
SC: Finish this sentence: “Never …”
KUF: “Never do things in a way that feels wrong. It probably is.”
SC: Where do you live (area in London) and why?
KUF: I live in Clapton, East London. Most of my friends are in East London. I would like to try someplace else, but then I would become very lonely very quickly. I need people around me, as I work so much on my own.
SC: Favourite place to relax?
KUF: In my bed.
SC: Favourite place to shop?
KUF: The internet.
SC: Favourite restaurant?
KUF: Anywhere outside in the sun with pals.
SC: Favourite holiday destination or where would you live if not London?
KUF: I’d probably go back to Copenhagen where I am from. And with Brexit that could now be an unwanted necessity…
SC: What does London uniquely offer you as a creative?
KUF: There’s an immense amount of freedom to carve your own niche in London. In Denmark there is a general expectation that people find one job and stick to it. I found this impossible and this made me a bit of a misfit. Coming to London was quite a relief as every time I came up with a new idea, people were extremely quick in connecting me to someone that could help me with what I was trying to achieve. The launch of KUFstudios is a direct result of this and I have actually only had very positive feedback in the decision of not focusing on solely one project or not getting a ‘proper job’. Bringing all these disciplines and projects of mine under one brand is something I don’t think I would’ve been able to achieve if I hadn’t been in London.
SC: What’s your work outfit of choice?
KUF: I don’t tend to plan, I just wear whatever I feel like wearing, depending on the weather I’ll be doing things that’ll leave me covered in paint.
SC: One golden piece of advice:
KUF: Try your hand at more things and don’t be afraid to not be an expert. Reach out, collaborate and ask when there’s something you don’t know. Meet as many people as you can and grow your network, treat people nicely and don’t be a twat.
Interview by Serene Khan
Photography by Elliot Kennedy