The Yak goes one on one with…
…Jewelry designer and long-term Bali resident, Tricia Kim of the recently rebranded TriciaKim.co.
So you and I have known each other for about two decades of fun and changes – when did you actually arrive in Bali and from where?
Yes we have a LOT of fun and crazy stories to share. I arrived in Feb. 1997 from NYC… But it was not a straight and narrow road to Bali. I was ‘made in Korea’ and my mother decided to forge a better life for us in the USA, and left us (my father and 2 brothers) with her parents, in Seoul. She had a job in a hospital with her University friends, and we followed a year later, and my father worked as a chemical researcher (catalytic convertors) for his whole career at one company and retired at age 75. I was raised with strong Korean values and high morals of dedicated study, work, and religion. They supported me throughout all my creative studies in the US and abroad. I’ve been blessed with a pretty great family.
First job in Bali? Did you come with a job in your pocket or did you wash up on the island as many of our friends did?
I was hired in NYC to come to Bali to work for John Hardy as head of design and sample making, introducing fine gemstones and gold to his already successful silver business. I was well versed in Goldsmithing and precious gemstone setting!
Where did you first live, and what was your house like?
I was blessed to live in a brand new sweet one bedroom bamboo bungalow, next to a deep ravine, in Payogan, in Kedewatan, Ubud. The living area was open to rice paddies, and the spacious bathroom had a curved wall with pink rocks. (I was told that the illustrious architect Popo Danes had designed it)
Why did you leave that job and what did you do then?
I really felt the need to save my soul, and channel my energies to personal creative ventures. I took a year off to travel around 9 countries in SE Asia, making jewelry in Kathmandu and Jaipur, but really felt my calling was to settle back in Bali, and start my brand.
Challenges in branching out on your own, what were they?
I just celebrated 20-years of my brand, and for me the most challenging has been, and is marketing and sales. All we can do is learn from our mistakes, for example, when I began Nagicia, I was stamping my jewelry with my logo and not the name, duh!
Who first inspired you to follow the design path of “body art”? And where did you study?
I studied fine arts/furniture making at a few illustrious art schools, Parsons NYC/Paris, SVA, CCA… but did not have the determination to be a fine artist, so started handcrafting jewelry to sell at street fairs and to craft galleries in San Francisco. I have always loved fashion though, and had originally considered majoring in that.
What was the name of your original label and what is/was the story behind it?
When I started the brand was TISK, my initials, then TKNaga, and finally Nagicia (Naga + Tricia) which was beautifully concepted in Kathmandu.
What have you changed it to and why?
I realized early on that Nagicia was a difficult name for westerners to pronounce and remember. I had a business advisor in 2014, and I spoke to him about this issue, and he recommended I keep the name, which I have regretted.
With this name change / rebrand will you drastically change your designs or style?
No! DBA Tricia Kim allows me to create one of a kind pieces which fuels me, but Nagicia continues with the Collections I have had since the beginning. Dragon, Wings, Lotus, Bamboo, and Infinity, which is my new-ish logo.
How have you incorporated more ‘woke’ attitudes into an industry that is fraught with anti-eco-friendly behavior?
Green values is something that is close to my heart, and my 5-year plan is to be transparent with my supply chain, using upcycled, green-mined materials as much as possible. An example is the introduction of moissanite diamonds, and nano-gems which are lab grown. Mining is a very toxic business, but there is a huge growing industry of lab grown gemstones.
Craziest (as in funny) moment in your ‘youth’? (I know you’ll hate me for using this word. 😀 )
What happened to forever young? 😉 or forever ‘39’ in my case. I’ve been pondering this question, and I fail to come up with one event that sticks to my mind… too many crazy/funny events to list, ha!
What was the most challenging period of your life here in Bali, and why?
I recall the first trying event was when I was on a plane to NYC, 9/11…!! I was grounded in Singapore and had to return to Bali. I went to a café everyday to follow the news, witnessing the repeat rewind of the towers falling. That was really unhealthy, and the awakening was when someone said to me, ‘Just stop watching the news’. I follow that today, as I fell down a rabbit hole in March 2020, as many people did with our latest crisis. Now I get my news exclusively from Trevor Noah (Trevor, if you are reading this, call me! Xo). We have gone through so many ups and downs with bombs, earthquakes, and breakups! I think all of this would have been so much more challenging had I still been in NYC, but being in Bali, surrounded by such supportive communities with faith in full force, really helps me stay grounded.
Where do you see your newly re-named brand going, and how is it going to get there. What will you do differently from before, if anything?
I am going with my intuition and find that if I truly design from the heart, it resonates with my buyers. Trying less to second guess what customers want, but more on what I want to put out there. Beautiful, timeless, priceless pieces that bring joy, to be handed down for generations, with fantastic stories attached. Putting a lot more effort into photography and marketing, and business planning.
Is your new brand open to hosting any workshops or ‘classes’?
Actually, last year in 2020 when business really dropped, we started silversmithing courses with one of my sample makers of 20-years, at his idyllic home studio in Celuk. Anyone who is interested to make something for themselves, as a gift, or wanting to get into the jewelry business, this is highly recommended.
Most important moment in your life was…
The birth of my son!
What do you think about the Korean phenomenon in Pop Culture?
It is indeed a phenomenon how Korean films, music, food, and beauty have infiltrated the world stage. Winning Oscars, Billboard music awards, etc. All the hard work of my parents’ generation has paid off, with surplus energy now to focus on art, music, and culture. I am very proud to be Korean right now, and I wish I could have had Korean/Asian role models when I was devouring those Vogue magazines growing up in the States.
If you weren’t in jewelry design what do you think you would be doing?
I always need to be creating something, whether its arts or crafts and organizing events!
Any words of advice to new, or incoming, designers joining the world of the entrepreneur?
Follow your Heart, and roll with the ups and downs! Make sure you surround yourself with like-minded individuals, who understand and appreciate your vision. Let all the naysayers fall by the wayside.
Dragon sister, thanks for your time and let’s do dinner soon!!
Sama-sama, thank You for your time Dragon Sista’ and dinner yes, the question is where (?) as so many good places in Bali to dine at. x0x0