6 minute read

When textile artist Kim Chin returned to London after 15 years abroad, it was a big adjustment, living back at home with her mum during the pandemic. But rediscovering her old artwork in her childhood bedroom helped her find fresh inspiration. Here she shares this regenerative process, and the tech she uses to channel the past into something new

“I was always conscious of the amount of waste in fashion and art,” says Kim as she reflects on this period and how it came together in her designs. “I started going through all my stuff, and began painting on some of my old photographs. I was trying to reflect on where I was today, and how I could bring some of this stuff forward; not necessarily put new stuff out on new things, but maybe recreate or reimagine memories on old stuff.”

Kim set up her practice two years ago, and sustainability has become a large focus of her work. She recently collaborated with Studio Myke, a sustainable brand in America, creating a signature graphic using one of her lino cuts on a vintage t-shirt. Kim has also joined Common Objective, a business network for the fashion industry that helps members work together in a sustainable way.

“Sustainability is important to me, so that’s why I’m looking more at upcycling. I’m also in the early stages of coming up with a way of minimising overproduction, but then still making it accessible. For my own practice, I look for companies that are local so I can minimise transport waste, and obviously support community close to me.”

From first sketch to final design

Kim lives in south-east London and uses two workspaces – at V.O Studios, in central London, where she creates moodboards and sketches, and at Bainbridge Studios, where she prints her designs. Before setting up as an independent maker, she worked in the fashion and textiles industry in the UK, Sweden, America and Canada.

Kim recognises that fashion does not always have the greenest credentials. “It’s tough with fast fashion. We can’t keep going the way we are. My main point is that people should be buying things that they need. And if you can afford more, buy better versus buy more.”

Another element of Kim’s work is connectivity. Whether this is connecting with her mum during the Covid lockdowns (they played a lot of Scrabble, and enjoyed cooking together), making new friends on her travels, or reflecting on Anti-Asian hate and the Black Lives Matter movement, Kim is keen to conceptualise the idea.

Kim’s Galaxy Book Pro 360 is integral to her design process. After creating her sketch on a lino tile and carving it out, she takes photos, which she manipulates into complex, layered pieces on her laptop

“How do we connect? Some of the ways are through food, travel and nature. I try and bring textures from nature and objects that I’ve seen in nature into my work to add this feeling of complexity to the graphicness,” she says. “I like to celebrate my varied histories (British Filipina/Chinese/Jamaican) to add another dimension to connection.”

"I use the Samsung S pen to draw directly onto the laptop which saves a lot of time."

Technology is a tool for Kim’s creativity and having an integrated phone and laptop pairing in her Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 and the Samsung Galaxy S21 phone helps to easily, intuitively enhance her design process. She cleans up images using Photoshop to remove “textural marks that don’t add to the design”, and then using an archive of textures on her laptop, can add a scratch, shadows or colours. “Technology is absolutely integral to my work,” she comments. “I use the S Pen to draw directly onto the laptop, which saves a lot of time.” Using a laptop also cuts down on waste as Kim can play around with designs before deciding which ones to print.

Once Kim has done a sketch from her mood board, created it on a lino tile and carved it out, she typically takes photos to record them on the Samsung Galaxy S21 phone and transfers these images to her laptop with Quick Share. She can then edit, add to and manipulate them into more complex and layered pieces on her laptop. These may be put onto textiles, either for home or for fashion, printed through a third party.

It’s a world away from Kim’s experience when she first started out in the industry, which involved large amounts of photocopying, and trying to line up photocopies to match a larger image. “I would get told off all the time if my seams weren’t straight,” she laughs.

Technology is also vital for Kim’s research, collaborating with brands, and for reaching a wide audience when it comes to selling her art.

Kim’s work blends tradition and technology, using mood boards to inspire her initial sketch, before she turns this into a digital image she can play with via an archive of colours and textures

A key element of Kim’s work is connectivity. “I like to celebrate my varied histories (British Filipina, Chinese, Jamaican) to add another dimension” she says.

She was excited to create Shadow Saboteur, a playful piece that represents her two sides: the fierce person “who wants to go forward and connect with the world”, and the shadow image that hangs back. The concept had been sitting with Kim for months. She used magazine tears for her mood board, as well as newspaper cut-outs of shows she wanted to see but wasn’t able to due to the lockdowns.

She notes: “I would blow up the image really large, so I could clearly see what needed cleaning up. I’d then print that onto a textile. Getting it onto the fabric just adds this other dimension, and gets you excited about what you do again. I love it. It’s super fun.”

For Kim, art has been instrumental in helping her find herself again after years of travelling, helping her reconnect with her mum, and helping her find connections to aid positive change.

She reflects: “Art felt like a way of getting to the flow. Because I was working with a lot of old materials, it felt very regenerative. It was meditative, and it felt healing.”

To read more about Kim and her work go to kimchin.co.uk.

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