Juliette Kim

PHOTOS BY Jokichi Matsubara
STORY BY Hisyam Takiudin

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Do teapots and fish ever go together? I’m not so sure. But for Juliette Kim, the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes.’ Her illustrations have one simple end-goal: “I want people to see something special in ordinary things”.

Juliette’s unconventional approach stems from her own intriguing background. Born in South Korea, she later moved to Australia, then to Indonesia, and eventually to Providence, to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. She owes her artistic interests to the children’s books she read growing up Down Under. Their illustrations inspired her early attempts at hand-drawing.

I want people to see something special in ordinary things

Juliette’s process starts with hours of skimming nature books at the RISD Library. Nature, she asserts, provides the motifs used in her art. Her personal favorite: fish. In a collection titled Lucky Goldfish Series, she juxtaposed different goldfish with seemingly random daily objects; all while each projecting unequivocally different messages. One of them, dubbed “Fishrooms”, uses wordplay to connect the illogical sequence of mushrooms present in the work. A clear stand-out piece from the collection, aptly named “Goldfish and Teapot”, pulls from Juliette’s East Asian roots. The teapot is a feminine symbol in Korean culture, and the peach – another object present in the illustration – is said to signify that a woman is expecting a baby girl.

Juliette’s work reveals a technical prowess and strict attention to detail. She uses thickened watercolors to create opaque layers that almost appear to be comprised of colored pencils. This process appeals to her because the results are always a bit unpredictable- and that is half the fun. Through this use of materials, she is able to give each illustration a mysterious sense of happenstance.

Despite her love of drawing, Juliette is not studying illustration at RISD. Instead she studies Graphic Design, reasoning that she does not want illustrating to become a chore, and disrupt her creative process. In the future, she hopes to create a book that she illustrates herself.